When we say "A stole the toy", it implies the toy belonged to someone else before.

Similarly, when we say "A stole the spotlight", does it imply the spotlight belonged to someone else before?

Situation 1, say, Mary was standing in front of a lot of students bragging about her success when suddenly, Jen, out of nowhere, sang loudly to get attention from the students. We can say "Jen stole the spotlight".

Situation 2, all the students were eating in a cafeteria when Jen, out of nowhere, sang loudly to get attention from the students. Do we say "Jen stole the spotlight"?

  • To steal the spotlight looks a bit odd to me as a Brit (it's almost exclusively American). Brits steal the limelight. They're figurative usages that you can look up in any dictionary - nothing to do with literal theft of spotlights or anything else. Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 4:59

1 Answer 1


steal the spotlight has similar meaning as steal the limelight, which is an idiom meaning

to get more attention than anyone or anything else in a situation.

The former idiom is more common in AmE; and the latter, BrE, as @FumbleFingers commented. Though the definition and other similar ones do not state whether the attention has to first belong to someone else, steal suggests that the idioms work better in Situation 1 than in Situation 2, which likely did not and would not even have any limelight otherwise.

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