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

Synonyms for cynosure


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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 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 Brady was fortunate to come along just as the N.F.L. altered multiple playing rules that made the quarterback the cynosure of a pass-happy, high-scoring game with fleet receivers unfettered to dash upfield for long passes. Bill Pennington, New York Times, 1 Feb. 2022 There’s no dearth of claims for the value of having your company name mentioned incessantly on the air and connected with sports teams that are the cynosure of their local communities and sometimes the national marketplace. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2021 Woods’s future as a competitive golfer is unclear, and the Masters marches on without the person at the cynosure of the tournament’s dominant narrative for nearly 25 years. New York Times, 6 Apr. 2021 Long before Boston became a cynosure of American Catholicism, its inhabitants commemorated the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot on Nov. 5, 1605, as Pope’s Day, a holiday of bonfires, bigotry and a little light rioting. Dominic Green, WSJ, 26 Sep. 2020 Taylor Swift: cynosure of the age, winner of a barn full of awards, incomprehensibly wealthy, beautiful, talented, young. Kyle Smith, National Review, 2 Apr. 2020 See More

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.

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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cynosure of all eyes

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Cite this Entry

“Cynosure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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