a strong, focused light thrown upon a particular spot, as on a small area of a stage or in a television studio, for making some object, person, or group especially conspicuous.
a lamp for producing such a light.
a brilliant light with a focused beam, mounted on the side of an automobile and used for illuminating objects not within range of the headlights.
the area of immediate or conspicuous public attention: Asia is in the spotlight now.
verb (used with object), spotlighted or spotlit, spotlighting.
to direct the beam of a spotlight upon; light with a spotlight.
to make conspicuous; call attention to: Newspapers spotlighted the story for a week.
to hunt (animals) using a spotlight in order to temporarily blind or confuse them.
verb (used without object), spotlighted or spotlit, spotlighting.
to hunt by using a spotlight.

1910–15; spot + light1

spotlighter, noun
unspotlighted, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
spotlight (ˈspɒtˌlaɪt)
1.  a powerful light focused so as to illuminate a small area, usually mounted so that it can be directed at will
2.  the spotlight the focus of attention
vb , -lights, -lighting, -lit, -lighted
3.  to direct a spotlight on
4.  to focus attention on

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1904, from spot (n.) + light (n.). Originally a theatrical equipment; fig. sense is attested from 1916. The verb is first recorded 1923.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see in the limelight (spotlight); steal the show (spotlight).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


device used to produce intense illumination in a well-defined area in stage, film, television, ballet, and opera production. It resembles a small searchlight but usually has shutters, an iris diaphragm, and adjustable lenses to shape the projected light. Coloured light is produced by a mechanism for sliding or rotating coloured gelatin filters, called gels even though later made of acetate, into the beam. The first theatrical spotlight was the limelight (q.v.), which gave way to such light sources as the arc, electric discharge, and incandescent lamp. The practical lensed spotlight was developed in 1879 by Louis Hartmann of the United States.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Lanza and his company have had plenty of experience in the spotlight, but the
  attention has not always been flattering.
It took champions, in and out of the spotlight, to bring these food cultures
  the respect and attention they deserve.
When it comes to focus, turning on the spotlight may not matter as much as our
  ability to dim the ambient light.
Do spotlight him again when he has some beautiful feathers.
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