I was so far away, I could hardly see the nice glows of the Christmas lights decorating the outside of the house.

Is this the correct use of the word glows, as a plural for the glow of each of the lights in the decoration?

I intend to use it as plural there — but glows also mean non-plural, too, as in something like the flame glows. So I'm not sure if the sentence is confusing to the reader. Is this sentence even correct? I think the sentence I give in the box above sounds natural.

  • 1
    I'm sure that the count usage of glow is acceptable (Anne McCaffrey has sold millions of 'Pern" books), but the normal usage is the non-count one. But you should check for licence for the usage in a dictionary. Nov 8, 2016 at 18:00
  • I looked for answer in online dictionary but yet to find definite answer-they give usage of word glow though Nov 8, 2016 at 18:26
  • 1
    The sentence ('glows of the... lights') sounds wrong to my (AmE) ears. Usually, lights glow (the adjective is not plural.) Lights don't 'shines', they usually don't 'sparkles', etc. The sparkle/twinkling/glow of the lights sounds more natural. Nov 8, 2016 at 18:35
  • I know what you means-and that because the example you give glow is put after the words lights ( a different usage-not asked in my question) so it right to say glow in the specific case you mention. "Sparkles of a firework"-is probably correct. "Shines of a firework"- is probablly incorrect. Nov 8, 2016 at 18:46
  • @EdwinAshworth The OED has certainly not got as far as recognising it as countable. None of their examples of the noun contain any plural form.
    – WS2
    Nov 8, 2016 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


This is a fairly difficult one to decide correct usage for. Collins has the best treatment I've been able to find:

glow Definitions

  1. countable noun [usu sing]

A glow is a dull, steady light, for example the light produced by a fire when there are no flames.

⇒ ...the cigarette's red glow.

The rising sun casts a golden glow over the fields.


  1. singular noun

A glow is a pink colour on a person's face, usually because they are healthy or have been exercising.

The moisturiser gave my face a healthy glow that lasted all day.



  1. singular noun

If you feel a glow of satisfaction or achievement, you have a strong feeling of pleasure because of something that you have done or that has happened.

[+ of] ⇒ Exercise will give you a glow of satisfaction at having achieved something.

[+ of] ⇒ He felt a glow of pride in what she had accomplished.

So (1) is the relevant sense (McCaffrey uses 'glows' to mean 'lamps' of a primitive type). But that 'usually singular' caveat is not wonderfully helpful. I'd consider

The rising sun cast golden glows over the fields on Wednesday and Friday. unidiomatic;

The red glows of the cigarettes marginal; and

The myriad glows of the fireflies reasonable and poetic.

The University of Leicester (or a department thereof) seem happy with 'At this wavelength, Jupiter's clouds appear in silhouette against the deep internal glows of the planet. Images of this quality will provide the ...'. It's quite an occasion when astronomers and bards agree on something.

  • It uses another idea in your example - it uses putting the word myriad before glows which makes glows sound plural anyway becuase myriad means more than one-I dont use that idea in the sentence I give in my question Nov 8, 2016 at 19:05
  • I'd say the 'corporate' non-count glow would be used far more often by Anglophones (than the individualised plural glows) in your sentence. But I'd not say the plural usage was unacceptable here. Nov 8, 2016 at 19:17
  • I accept that in these rather specialised circumstances, glows is a possibility. It is just that the OED has never, it would appear, got around to including them.
    – WS2
    Nov 8, 2016 at 21:15
  • Isn't that because OED doesn't go in for science fiction? In the context of light cast or thrown or generated by a bulb or lamp or candle, “glows” might just conceivably work as a plural for the separate glow of each of several clearly different lights - say, placed apart in the corners of a large room. It might just be said that something was illuminated by “the glows of 27 candles” but not twice in a year of Sundays… Singular “glow” would always be preferable as comparable to “light”, not to “lights.” Nov 22, 2016 at 23:49

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