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[mag-nit] /ˈmæg nɪt/
a body, as a piece of iron or steel, that possesses the property of attracting certain substances, as iron.
a lodestone.
a thing or person that attracts:
The park was a magnet for pickpockets and muggers.
Origin of magnet
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English magnete < Latin magnēta < Greek mágnēta, accusative of mágnēs, short for () Mágnēs (líthos) (the stone) of Magnesia
Related forms
countermagnet, noun
Can be confused
magnate, magnet.


variant of magneto- before some vowels:
magneton. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for magnet
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • That is the true ideal; a great nation ought not to be a hammer, but a magnet.

    Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton
  • Then he saw that the magnet was fast to the side of the flier, near the stern.

    Salvage in Space John Stewart Williamson
  • No knife, no rocket pistol, no line with magnet for securing oneself to a hull.

    Satellite System Horace Brown Fyfe
  • Solange was smiling at him, a smile that drew him like a magnet.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • We learn first to play with it academically, as the magnet was once a toy.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
British Dictionary definitions for magnet


a body that can attract certain substances, such as iron or steel, as a result of a magnetic field; a piece of ferromagnetic substance See also electromagnet
a person or thing that exerts a great attraction
Word Origin
C15: via Latin from Greek magnēs, shortened from ho Magnēs lithos the Magnesian stone. See magnesia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for magnet

mid-15c. (earlier magnes, late 14c.), from Old French magnete "magnetite, magnet, lodestone," and directly from Latin magnetum (nominative magnes) "lodestone," from Greek ho Magnes lithos "the Magnesian stone," from Magnesia, region in Thessaly where magnetized ore was obtained. Figurative use from 1650s. It has spread from Latin to most Western European languages (cf. German and Danish magnet, Dutch magneet, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese magnete), but it was superseded in French by aimant. Also cf. magnesia. Chick magnet attested from 1989.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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magnet in Science
A material or object that produces a magnetic field. Lodestones are natural magnets, though many materials, especially metals, can be made into magnets by exposing them to a magnetic field. See also electromagnet, ferromagnetism, magnetic pole. See Note at magnetism.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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magnet in Culture

magnet definition

An object that attracts iron and some other materials. Magnets are said to generate a magnetic field around themselves. Every magnet has two poles, called the north and south poles. Magnetic poles exert forces on each other in such a way that like poles repel and unlike poles attract each other. A compass is a small magnet that is affected by the magnetic field of the Earth in such a way that it points to a magnetic pole of the Earth. (See magnetic field and magnetism.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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