I came back from one benefit concert, and they announced there "Please stop by at our booth and buy glow rings, glow sticks, flash lights, and other luminaria" (it was dark). I immediately understood what they meant by "luminaria". They had a large display with all things glowing and flashing, like flashing earrings, trinkets, LED bracelets ...

However, now at home I see that none of the dictionaries agree with this meaning. Both Wiktionary and Merriam-Webster say that it is a lantern or vigil fire from Hispanic culture.

Google image search fetches a collection pictures of vigil lanterns, and not much else.

I feel it isn't correct to say other luminaria, because other implies that luminaria is a collective name for all sorts of glowing things, when it is defined as a much more specific thing.

So did they use the word luminaria correctly, and most people, like me, understood them, and dictionaries are missing this meaning, or this isn't the correct use?

1 Answer 1


It appears to be an 'improper' use of the original Spanish term where it is used in a more general sense and refers to lights used especially during festivities:

Luminaria ‎(plural luminarias):

  • a vigil fire used in ceremonies in Native American and Hispanic cultures
  • a makeshift lantern used as a holiday decoration, especially in Hispanic culture.


  • From Late Latin luminaria, neuter plural of luminare, from Latin lumen.

From The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crafts With Kids:

  • For light ing the way for their friends and neighbors, children can make luminaria, light sources that shine through paper bags. If you live near a party store, drop by and pick up coated, colored paper bags. If you can't find colored bags, plain ...
  • It is insufficiently established to be in the OED. It seems like a convenient ad hoc coinage from the Romance languages - and may be found in different senses.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 9:43
  • In Latin luminarium means light, lamp, and Latin plural luminaria would match what they meant (lights). Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 12:33

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