1560s, "distinguished by greatness, renowned," from Latin illustris "lighted, bright, brilliant;" figuratively "distinguished, famous," probably a back-formation from illustrare "make light, light up, illuminate," figuratively "embellish, distinguish, make famous" (see illustration). Replaced illustre in same sense (mid-15c.), from French illustre.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "light, brightness."
It forms all or part of: allumette; elucidate; illumination; illustration; lea; leukemia; leuko-; light (n.) "brightness, radiant energy;" lightning; limn; link (n.2) "torch of pitch, tow, etc.;" lucent; lucid; Lucifer; luciferase; luciferous; lucifugous; lucubrate; lucubration; luculent; lumen; Luminal; luminary; luminate; luminescence; luminous; luna; lunacy; lunar; Lunarian; lunate; lunation; lunatic; lune; lunette; luni-; luster; lustrum; lux; pellucid; sublunary; translucent.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit rocate "shines;" Armenian lois "light," lusin "moon;" Greek leukos "bright, shining, white;" Latin lucere "to shine," lux "light," lucidus "clear;" Old Church Slavonic luci "light;" Lithuanian laukas "pale;" Welsh llug "gleam, glimmer;" Old Irish loche "lightning," luchair "brightness;" Hittite lukezi "is bright;" Old English leht, leoht "light, daylight; spiritual illumination," German Licht, Gothic liuhaþ "light."
c. 1500, pencellen, "apply (gold or silver) in manuscript illustration;" 1530s, "to mark or sketch with a pencil-brush," from pencil (n.). In reference to lead pencils from 1760s. Related: Penciled; penciling. To pencil (something) in in the figurative sense of "arrange tentatively" (on the notion of being erasable) is attested by 1942.