AskDefine | Define limelight

Dictionary Definition



1 a focus of public attention; "he enjoyed being in the limelight"; "when Congress investigates it brings the full glare of publicity to the agency" [syn: spotlight, glare, public eye]
2 a lamp consisting of a flame directed at a cylinder of lime with a lens to concentrate the light; formerly used for stage lighting [syn: calcium light]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls
  2. By extension, attention or notice.


A type of stage lighting
By extension, attention or notice

Extensive Definition

Limelight is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of calcium oxide, which can be raised to white heat without melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be "in the limelight".


The limelight effect was discovered in the 1820s by Goldsworthy Gurney, based on his work with the "oxy-hydrogen blowpipe", credit for which is normally given to Robert Hare. In 1825, a Scottish engineer, Thomas Drummond (1797–1840), saw a demonstration of the effect by Michael Faraday and realized that the light would be useful for surveying. Drummond built a working version in 1826, and the light is sometimes known as the Drummond Light after him.
Limelight was first used in public in the Covent Garden Theatre in London in 1837 and enjoyed widespread use in theatres around the world in the 1860s and 1870s. Limelights were employed to highlight solo performers in the same manner as modern followspots. To this day, theatre followspots are referred to as limes. Limelight was quickly replaced by electric arc lighting in the late 19th century.

See also

limelight in German: Drummondsches Licht
limelight in Japanese: ライムライト (照明)
limelight in Finnish: Kalkkivalo
limelight in Russian: Друммондов свет
limelight in French: Les Feux de la rampe

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

PR, arc, arc light, ballyhoo, blurb, bright light, celebrity, color filter, common knowledge, cry, currency, daylight, dimmer, eclat, exposure, fame, famousness, floats, flood, floodlight, footlights, foots, gelatin, glare, hoopla, hue and cry, klieg light, light plot, lights, marquee, maximum dissemination, medium, notoriety, plug, press notice, public eye, public knowledge, public relations, public report, publicity, publicity story, publicness, puff, reclame, report, spot, spotlight, write-up
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