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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from luminary

luminary adjective

Synonyms for luminary


sphere, star, sun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Penn’s songs have been recorded by luminaries such as Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia, Alex Chilton, Albert King, Etta James and Willie Nelson, to name just a few. Matt Wake |,, "Shoals songwriting icon talks Aretha, royalty checks," 8 July 2019 The lenders included 40 museums across the country, 15 art dealers and 28 private collectors, including luminaries such as John Hay Whitney and two of the Rockefeller brothers. Dallas News, "Appreciating John Lunsford, key in spurring Dallas Museum of Art's global reach," 3 July 2019 Things to do: Read the quotes celebrating the joys of walking by such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Seuss on the Vermont Street pedestrian bridge. Martina Schimitschek, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Hillcrest: Walkable, liveable community replaced rundown business district," 30 June 2019 Not so long ago, a group of Napa Valley luminaries held an annual, ultra-exclusive party. Esther Mobley,, "The fight to keep alive Charbono, Napa’s nearly extinct heritage grape," 26 June 2019 Two of those luminaries are real-life Nobel winners in physics George Smoot (2006) and Kip Thorne (2017). Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "The Big Bang Theory," 5 Apr. 2019 At the celebrated 1927 Solvay Conference, a gathering of luminaries to debate the meaning of quantum mechanics, Bohr’s more radical views carried the day. Quanta Magazine, "Famous Experiment Dooms Alternative to Quantum Weirdness," 11 Oct. 2018 At Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, minimalist sculptures symbolize and tell the stories of gay luminaries from the past. Susan Dunne,, "Two very different approaches to LGBTQ history at Atheneum, CHS," 18 June 2019 Nixon also held fundraising events at the San Clemente home, inviting luminaries like Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra, according to the website, Mansion Global. Terry Collins, Fortune, "Richard Nixon's 'Western White House' Is Back on the Market—At a Discount," 12 June 2019

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

12 Jul 2019

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

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).


to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
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!