cy·​no·​sure | \ ˈsī-nə-ˌshu̇r How to pronounce cynosure (audio) , ˈsi- How to pronounce cynosure (audio) \

Definition of cynosure

1 capitalized : the northern constellation Ursa Minor also : north star
2 : one that serves to direct or guide
3 : 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

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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 Taylor Swift: cynosure of the age, winner of a barn full of awards, incomprehensibly wealthy, beautiful, talented, young. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Shakespeare: The Sitcom," 2 Apr. 2020 United Breweries, the maker of Kingfisher beer, is sponsoring the home parties of some of its consumers on match days under the hashtag #KFHomeStadium to steal some of the cynosures from Bira 91, an official sponsor. Jaideep Vaidya, Quartz India, "India may have been knocked out, but mega brands had a field day during cricket World Cup," 10 July 2019 Hilton is the cynosure of director Bert Marcus' new documentary, The American Meme, debuting at New York's Tribeca Film Festival on Friday. Evan Real, The Hollywood Reporter, "Paris Hilton on Tribeca Doc 'American Meme' and Social Media: "I Created That Genre of Celebrity"," 27 Apr. 2018 This cynosure of certainty embodies a kindergartner’s idea of justice: a gavel slamming, a case closing. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, "Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro embodies a kindergartener’s idea of justice. No wonder the president loves her.," 15 Dec. 2017 Still, Chalamet, who was previously best known for playing Matthew McConaughey’s son in Interstellar, exudes star power and is already the cynosure of the season in the movie business. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Next Big Oscar Winner…," 11 Oct. 2017 The cynosure of this style is Richard Price, and Blauner shares his intricate gabbiness. Charles Finch, New York Times, "Summer Thrillers: Daring Escapes and Other Acts of Derring-Do," 31 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cynosure.' 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 cynosure

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cynosure

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.

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The first known use of cynosure was in 1565

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Cite this Entry

“Cynosure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for cynosure


How to pronounce cynosure (audio) How to pronounce cynosure (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cynosure

formal : a person or thing that attracts a lot of attention or interest

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