1630s, "quality of being luminous," from French luminosité (cognate with Medieval Latin luminositas "splendor") or else a native formation from luminous + -ity. Meaning "intensity of light in a color" (of a flame, spectrum, etc.) is from 1876. In astronomy, "intrinsic brightness of a heavenly body" (as distinguished from apparent magnitude, which diminishes with distance), attested from 1906.
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