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Lodestar

  • The word lodestar has a literal meaning, but most often when people use the term lodestar they are employing the figurative meaning. Lodestar may be considered a compound word, which is a word derived from two separate words used together. New compound words usually consist of two, separate words, and are called open compound words. Midway through their evolution,  compound words may acquire hyphens between the two words. When a compound word becomes a closed compound word, which consists of two words joined without any hyphen or space, it has usually been in use for a long time. The advent of the internet has sped up the process of becoming a closed compound word, however. We will examine the literal and figurative definitions of the word lodestar, where the word came from and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    The literal meaning of the word lodestar, and its oldest meaning, is the North Star or Pole Star. This star is also known as Polaris, its scientific name is Alpha Ursae Minoris. It is the brightest star in the constellation the Little Dipper, also known as the Little Bear. The North Star was considered the lodestar because it is nearly stationary in the sky, while all the stars of the northern portion of the sky appear to rotate around it. This makes the North Star a handy fixed point for purposes of navigation. The North Star did not exist in antiquity, as it has moved into its present position over time, and will move out of its present position over time. The second and figurative meaning of the word lodestar is someone or something that acts as a moral or inspirational guide. A lodestar may be a guide to life, or to a certain aspect of life. For instance, Mohammad is the lodestar for Muslims. George Washington is the lodestar for presidents of the United States. The Bible is the lodestar for Christians. The word lodestar has been in use since the 1300s and is derived from an archaic meaning of the word lode, which meant journey or follow. The Old Norse word  leiðarstjarna is related to the term lodestar, as is the German word Leitstern. Note the correct spelling of the word lodestar. Loadstar is a misspelling, and is not a word.

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    Examples

    Earlier this year, in a statement praising Kim Jong Un’s “peerlessly great” efforts at bringing the two Koreas together, the North Korean government referred to the dictator as “the sun of the nation and lodestar of national reunification.” (The Chicago Tribune)

    “If you want to flatter someone or say something nice about someone or about some principle as the source of guidance, then you call them or it a ‘lodestar.’ ” (The Washington Post)

    I’m one of the most important Republicans — a lodestar, if you will — in the 15th [sic] Congressional District. (The Morning Call)

    It operates as an emphatic lodestar amid a mess of ordinary bad news, orienting the reader around a simple dynamic: Not only did something happen, but also someone is mad about it. (The New York Times Magazine)


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