Where does the word “cynosure” come from and What does cynosure mean?

Zeus, according to one of the many traditions surrounding his infancy, desired especially to honor the nymph to whose care he had been entrusted when a babe. (See CORNUCOPIA.)

So he placed her in the sky and made one of the stars which form her constellation of great brilliancy and to be stationary in the heavens, so that all other stars and constellations appear to rotate about it.

But to the more practical minds of Greek mariners, the last three stars in this constellation seemed to have the curve and upward sweep of the tail of a dog, so they gave the entire constellation that name, Dog’s Tail or, in Greek, Cynosural.

And the brilliant star, the one that appears to be the center about which all others rotate, they also called Cynosural, from which we get our figurative sense of cynosure, something which is the center of attention.

The constellation is more familiar to us under the name Ursa Minor or Little Bear, and the star as Polaris, the Pole or North Star, still the guiding star of mariners in northern seas.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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