structure designed to emit light to aid navigation
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A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and to serve as a navigational aid for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways. Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, rocks and safe entries to harbors; they also assist in aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and use of electronic navigational systems.

And o'er them the lighthouse looked lovely as hope,—
That star of life's tremulous ocean.


  • LIGHTHOUSE, n. A tall building on the seashore in which the government maintains a lamp and the friend of a politician.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • [I]n standing out like a lighthouse over a stormy ocean it marks the entrance to a port where those who are wearied at times with the woes of the world, and troubled often by the trials of existence, may search for and may find that "peace that passeth all understanding".
    • Lord Randolph Churchill, regarding the Church of England; speech in Birmingham (16 April 1884), quoted in The Times (17 April 1884), p. 10.
  • The human heart is a meadow full of fireflies, a summer western sky of shimmering distant lightnings, a shore set round with flashing lighthouses, far-away voices calling that we cannot understand.
    • Frank Crane, "The Human Heart", Four Minute Essays Vol. 5 (1919).
  • And o'er them the lighthouse looked lovely as hope,—
    That star of life's tremulous ocean.
    • Paul Moon James, The Beacon, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Actuality is when the lighthouse is dark between flashes: it is the instant between the ticks of the watch: it is a void interval slipping forever through time: the rupture between past and future: the gap at the poles of the revolving magnetic field, infinitesimally small but ultimately real. It is the interchronic pause when nothing is happening. It is the void between events.
  • Lighthouses are more useful than churches.
    • Unknown; misattributed to Benjamin Franklin. Also quoted as “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches” or “A lighthouse is more useful than a church.” Although not by Franklin in this form, it may be intended as a paraphrase of something he wrote to his wife on 17 July 1757, given in a footnote on page 133 of Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1818). After describing a narrow escape from shipwreck he added:
      • The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received: were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.

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