lu·​mi·​nary | \ˈlü-mə-ˌner-ē \
plural luminaries

Definition of luminary 

1 : a person of prominence or brilliant achievement a literary luminary a luminary in the medical profession

2 : a body that gives light especially : one of the celestial bodies skywatchers … will see one more bright luminary below Orion and Canis Major — Martin Ratcliffe

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from luminary

luminary adjective

Did You Know?

Allow us to shed some light on "luminary." It came to English by way of Anglo-French and Late Latin, and it traces back to the Latin word lumen, meaning "light." Other "lumen" descendants in English include "illuminate" (to light up), "luminous" (emitting light) and "phillumenist" (one who collects matchbooks or matchbox labels). "Luminary" has been shining its light in English since the 15th century.

Examples of luminary in a Sentence

luminaries of the art world awed by the vast number of luminaries in the night sky

Recent Examples on the Web

Each chapter begins with an epigraph from Édouard Glissant, another Martinican writer who, with Chamoiseau and others, counts among the luminaries of the literary movement called Créolité. New York Times, "Fleeing a Caribbean Plantation Into a Mythic Wilderness," 27 June 2018 Each year, local luminaries of design, urban planning, architecture and visual artistry collaborate and experiment to develop new innovation in their respective fields, creating an urban living lab. Jennifer Franklin, USA TODAY, "10 reasons why Montreal is your perfect playground," 25 May 2018 The aforementioned panel is run by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and features luminaries from around the world of college sports. Andy Staples,, "NCAA President Mark Emmert Calls for Change in Light of FBI Investigation, but Will This Time Be Different?," 29 Mar. 2018 Of course, many of the Democratic front-runners in the New Jersey primaries have run strong campaigns, raising significant money, grabbing key endorsements from party luminaries and attracting vast grass-roots support. Nick Corasaniti, New York Times, "As New Jersey’s Democratic Primaries Take Center Stage, Some Progressives Feel Squeezed Out," 1 June 2018 Lewis did not just deliver black characters of white mythology in her storytelling but also offered up black literary luminaries and black educational leaders. Longreads, "Nell Battle Lewis, Storyteller for Jim Crow," 25 May 2018 This week in 1949, Houston’s Shamrock Hotel was opened to the public with a raucous party full of celebrities and local luminaries. Craig Hlavaty, Houston Chronicle, "Shamrock Hotel in Houston: Looking back at its luxurious opening," 15 Mar. 2018 In the last six months, a backlash against smartphones has arisen from all corners of the country—from luminaries and musicians and even former tech executives. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "The Science of the Smartphone Backlash," 15 Mar. 2018 Donald Trump made his first appearance last Saturday night at the annual Gridiron Dinner, where the president customarily delivers a humorous speech to assorted journalists and Washington luminaries. Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic, "The Madman Summit," 9 Mar. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of luminary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for luminary

Middle English luminarye, from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French luminaire light, luminary, from Late Latin luminaria, plural of luminare lamp, heavenly body, from Latin, window, from lumin-, lumen light; akin to Latin lucēre to shine — more at light

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about luminary

Listen to Our Podcast about luminary

Dictionary Entries near luminary








Statistics for luminary

Last Updated

1 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for luminary

The first known use of luminary was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for luminary



English Language Learners Definition of luminary

: a very famous or successful person

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on luminary

What made you want to look up luminary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!