"to treat (someone) as a celebrity," 1809 (Scott), a hybrid from lion + -ize. It preserves lion in the sense of "person of note who is much sought-after" (1715), a sense said to have been extended from the lions formerly kept in the Tower of London (proverbial from late 16c.) that were objects of general curiosity that every visitor in town was taken to see. Related: Lionized; lionizing.
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