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

1400–50; late Middle English magnete < Latin magnēta < Greek mágnēta, accusative of mágnēs, short for () Mágnēs (líthos) (the stone) of Magnesia
Related formscoun·ter·mag·net, noun
Can be confusedmagnate magnet


variant of magneto- before some vowels: magneton. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for magnet

Contemporary Examples of magnet

Historical Examples of magnet

  • 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 substanceSee also electromagnet
a person or thing that exerts a great attraction

Word Origin for magnet

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

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 German and Danish magnet, Dutch magneet, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese magnete), but it was superseded in French by aimant.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

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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

magnet in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.