bea·​con | \ˈbē-kən \

Definition of beacon 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a signal fire commonly on a hill, tower, or pole

2a : a lighthouse or other signal for guidance

b : a radio transmitter emitting signals to guide aircraft

3 : a source of light or inspiration … the beacon to the oppressed of all countries …— Adrienne Koch


beaconed; beaconing; beacons

Definition of beacon (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to shine as a beacon … Adventure beaconed from far off, and his heart leapt to greet the light.— Maurice Hewlett

transitive verb

: to furnish with a signal or a source of light or inspiration : to furnish with a beacon

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Synonyms & Antonyms for beacon

Synonyms: Noun

illuminant, lamp, light

Synonyms: Verb

bathe, emblaze, illume, illuminate, illumine, irradiate, light, lighten

Antonyms: Verb

blacken, darken, obfuscate

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Examples of beacon in a Sentence


These countries are beacons of democracy. Our nation should be a beacon of peace to people around the world.


a lone lighthouse beacons the entrance to the island's only harbor
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

During the Randomness Beacon's prototype years, one man thought God spoke to him through the beacon. Sophia Chen, Science | AAAS, "Why are countries creating public random number generators?," 28 June 2018 The beacon was registered to a foreign government agency and marked with a country code from Ireland, according to a preliminary report the agency released late last week. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Emergency beacon on plane in fatal crash near Whittier had wrong registration," 25 May 2018 But today, its iconic gleam is the beacon by which the guests, who start arriving around midafternoon, find the event. Leilani Marie Labong, San Francisco Chronicle, "Start a tradition with a Bodega beach clambake," 11 May 2018 The Coast Guard staffed it until 1979, when the beacon was automated. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "Old Coast Guard tower that became a floating bed and breakfast is now up for auction | Charlotte Observer," 2 May 2018 America, long a beacon of democracy, has a president who tramples on its norms. The Economist, "Lessons from the rise of strongmen in weak states," 14 June 2018 All along the grass around the main stage, lemonade stands lit up like beacons in the night. Kristin Scharkey, USA TODAY, "Review: Beyoncé leaves no question who runs the world in Coachella set with Destiny's Child," 15 Apr. 2018 Even the United Nations, hardly a beacon of innovation, is making strides to recognize the NEO threat and put a system in place to respond to it. Popular Mechanics, "The Asteroid Hunters," 11 Nov. 2015 French cycling is often pointed to as a beacon of hope. Marc Peruzzi, Outside Online, "Stop Boycotting Pro Cycling," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'beacon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of beacon


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1650, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for beacon


Middle English beken, from Old English bēacen sign; akin to Old High German bouhhan sign


verbal derivative of beacon entry 1

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Statistics for beacon

Last Updated

6 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for beacon

The first known use of beacon was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for beacon



English Language Learners Definition of beacon

: a strong light that can be seen from far away and that is used to help guide ships, airplanes, etc.

: a radio signal that is broadcast to help guide ships, airplanes, etc.

: someone or something (such as a country) that guides or gives hope to others


bea·​con | \ˈbē-kən \

Kids Definition of beacon

1 : a guiding or warning light or fire on a high place

2 : a radio station that sends out signals to guide aircraft

3 : someone or something that guides or gives hope to others These countries are beacons of democracy.

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Comments on beacon

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