noun, plural lu·mi·nar·ies.

a celestial body, as the sun or moon.
a body, object, etc., that gives light.
a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others: one of the luminaries in the field of medical science.


of, relating to, or characterized by light.

Origin of luminary

1400–50; late Middle English luminarye < Medieval Latin lūmināria lamp. See luminaria Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for luminaries

Contemporary Examples of luminaries

  • At 28, Eleanor Catton became the youngest ever winner of the Booker Prize with her swirling, mesmerizing epic The Luminaries.

  • From American presidents to movie stars and journalists, luminaries around the world honor the father of modern South Africa.

  • The smartest of the overwhelmingly male and European luminaries they ranked was John Stuart Mill, with an estimated IQ of 190.

    The Daily Beast logo
    What is a Genius?

    Nick Romeo

    November 9, 2013

  • But gradually Frost was able to lure for interviews senior politicians and luminaries from all sides of public life.

    The Daily Beast logo
    ‘A Fiery Tribune’

    Clive Irving

    September 1, 2013

  • Signed by 74 luminaries of widely diverse political points of view, it called for a "new conversation about marriage."

    The Daily Beast logo
    Marriage Can Save the Middle Class

    David Frum

    February 4, 2013

Historical Examples of luminaries

British Dictionary definitions for luminaries


noun plural -naries

a person who enlightens or influences others
a famous person
literary something, such as the sun or moon, that gives off light


of, involving, or characterized by light or enlightenment

Word Origin for luminary

C15: via Old French, from Latin lūmināre lamp, from lūmen light
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 luminaries



mid-15c., "lamp, source of (artificial) light," from Old French luminarie (12c.), "lamp, lights, lighting; candles; brightness, illumination," from Late Latin luminare "light, torch, lamp, heavenly body," literally "that which gives light," from Latin lumen (genitive luminis) "light," related to lucere "to shine" (see light (n.)). Sense of "notable person" is first recorded 1690s, though the Middle English word also had a figurative sense of "source of spiritual light, example of holiness."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper