1. a principle that always influences or directs your actions
2. the North Star
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
Origin and usage
The compound noun lodestar is formed from the Middle English word ‘lode’ meaning ‘way or course’, and ‘star’, a word of Germanic origin. Lodestar literally means ‘a star that guides’ and was first used to refer to the North Star or Pole Star in the 14th century.
The literal meaning of lodestar is a star that is used for navigation. The term is applied mainly to the North Star, also called the Pole Star or Polaris, a bright star seen above the North Pole around which the stars and planets appear to rotate in the night sky. The figurative use of lodestar, which is labelled ‘mainly literary’ in Macmillan Dictionary, has superseded its astronomical meaning, and today lodestar is generally used to refer to a guiding principle or person. Lodestar is an infrequent word in modern English, occurring only 1500 times in the huge corpus used to compile Macmillan Dictionary. Lode also refers to a quantity of metal ore in the earth, while a lodestone is a piece of iron ore that functions as a magnet; it also has a figurative meaning. Lode also forms part of the compound noun mother lode, which refers either to a large amount of a mineral under the ground or to a large quantity of something that is available to be used.
“Your eyes are lode-stars; and your tongue’s sweet air
More tuneable than lark to shepherd’s ear,
When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.”
(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“Our amended Constitution is the lodestar for our aspirations. Like every text worth reading, it is not crystalline.”
(William J. Brennan Jr.)
golden rule, precept, guiding light
Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.
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