• lodestar •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A guiding star, a star that shows the way, particularly Polaris, the North Star. 2. A guiding light, a principle by which we may set our course in life.
Notes: The trick in using this word is to avoid confusing lode "way, path, course, channel" with load, though nothing of any great importance hangs on it. Most dictionaries accept both spellings and, in fact, both words derive from the same source (see Word History).
In Play: Most often we use today's word in reference to a guiding principle: "'Doing well by doing good' has been and will continue to be the lodestar of this organization as long as Mr. Grace is president." We can have personal lodestars, too: "Minding my own business has been the lodestar that has gotten me safely this far in life."
Word History: Today's Good Word is an old derivative from the ancestor of lead "to guide, direct, show the way", the same source as load. The original meaning of lode is "road, way", a path that leads somewhere. It also turns up in other words and phrases like lodestone "magnetic iron", a substance that leads pieces of steel toward it. The phrase the mother lode, referring to a major vein of some valuable metal, also relies on the sense of something long and narrow leading somewhere. Back in the 16th century a lodesman was a guide or boat pilot, again, a kind of leader. (Today we thank Mark Bailey, a lodestar and Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, for furnishing the lead to this exceptionally Good Word.)
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