lu·​mi·​nary ˈlü-mə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce luminary (audio)
plural luminaries
: a person of prominence or brilliant achievement
a literary luminary
a luminary in the medical profession
: 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
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.

Example Sentences

luminaries of the art world awed by the vast number of luminaries in the night sky
Recent Examples on the Web Better known by its Hawaiian name, mahi-mahi is a luminary of the sport fishing world whose sudden appearance last month off the Los Angeles coast has sparked a feeding frenzy among local anglers. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 1 Oct. 2022 This time, Kenny Leon will stage the piece, aptly enough, in a theater freshly renamed for another Black theater luminary. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2022 But the chance to gain insight into a baseball luminary who spent his big league career in Pittsburgh proved too tantalizing for members of the Red Sox to ignore, and so the team organized a bus trip to take a visit. Alex Speier,, 17 Aug. 2022 There’s an opening in the bottom for a candle (with a real flame or flameless), and its light will shine through the gaps all around the luminary—imagine the glow on a dark October evening. Sarah Wolf Halverson, Better Homes & Gardens, 28 Sep. 2022 Along with the late Kobe Bryant — another local sports legend with a huge Latino fan base — no other non-Latino Southern California luminary will ever evoke the same emotion among us. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 3 Aug. 2022 Bo Gritz, himself a former Green Beret and right-wing luminary. New York Times, 13 May 2022 Tens of thousands of Jews flood into Uman, a central city that is home to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a 18th-century Jewish luminary, annually for the Jewish new year. Cnaan Liphshiz, Sun Sentinel, 7 July 2022 The program for April 24 is a Monday Evening Concerts performance of Tyshawn Sorey‘s composition tributing experimental music luminary George Lewis. Leigh-ann Jackson, Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near luminary

Cite this Entry

“Luminary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


lu·​mi·​nary ˈlü-mə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce luminary (audio)
plural luminaries
: a very famous person
: a source of light
especially : one of the heavenly bodies
luminary adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on luminary

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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