Luminary vs luminaria

Photo of author


Luminary and luminaria are two words that are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of luminary and luminaria, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The term luminary most often refers to a person who enlightens others or a famous person. The idea is that the person figuratively shines like a star or heavenly body, which is the original meaning of the word luminary. Derived from the Latin word lumen, which means a source of light, the first use of the word luminary to mean a famous person occurred at the end of the 1600s. The plural form of luminary is luminaries.

A luminaria is a small paper lantern, often simply a brown lunch bag or a white bakery bag weighted by a quantity of sand. Inside, a votive or other small candle is placed to illuminate the lantern. Luminaria are often stunning when used to line walkways and streets. The luminaria originated in the Southwest region of the United States and is a Mexican tradition. Luminaria is a borrowed or loan word, taken from Spanish. A borrowed or loan word is one that has been taken from another language and used as an English word. The plural form of luminaria is luminarias.


“To see diversity is critical to understand the history of our state,” said Brewer, who later added that the proposed statue of the Native luminary would be a replica of a 2017 sculpture by Benjamin Victor unveiled on Centennial Mall in downtown Lincoln. (The North Platte Telegraph)

The Local Luminaries campaign showcased six North Lake Tahoe individuals in an original, six-episode video series that highlighted the lives and passions of the local community. (The Northern Nevada Business Weekly)

For 24 hours, teams of volunteers camped out in the infield, walking the track among luminaria lit in honor or memory of loved ones while trying to keep at least one member of their team on the track. (The Ukiah Daily Journal)