late 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), "a star that leads or serves to guide," an old name for the pole star as the star that "leads the way" in navigation; from lode (n.) "a way, a course, something to be followed" (a Middle English variant spelling of load (n.) that preserved the original Old English sense of that noun) + star (n.). Figurative use from late 14c. Compare lodestone. Similar formation in Old Norse leiðarstjarna, German Leitstern, Danish ledestjerne.