Word of the Day

the limelight

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a situation in which you are getting a lot of interest and attention from the newspapers, television, etc.

Origin and usage

The term the limelight has an unusual history. In the early 1800s, a ‘Drummond light’ or ‘calcium light’ used the illuminating powers of the mineral lime to create a bright light commonly found in lighthouses. The method was then adapted for use on the stage in Victorian times. The lights were used to illuminate the actors, which is where the phrase ‘to be in the limelight’, meaning ‘to be at the centre of attention’, comes from.


The limelight is a phrase that is commonly used to refer to famous people — professional athletes, actors, politicians, writers and others — who receive a great deal of attention for their work. Ordinary people who experience extraordinary circumstances can also be said to be in the limelight, but their fame is usually much shorter-lived.

One group who spend a considerable amount of time in the limelight is child actors. While these young actors are often praised and adored because of the parts they play, growing up in the limelight can be extremely difficult.

Often, child actors must spend weeks or months away from family and friends. Many cannot attend regular school or participate in the things children who aren’t constantly in the limelight get to experience, such as playing sports or going to social events. They are almost always surrounded by adults — managers, agents, publicists, other actors — and face challenges and temptations that ordinary young people would not typically encounter.

The internet has further complicated the lives of children in the limelight, as a quick web search can reveal all sorts of sensitive, embarrassing or personal information in seconds.


“When a young artist is ready, one has to bring him into the limelight.”
(Placido Domingo)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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