What's the word that refers to what a spark does as it is forming? "Energizing"? "Igniting"? What I'm looking for is akin to a fire "starting" or "igniting", but the word for what occurs as a spark comes to be.

Edit: One term someone suggested in EE.SE chat is "jumps", but jumps and discharges are more what sparks do once they are fully formed. That's their action. I'm looking for the word for their developing or formation.

  • 1
    A spark 'ignites'. It is a matter of oxidation (flame) or air excitation (electrical). ' It is impossible for a visible spark to form in a vacuum.' Google.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:32
  • 2
    'Compost decomposes' does not refer to a formation (of compost) process. 'Plant matter decomposes to form compost' is perhaps what you mean. Mar 16, 2018 at 1:08
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth I get what you mean as compost is a product, but I also think of compost as the intermediary stage which is still forming and becoming more complete through decomposition
    – cr0
    Mar 16, 2018 at 1:19
  • 1
    I suppose we have to consider compost as ill-defined, gardener-specific. But it takes time to form and be considered as usable compost. Batteries take time to charge. Clouds can form almost instantaneously (though they often then grow...). // Sparks form / appear. 'Develop' is not really punctive enough. Mar 16, 2018 at 1:57
  • 1
    At the microscopic level there will the an "aura" of sorts before the actual spark. With meteorological lightning this aura can build for several seconds before the actual lightning bolt, but with a more mundane spark it would normally only last a fraction of a second and only be perceptible to someone looking closely.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 16, 2018 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


A spark discharges.

Spark discharge Similar term(s): microshock.

Definition: A momentary electric discharge between two differently charged objects. Sparks cross the air-gap between the objects along a narrow channel, which is visible as a light flash.

  • Looks like you beat me to it!
    – user888379
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:33
  • @user888379 Synchronicity strikes again! You can still give your own version though, and there's a good chance it would be an improvement.
    – Bread
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:37
  • beat me too! dang
    – lbf
    Mar 16, 2018 at 0:44
  • 2
    They simply charge, and then discharge. The electrostatic charge builds prior to sparking, but really sparks don't exist until they discharge. "A spark is triggered when the electric field strength exceeds approximately 4–30 kV/cm[2] — the dielectric field strength of air. This may cause a very rapid increase in the number of free electrons and ions in the air, temporarily causing the air to abruptly become an electrical conductor in a process called dielectric breakdown." (Wikipedia)
    – Bread
    Mar 16, 2018 at 1:43
  • 1
    Given I'm looking for the word on the other side of a spark's existance - its formation, not necessarily its action, though maybe there's not much difference - I'd say the word I'm looking for is actually "charges". A cloud condenses and accumulates, a battery charges and so does a spark.
    – cr0
    Mar 16, 2018 at 14:12

A spark 'ignites'. It is a matter of oxidation (flame) or air excitation (electrical).

Ignite the Spark, Fuel the Fire: Innovative differentiation

Education Arts

An oxidation (flame) spark is preceded by a rise in temperature/rise in vapour pressure and an electrical spark (air excitation) is preceded by a rise in potential difference.

Technical Note :

It is impossible for a visible spark to form in a vacuum.


Electrons can jump the gap in a vacuum but they are invisible, there is no spark just a current flow.

  • I wouldn't describe "air excitation" specifically as ignition, I would describe it as ionization (i.e., the formation of a plasma). Such ionization or discharge can be used to ignite another combustable material, e.g., fuel. I suppose spark formation could be an alternative definition of "ignition," but I see only a metaphorical example currently present in your answer. Mar 16, 2018 at 19:12

The Oxford Collocation Dictionary lists the following common verbs with spark:

  1. ignites

  2. kindles

  3. flares

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.