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From Late Middle English lūminārī, lūminārīe (lamp; source of spiritual light, example of holiness; glory), borrowed from Old French luminarie (lamp, lights, lighting; candles; brightness, illumination), variant of luminaire (light fixture) (modern French luminaire), from Medieval Latin lūminārium,[1] from lūmināre (that which gives light; light; lamp; body giving light, especially a heavenly body), from lūmen (light; brightness) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *lewk- (bright; to shine))[2] + -āris (suffix forming adjectives indicating a relationship or a pertaining to).



luminary (plural luminaries)

  1. One who is an inspiration to others; one who has achieved success in one's chosen field; a leading light.
    • 2017 September 27, David Browne, “Hugh Hefner, ‘Playboy’ Founder, Dead at 91: Legendary Magazine Editor Helped Spark the Sexual Revolution”, in Rolling Stone[1], archived from the original on 15 March 2018:
      The iconic "Playboy Interview" feature launched in 1962 with future Roots author Alex Haley interviewing Miles Davis ([Hugh] Hefner was a huge jazz aficionado and later founded the Playboy Jazz Festival) and would eventually feature many luminaries, setting the stage for the ongoing joke, "We really read Playboy for the articles."
  2. (archaic) A body that gives light; especially, one of the heavenly bodies.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 384–386:
      [] then firſt adornd / With thir bright Luminaries that Set and Roſe, / Glad Evening & glad Morn crownd the fourth day.
    • 1711 December 28 (Gregorian calendar), Joseph Addison; Richard Steele [et al.], “MONDAY, December 17, 1711”, in The Spectator, number 250; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume III, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, OCLC 191120697, page 246:
      The first eye of consequence (under the invisible Author of all) is the visible luminary of the universe.
    • 1741, John Pinsent, “The Character of Andrew Barker, Esq; [...]”, in [John Wilford], editor, Memorials and Characters, together with the Lives of Divers Eminent and Worthy Persons. [], London: Printed for John Wilford, [], OCLC 731567531, page 287:
      The Intercourſe between God and his Soul was as conſtant and periodical as the Riſing and Setting of the Great Luminary of Heaven; []
  3. (archaic) An artificial light; an illumination.
    • 1792, David Williamson, “Sermon I. On the Influence of Religion on the Death of Good Men. Genesis XLIX. 18.”, in Lectures on Civil and Religious Liberty: [], London: Printed for the author, [], OCLC 740800282, page 355:
      [T]he Sun of Righteouſneſs [Jesus Christ], when, on the nations of thoſe who are ſaved, he ariſes with healing under his wings, ſhall ſcatter by his brightneſs, every cloud which ſat around them. To the diſtant influence of this powerful luminary on the heart, its regeneration is at preſent owing. But, when every intervening object is removed, and the Chriſtian placed in the light of his countenance, all imperfection flies away.
    • 1879 May, “Proceedings of Societies. [Institution of Civil Engineers, March 25.]”, in William Crookes, editor, The Monthly Journal of Science, volume IX (New Series; volume XVI (Old Series)), London: [s.n.] [] , OCLC 869271242, pages 378 and 381:
      [page 378] The paper read was on "The Electric Light applied to Lighthouse Illumination," by Mr. J[ames] N[icholas] Douglass, M. Inst. C.E. The author showed the progress of lighthouse luminaries from wood and coal fires to the introduction of tallow candles, fatty oils, mineral oils, coal gas, and electricity. [] [page 381] on more frequent occasions, when the oil luminary would be visible at about eight miles and a-half, the electric light would be visible at the full range of 17 miles.


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ lūminārī(e, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ luminary”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]