Eliminate - illuminate

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The two words eliminate and illuminate sound similar in rapid speech. (Careful formal speech will differentiate between the vowels of the first and second syllables.) Non-native speakers have been known to confuse them. Even native speakers have written the wrong one, when in a great hurry, or tired. Both are verbs.

  • 'To eliminate' (pronounced IPA: /ɪ (or /iː/) 'lɪ mɪ ,neɪt/) is 'to remove', 'to take out of' or to 'establish that something does not need to be included'. When the police eliminate a suspect from their inquiries, they have learned that that person is no longer suspected. (A doctor may also talk of waste matter being eliminated from the body.) There is a related noun, elimination.
  • 'To illuminate' (pronounced IPA: /ɪ 'luː mɪ ,neɪt/) is 'to light up', or 'to cast light on'. This can be either literally, as when an electrician illuminates a theatre; or figuratively, as when Sherlock Holmes illuminates his problem by consulting an expert in a subject. There is a related noun, illumination, meaning light. It can be literal, for example decorative illuminations are a tourist attraction in Blackpool; or figurative, when a scholar may provide illumination for her students.

Etymological note: Eliminate comes from the past participle of the Latin verb ēlīmināre, 'to carry outside, to turn out of the house' (from e-,'out', and līmen, 'threshold'), while illuminate comes from the past participle of the Latin verb illūmināre, 'to light up' (from lūmen, 'light').