Italian Word of the Day: Barlume (flicker / glimmer)

What I consider a rather romantic-sounding term in Italian is barlume (masculine, plural: barlumi) which is the word for any kind of dim light, such as a glimmer, flicker or gleam.

cover image with the word “barlume” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of cofee

It derives from the word lume (one possible translation for light in Italian) and the prefix bar- which is akin to the pejorative prefix bis-.

Nella stanza buia intravedevo un piccolo barlume di luce provenire dall’esterno.

In the dark room, I saw a glimmer of light coming from outside.

Single candle burning burning brightly in the black background.
Il barlume di una candela – The glimmer of a candle

When talking about rays of sunlight, it is often seen in its plural form.

Gli ultimi barlumi del sole si spegnevano lentamente dietro la montagna.

The last rays of sunlight slowly faded behind the mountain.

Figuratively speaking, it can be used to talk about something that appears fleetingly or is just barely discernible. A few commonly used examples include:

  • un barlume di speranza = a glimmer of hope
  • un barlume d’intelligenza = a trace of intelligence
  • un barlume di onestà = a hint of honesty

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