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From French cynosure (Ursa Minor; Polaris), from Latin Cynosūra (Ursa Minor), from Ancient Greek Κυνόσουρα (Kunósoura, Ursa Minor, literally dog’s tail), from κυνός (kunós, dog's) + οὐρά (ourá, tail).



cynosure (plural cynosures)

  1. (usually capitalized) Ursa Minor or Polaris, the North Star, used as a guide by navigators.
  2. (figuratively) That which serves to guide or direct; a guiding star.
    let faith be your cynosure to walk by
  3. (figuratively) Something that is the center of attention; an object that serves as a focal point of attraction and admiration.
    • 1837, Thomas Carlyle, “Astræa Redux”, in The French Revolution: A History [], volume I (The Bastille), London: Chapman and Hall, →OCLC, book II (The Paper Age):
      Meanwhile the fair young Queen, in her halls of state, walks like a goddess of Beauty, the cynosure of all eyes; as yet mingles not with affairs; heeds not the future; least of all, dreads it.
    • 1852, Alice Cary, Clovernook, or Recollections of our Neighborhood in the West:
      The rooms were brilliant with lights and flowers, and gaiety and beauty, and intellect; and the lately shrinking country girl was the cynosure of all eyes---the most envied, the most dreaded, the most admired, the most loved.
    • 1893, Henry James, The Private Life:
      This was an occasion, if ever, for Lord Mellifont's tact, which descended on us all like balm. He told us, in his charming, artistic way, his way of bridging over arid intervals... of his own collapse on a momentous occasion, the delivery of an address to a mighty multitude, when, finding he had forgotten his memoranda, he fumbled on the terrible platform, the cynosure of every eye, fumbled vainly in irreproachable pockets for indispensable notes.
    • 1964, Jan Morris, Spain, Faber and Faber, published 2008, →ISBN:
      Her culture a rich mixture of Christian and Moorish, Iberian and Roman, her national image so proud that the Spanish patrician was Europe's cynosure of elegance and command, he voyagers outrageously swashbuckling and her experience of the New World unrivalled, []
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin, published 2003, page 306:
      With anglophobia driving out anglophilia, the king – as during the Seven Years War – came to represent the very cynosure of patriotic zeal.

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