Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An object that serves as a focal point of attention and admiration.
  • n. Something that serves to guide.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Ursa Minor or Polaris, the North Star, used as a guide by navigators.
  • n. That which serves to guide or direct; a guiding star.
  • n. Something that is the center of attention; an object that serves as a focal point of attraction and admiration.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The constellation of the Lesser Bear (Ursa Minor), to which, as containing the polar star, the eyes of mariners and travelers were often directed.
  • n. That which serves to direct.
  • n. Anything to which attention is strongly turned; a center of attraction.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Something that strongly attracts attention; a center of attraction.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. something that strongly attracts attention and admiration
  • n. something that provides guidance (as Polaris guides mariners)

Etymologies

French, Ursa Minor (which contains the guiding star Polaris), from Latin cynosūra, from Greek kunosoura, dog's tail, Ursa Minor : kunos, genitive of kuōn, dog; see kwon- in Indo-European roots + ourā, tail; see ors- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French cynosure ("Ursa Minor; Polaris"), from Latin Cynosūra ("Ursa Minor"), from Ancient Greek Κυνόσουρα (Kunosoura, "Ursa Minor"), literally “dog’s tail’, from κυνός (kunos, "dog's") + οὐρά (oura, "tail"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • His brisk What Happens Next recounts the history of American screenwriting from the silents to 2005, but its cynosure is the studio era, a period he writes about with romanticism and passion.

    Toiling in the Dream Factory

  • The cynosure was a statue -- a statue of a buck-toothed, wall-eyed youth gazing steadfastly up into the heavens.

    The Servant Problem

  • Perhaps "cynosure" is even too brainy a word for PBS audiences.

    NewsBusters.org - Exposing Liberal Media Bias

  • By the early 17th century, "cynosure" was also being used figuratively for anything or anyone that, like the North Star, was the focus of attention or observation.

    Latest Articles

  • CynoCast comes from 'cynosure' which is something that provides guidance or direction.

    Recently Uploaded Slideshows

  • Having ceased to be the refuge of the hunted and the cynosure of the oppressed, this country would thenceforth awe the nations of the Old World by its military power, and shock them by its profligacy, whereof the Ostend Circular and the murders and forgeries of Kansas were but foretastes, until God in His righteous wrath should bring upon it some visitation like the present, and hurl it from its pinnacle in mercy to mankind.

    The Continental Monthly, Vol 2, No 6, December 1862 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

  • Here Egmont himself, in happier days, had often borne away the prize of skill or of valor, the cynosure of every eye; and hence, almost in the noon of a life illustrated by many brilliant actions, he was to be sent, by the hand of tyranny, to his great account.

    The Continental Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 3, March, 1862

  • Washington and its environs have always been a cynosure for American eyes, a place people have wanted to be proud of and have fought to keep 'right.'

    The Nation's River A report on the Potomac from the U.S. Department of the Interior

  • Beauchamp, Lucien Debray and Château-Renaud were not the only persons puzzled with regard to the enigmatical M. Dantès; all Paris was more or less bothered about him; his entire career prior to his appearance at the capital as the Deputy from Marseilles seemed shrouded in impenetrable mystery, and this was the more galling to the curious Parisians as his wonderful oratorical powers and his intense republicanism rendered him the cynosure of all eyes and made him the sensation of the hour.

    Edmond Dantès

  • But in a moment, Trevalyon is beside her, whose arm she quietly takes, while he led her up the long drawing rooms, the cynosure of all eyes, giving her at the head of the room, an easy chair.

    A Heart-Song of To-day

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  • "No longer able to think or write or breathe—
    New York a cynosure of drink and guilt,"
    "Christmas I" by Cynthia Zarin in The Ada Poems, p 7

    June 5, 2011

  • from Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution

    March 6, 2011

  • JM cannot abide sharing his cynosure

    November 16, 2009

  • Then I thought of Eliza and Georgiana: I beheld one the cynosure of the ball-room, the other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on and analyzed their separate peculiarities of person and character.

    - Bronte, Jane Eyre, Chapter 22

    October 28, 2009

  • Capitalized, Cynosure is the northern constellation Ursa Minor, which contains the North Star; also, the North Star itself.

    August 11, 2009

  • This is unusually from the genitive kyn-os rather than the stem kyn-o-: that is it is a compound of the type dog's-tail rather than dog-tail. This is common in English but this is the first I've noticed in Greek. The expected form would be *cynure.

    (The Dog's Tail is Ursa Minor, containing the Pole Star, thus figuratively a centre round which everything turns.)

    January 6, 2009

  • "Ransom could see that, according to a phrase which came back to him just then, oddly, out of some novel or poem he had read of old, she was the cynosure of every eye."
    --Henry James, The Bostonians

    My favorite Henry James work is The Turn of the Screw, one of the few ghost stories that is truly scary and disturbing -- mostly because it's impossible to know exactly what is going on in the story. Ambiguity can be more frightening than any monster.

    December 8, 2008