(formerly) a lighting unit for spotlighting the front of the stage, producing illumination by means of a flame of mixed gases directed at a cylinder of lime and having a special lens for concentrating the light in a strong beam.
the light so produced.
Chiefly British. a lighting unit, especially a spotlight.
the center of public attention, interest, observation, or notoriety: He seems fond of the limelight.

1820–30; lime1 + light1

limelighter, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
limelight (ˈlaɪmˌlaɪt)
1.  the limelight a position of public attention or notice (esp in the phrase in the limelight)
2.  a.  a type of lamp, formerly used in stage lighting, in which light is produced by heating lime to white heat
 b.  Also called: calcium light brilliant white light produced in this way

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

1826, popular name for Drummond light, a brilliant light created by the incandescence of lime (1), adopted for lighthouses and later for the Victorian stage, where it illuminated the principal actors, hence the figurative sense of "on stage, at the center of attention" (1877).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Macy has no skill in vaudeville tricks to call attention to himself: no shafts of limelight have followed him across the stage.
He isn't curmudgeonly about all the attention, by any means, but he is clearly more comfortable out of the limelight.
The moon may be shrinking, but it's still a big enough ball of fun to warrant
  its own night in the limelight.
Selling has been in the limelight and buying has occupied the dark background.
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