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mid-15c. (earlier magnes, late 14c.), from Old French magnete "magnetite, magnet, lodestone," and directly from Latin magnetum (nominative magnes) "lodestone," from Greek ho Magnes lithos "the Magnesian stone," from Magnesia, region in Thessaly where magnetized ore was obtained. Figurative use from 1650s. It has spread from Latin to most Western European languages (cf. German and Danish magnet, Dutch magneet, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese magnete), but it was superseded in French by aimant. Also cf. magnesia. Chick magnet attested from 1989.
An object that attracts iron and some other materials. Magnets are said to generate a magnetic field around themselves. Every magnet has two poles, called the north and south poles. Magnetic poles exert forces on each other in such a way that like poles repel and unlike poles attract each other. A compass is a small magnet that is affected by the magnetic field of the Earth in such a way that it points to a magnetic pole of the Earth. (See magnetic field and magnetism.)