cy·​no·​sure ˈsī-nə-ˌshu̇r How to pronounce cynosure (audio) ˈsi- How to pronounce cynosure (audio)
capitalized : the northern constellation Ursa Minor
also : north star
: one that serves to direct or guide
: a center of attraction or attention
… they have turned an eyesore into a cynosure.Catherine Reynolds
… his rapidly increasing wealth has made him a cynosure in political circles.Larissa MacFarquhar

Did you know?

Ancient mariners noted that all the stars in the heavens seem to revolve around a particular star, and they relied on it to guide their navigation. The constellation that this bright star appears in is known to English speakers today as Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, but the Ancient Greeks called it Kynosoura, a term that comes from a phrase meaning "dog's tail." Kynosoura passed into Latin and Middle French, becoming cynosure. When English speakers adopted the term in the mid-16th century, they used it as a name for the constellation and the star (which is also known as the North Star) and also to identify a guide of any kind. By the early 17th century, cynosure was also being used figuratively for anything or anyone that, like the North Star, was the focus of attention or observation.

Examples of cynosure in a Sentence

with an unwavering commitment to equal rights for all as his only cynosure that company is the cynosure for anyone wishing to make it in the music business
Recent Examples on the Web From these beginnings, the Voice grew into a cynosure of the counterculture. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 19 Mar. 2024 The film’s screenplay, co-written by Wenders and Takuma Takasaki, finds its metaphoric cynosure in the Japanese concept of komorebi, which describes the play of light and shadow through the leaves of a tree, every shimmering moment unique. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Oct. 2023 Past the age of fifty, the supple cynosure of the salons turned into something of a tottering wreck. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 MotoGP is the cynosure for those drawn to the heady blend of terror and enticement that defines the quest to go mind-numbingly fast. Viju Mathew, Robb Report, 19 Apr. 2023 As their cynosure, Ernestine herself remains a cipher, full of portentous sayings but little real thought. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 10 Apr. 2022 The setting had all the elements of a stirring, emotional clash: an underlying sense of betrayal, accusations of soulless greed, the prospect of transformative change and a popular, beloved figure trapped in the cynosure of the firestorm. Bill Pennington, New York Times, 16 June 2022 The Celtic cynosure in the 100-96 triumph, Tatum logged a team-best 26 points along with 10 rebounds and 6 assists while scoring 7 vital fourth-quarter points. Globe Staff,, 30 May 2022 While the Sackler family, which owned Purdue, attracted intense national attention and became a cynosure of criticism after the company’s introduction of its blockbuster pill OxyContin, the Mallinckrodt brand slipped under the radar. Washington Post, 10 May 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cynosure.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French Cynosure "Ursa Minor," borrowed from Latin Cynosūra, borrowed from Greek Kynósoura, from kynós, genitive of kýōn "dog" + ourá "tail" — more at hound entry 1, ass entry 2

Note: The reason for the Greeks' application of a compound "dog's tail" to the constellation Ursa Minor is mysterious, there being no nearby constellation called "the dog" that would seem to justify such a name. The word may have been distorted by folk etymology from a borrowed name, but if so, the source language is unknown.

First Known Use

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cynosure was in 1565


Dictionary Entries Near cynosure

Cite this Entry

“Cynosure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a center of attraction or attention
the cynosure of all eyes
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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