1. (formerly) a lighting unit for spotlighting the front of the stage, producing illumination by means of a flame of mixed gases directed at a cylinder of lime and having a special lens for concentrating the light in a strong beam.
  2. the light so produced.
  3. Chiefly British.a lighting unit, especially a spotlight.
the center of public attention, interest, observation, or notoriety: He seems fond of the limelight.

Origin of limelight

First recorded in 1820–30; lime1 + light1
Related formslime·light·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for limelight

Contemporary Examples of limelight

Historical Examples of limelight

  • He knew that Jeff would fling him at once into the limelight.

    The Vision Spendid

    William MacLeod Raine

  • Our souls had followed it over the footlights, and, floating in the limelight, shone there awaiting the fulfilment of the promise.

    Prose Fancies

    Richard Le Gallienne

  • But when the limelight was shown it could contain its approval no longer.

  • You're a play-actor with a gift for staging yourself and you're as hungry for the limelight as a circus girl in spangles.


    Leona Dalrymple

  • His vanity objected to another man holding the limelight while he was present.

    Brand Blotters

    William MacLeod Raine

British Dictionary definitions for limelight



the limelight a position of public attention or notice (esp in the phrase in the limelight)
  1. a type of lamp, formerly used in stage lighting, in which light is produced by heating lime to white heat
  2. Also called: calcium lightbrilliant white light produced in this way
Derived Formslimelighter, noun
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

Word Origin and History for limelight

1826, popular name for Drummond light, a brilliant light created by the incandescence of lime (n.1); adopted for lighthouses and later for the Victorian stage, where it illuminated the principal actors, hence the figurative sense of "on stage, at the center of attention" (1877).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper