Definitions

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

  • n. An object, such as a celestial body, that gives light.
  • n. A person who is an inspiration to others.
  • n. A person who has achieved eminence in a specific field. See Synonyms at celebrity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One that is an inspiration to others; one who has achieved success in his chosen field; a leading light.
  • n. An artificial light; an illumination.
  • n. A body that gives light; especially, one of the heavenly bodies.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any body that gives light, especially one of the heavenly bodies.
  • n. One who illustrates any subject, or enlightens mankind.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A light-giver; a body that illuminates or gives out light: applied especially to the sun and moon.
  • n. Hence One who is a source of intellectual light; a person who illustrates any subject, or enlightens mankind: as, the great luminaries of an age; a luminary of literature or science.
  • n. An illumination.

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

  • n. a celebrity who is an inspiration to others

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French luminarie, from Latin lūmināre, to shine, from lūmen, lūmin-, light.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Late Latin luminaria, from luminare, from lumen. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "Sir, Mr. Fletcher was a luminary -- _a luminary_, did I say?

    Fletcher of Madeley

  • But on the fourth day God created the great luminary, that is, the sun, to have rule and authority [1718] over the day: for it is by it that day is made: for it is day when the sun is above the earth, and the duration of a day is the course of the sun over the earth from its rising till its setting.

    NPNF2-09. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus

  • The luminary was a golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature, gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an earth that was brimming with interest for him.

    Tess of the d'Urbervilles

  • Indeed, Brewster is what I would call a luminary of luscious lattes, wot! '

    IGN Complete

  • Prof. BERNARD: Van Vechten was friends with the president of Fisk at the time, Charles Johnson, who was another kind of -- you know, kind of luminary of this period, and later, you know, of -- sort of black politics at this time.

    Remember Me to Harlem

  • Eclipses they attribute to the attempts of the Evil Spirits to embarrass the labours of the luminary which is eclipsed.

    Traditions of the North American Indians, Vol. 1 (of 3)

  • I’ve never been called luminary before, and I think it’s a new favorite word.

    Sleepy in Seattle « Inky

  • Out of the love He bore Enoch, God arrayed him in a magnificent garment, to which every kind of luminary in existence was attached, and a crown gleaming with forty-nine jewels, the splendor of which pierced to all parts of the seven heavens and to the four corners of the earth.

    The Legends of the Jews — Volume 1

  • In benignant and gracious conduct he was to be as a "luminary" (_phôstêr_), moving calm and bright in the dark hemisphere of the world.

    Philippian Studies Lessons in Faith and Love from St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians

  • "There's always those kind of luminary figures that seem to speak the truth," he says.

    NPR Topics: News

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