lu·​mi·​nary | \ ˈlü-mə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce luminary (audio) \
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

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Other Words from luminary

luminary adjective

Synonyms for luminary


sphere, star, sun

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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

In 2014, President Barack Obama tapped Mr. Fischer, a luminary in central banking who previously served as the head of the Bank of Israel, to serve as the Fed’s No. 2 official. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, "Former Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer to Join BlackRock," 13 Feb. 2019 The bots were the creation of OpenAI, a non-profit research lab founded by tech luminaries such as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. James Vincent, The Verge, "Humans grab victory in first of three Dota 2 matches against OpenAI," 23 Aug. 2018 The possibility of an early release is just the latest twist in Blagojevich’s winding political saga, which includes nearly every political luminary in Illinois. Gregory Pratt,, "In Chicago, Pelosi calls Trump's suggestion of clemency for Blago the 'shiny object of the moment'," 2 June 2018 In the weeks since the deal was announced in February, Dr. Soon-Shiong has been on something of a listening tour, calling on former staff members and seeking out advice from luminaries in journalism. Tim Arango And Sydney Ember, New York Times, "L.A. Times’s New Owner Plans Big Moves. First Up, Relocating to the Suburbs.," 13 Apr. 2018 From the Chelsea Hotel to the Strand, a writer takes a tour through literary New York — home of luminaries like Dorothy Parker, Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen, O. Henry, and more. Jennifer Larue, The Seattle Times, "Soaking up Manhattan’s literary history: A book lover’s bar-hopping guide," 2 July 2018 Supported heavily by low-end luminaries like Skrillex, NGHTMRE and SLANDER, WAVEDASH signed with Slush Management and United Talent Agency and can already boast festival bookings like EDC Las Vegas, Middlelands and Nocturnal Wonderland. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Billboard Dance's Ones to Watch: June 2018," 27 June 2018 Instead, 24 people—including Tasaki’s president Toshikazu Tajima, as well as a smattering of the city’s jewelry luminaries and a few editors who had just finished up a month-long slog of shows—sat at a chicly deconstructed version of a sushi bar. Mark Holgate, Vogue, "Prabal Gurung Wore a Pearl Earring to His Dinner Celebrating Tasaki’s New London Store," 8 Mar. 2019 In the days after the midterm election, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker worked the phones with Democratic luminaries in Iowa. Juana Summers, The Seattle Times, "Why wait? Democrats openly flirt with 2020 White House bids," 13 Nov. 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.

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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

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Statistics for luminary

Last Updated

3 May 2019

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Time Traveler for luminary

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

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More Definitions for luminary



English Language Learners Definition of luminary

: a very famous or successful person

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More from Merriam-Webster on luminary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with luminary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for luminary

Spanish Central: Translation of luminary

Nglish: Translation of luminary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of luminary for Arabic Speakers

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).


a strong desire or propensity

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