Brilliance - brilliant

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  • Brilliance is a noun. It can mean 'the radiance', or 'shininess', of a colour, gem etc; as a more abstract noun, it means 'the quality of being brilliant', most often figuratively: "his brilliance was not noticed by the examiners, who only awarded him a lower second."
    • OED has the following note: "brilliance and brilliancy are to a great extent synonyms: brilliancy, however, is more distinctly a quality having degrees; as in the comparative brilliancy of two colours.
  • Brilliant is an adjective, and sometimes a noun, predominantly with a technical sense. It is also used colloquially as an adverb to convey a sense of strong approval: people will greet an achievement, or a clever remark, by "Brilliant!". Do not use this in formal academic writing.
  • The adjective brilliant means 'bright', or 'shining' (it is the present participle of the French verb briller 'to shine'). The word (with its adverb brilliantly) can be used literally ("the light was brilliant", "there was a brilliant moon") and figuratively ("She was a brilliant child" [~ very intelligent; cf. 'bright'], and "he danced brilliantly" [~ in a lively manner, with animation]).
  • The noun 'a brilliant' is a term used in the jewellery trade. Loosely, it means 'a diamond'; precisely, it is a diamond cut in a particular manner. There are several types of 'brilliant cuts': to define them is beyond AWE's ambition.
    • It is conceivable, if misleading, for a jeweller to talk of "the brilliance of the brilliants", meaning 'the brightness of his diamonds'. This is only of interest as a fictional example of the homophone.
AWE has a Table collecting some of the words that fall into this pattern.