IDIOM: In the limelight

MEANING: To be in the center of public attention

ORIGIN: In the days before electricity, theatre stages were lit by candle light that was reflected off polished barber's basins. This practice lasted for over 200 years until kerosene and gas lamps were used. Then in 1825, a Scottish surveyor named Thomas Drummond discovered that by burning calcium oxide (commonly known as lime) in a hot hydrogen-oxygen flame, an intense white light was produced.

Limelight, as it came to be called, was used in lighthouses, as it burned bright enough to be visible up to 100 miles away.

Theatrical use of limelight began in 1837 when it was used in a Covent Garden theatre in London. It soon became popular as it was far safer than kerosene and gas, which tended to cause a lot of fires.