Semiconductor nanoparticles (CdS) were fabricated by an inexpensive chemical route using polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) as the dielectric host matrix. Nano-CdS in PVA were subjected to ion irradiation (using oxygen, chlorine and gold) in the medium energy range (80–100 MeV) and under fluence variation of 1011–1013 ions/cm2. The nature of light emission was found to be drastically different in each of the three cases. Photoluminescence spectra of oxygen irradiated samples exhibit band edge emission (2.8 eV) as well as trap related emission (1.76 eV) whereas band edge emission is found to be bleached out for chlorine ion irradiated nano-CdS. The intense broad PL peaks, noticeable in the case of gold ion irradiated samples suggest superposition of the two peaks - namely, band edge emission and trap related emission. Furthermore, in the case of gold ion irradiated nano-CdS, energy shift in the PL spectra reveals variation in size distribution caused by the extra pressure effect of heavy gold ion beams. The mechanism of such a difference as a result of ion irradiation-type and ion-fluence is discussed in detail.