I'm trying to think of a verb to describe lights gently turning on. I feel that "brighten" is too generic, but I haven't been able to come up with a good word.

Have you ever been in a dark room and then someone turns on the lights and the immediate change in lighting hurts your eyes? That's a glaring type of "brighten."

On the other hand, have you ever been in a dark room and then someone turns on the lights but they slowly glow brighter so that it doesn't hurt your eyes? That's a weaker type of "brighten" and I'm trying to find a verb for that. I'm hoping for a stronger phrase than "slowly glowed brighter."

Imagine you are at a moderate dance in the evening (age group is around 20). The lights are currently very dim during the dance. Then the last song, which has a sleepy and nostalgic feel, ends and the lights brighten again. The type of "brighten" I'm thinking of is soft, smooth, relaxing, and like the changing levels of light during a sunrise sped up to, say, 10 seconds.

The sentence to complete is just

"... the lights [brightened]."

The closest question I've been able to find is Is there an antonym for "dim"/ synonym for "lighten?" but the word choices offered were more appropriate for descriptions relative to a bright room rather than descriptions relative to a dark room.

Would anyone be able to help me? I'm also happy to accept a strong phrase, metaphor, or simile, but I found saying something such as "the lights brightened like a sunrise sped up to 10 seconds" to sound erratic. Thanks for your time!


5 Answers 5


Here are some phrasal options for you.

I recommend using an adverb like gently. Here are some phrases using adverbs that I think evoke a soft brightening:

  1. the lights gently rose
  2. the lights came up gently
  3. the lights brightened softly

These sentences invoke metaphors: In the first two, the metaphor is of light rising; in the third, the metaphor is of a gradual change being soft.

Similar options:

  1. the room brightened smoothly
  2. then, smoothly, all darkness abated
  3. light fluidly diluted the darkness
  • 1
    I agree that there is probably not a single word, and a modifier such as "gently" is going to be necessary. Dec 28, 2016 at 18:55
  • 1
    +1 for #4. I think describing the room's lightening reads much better than restricting the sentence to "the lights..." Dec 28, 2016 at 20:48
  • 1
    @KristinaLopez, you may be right. Characterizing the room itself as brightening may be more evocative than merely describing the lights.
    – DyingIsFun
    Dec 28, 2016 at 20:50

fade up

From the Wikipedia entry on dimmers: "In the professional lighting industry, changes in intensity are called "fades" and can be "fade up" or "fade down."

Two examples of common usage:

The glaring white lights dimmed and a new light focused on the runway and generic alternative music pumped out of the speakers.

And when the show ended and the lights faded up once again there was not a single word written on my notepad.

Source - The Tourists: A Novel by Jeff Hobbs

"Right," Rupert said, "but have a look at this before you go. Not many kids get a chance to come backstage."

As he spoke, he reached out and rotated a large knob, and the lights faded up on the stage below us.

Source - The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley


Consider "rise", which is sometimes used to refer to a relatively gradual increase of illumination, such as after the conclusion a theatrical performance, as in, "the house lights rose".

This sense of the word is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as

Increase in number, size, amount, or degree


Consider "illumine" - to light up. "As the last song neared its end, the lights came up, gently illumining the dance floor. The bar was closed. Revelers who wanted more would have to find another venue."

  • This would be a stronger answer with a citation of a definition from a reputable dictionary, as well as some reasoning that distinguishes "illumine" from "brighten." Dec 28, 2016 at 19:01

To increase in brightness is to wax. Lyrically and poetically are other waxers, but the moon is the biggie.

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/wax-poetic.html and for the US POV, https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/moon-phases/en/

I could give you more linx, but I suspect I'm waxing pedantically.

Do you think Batman's mansion, on a moonless night, is Wane Manor?

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