From Middle English derkenen, dirkenen, from Old English *deorcnian, *diercnian (“to darken”), from Proto-West Germanic *dirkinōn (“to darken”), equivalent to dark + -en.
Cognate with Scots derken, durken (“to darken”), Old High German tarchanjan, terchinen (“to darken”), Middle High German terken, derken (“to darken”).
darken (third-person singular simple present darkens, present participle darkening, simple past and past participle darkened)
- (transitive) To make dark or darker by reducing light.
1667, John Milton, “(please specify the book number)”, in Paradise Lost. […], London: […] [Samuel Simmons], […], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554: So spake the Sovran voice, and Clouds began
To darken all the Hill […]
- (intransitive) To become dark or darker (having less light).
1783, William Blake, “The Couch of Death”, in Richard Herne Shepherd, editor, Poetical Sketches, 1868 edition, Basil Montagu Pickering, page 84:
[…] the owl and the bat flew round the darkening trees:
1930, Zane Grey, “Chapter Twelve”, in The Shepherd of Guadeloupe:
[…] leaning at her window she watched the end of that eventful day darken over the ranges.
- (impersonal) To get dark (referring to the sky, either in the evening or as a result of cloud).
1847 October 16, Currer Bell [pseudonym; Charlotte Brontë], Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. […], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Smith, Elder, and Co., […], OCLC 3163777:
Well, I must go in now; and you too: it darkens.
1901, William Stearns Davis, “Chapter 4”, in A Friend of Cæsar, New York: Macmillan, page 57:
Then they passed out from the Forum, forced their way through the crowded streets, and soon were through the Porta Ratumena, outside the walls, and struck out across the Campus Martius, upon the Via Flaminia. It was rapidly darkening.
1945, Gertrude Stein, Wars I Have Seen, London: B.T. Batsford, page 13:
From babyhood until fourteen, to play in a garden in the evening when it is darkening is a legend.
1996, Colm Tóibín, “Portrait of the Artist as a Spring Lamb”, in The Kilfenora Teaboy: A Study of Paul Durcan, Dublin: New Island Books, page 7:
It had been fine all morning, but it was darkening now, the weather was going to get worse.
- 2005, David Almond, Clay, London: Hodder Literature, Chapter Ten, p. 44,
- He looked up. It was darkening here as well. Sky getting red, the edge of the quarry dark and jagged against it.
- (transitive) To make dark or darker in colour.
- 2009, Alice Munro, “Free Radicals” in Too Much Happiness, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, p. 118,
- She puts on lipstick and darkens her eyebrows, which are now very scanty […]
- (intransitive) To become dark or darker in colour.
- (transitive) To render gloomy, darker in mood.
c. 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The VVinters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene iv]:
With these forced thoughts, I prithee, darken not
The mirth o’ the feast.
- 1969, Chaim Potok, The Promise, New York: Fawcett Crest, 1872, Chapter Four, p. 89,
- It was a pleasure seeing you again. I’m only sorry I had to darken the pleasure with my private problems.
- (intransitive) To become gloomy, darker in mood.
- 1797, Ann Radcliffe, The Italian, London: T. Cadell Jun[ior] and W. Davies, Volume 2, Chapter 9, p. 303,
- His countenance darkened while he spoke […]
- 1942, Emily Carr, The Book of Small, Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1986, “Mrs. Crane,” p. 42,
- Alice’s big eyes darkened with trouble.
- (transitive) To blind, impair the eyesight.
- 1773, Samuel Johnson, letter to James Boswell dated 5 July, 1773, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Volume I, London: Charles Dilly, p. 424,
- When your letter came to me, I was so darkened by an inflammation in my eye, that I could not for some time read it.
- (intransitive) To be blinded, lose one’s eyesight.
- (transitive) To cloud, obscure, or perplex; to render less clear or intelligible.
May 14 1751, Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, volume 4, number 121, London: J. Payne & J. Bouquet, page 193: His [Edmund Spenser’s] stile was in his own time allowed to be vicious, so darkened with old words and peculiarities of phrase, and so remote from common use, that Johnson boldly pronounces him to have written no language.
- (transitive) To make foul; to sully; to tarnish.
c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene iv]: I must not think there are
Evils enow to darken all his goodness:
to make dark by reducing light
to become darker (less bright)
to make dark(er) in colour
to become dark(er) in colour
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Translations to be checked