• camarilla •
Pronunciation: kæm-ê-ri-lê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A cabal; a clique, often secret, of unofficial advisors. 2. Any covert or secretive party of intriguers.
Notes: Today's Good Word arose in reference to the circle of cronies that surrounded King Ferdinand VII, who ruled Spain from 1814 to 1833. However, it is equally applicable today in English, which uses the rather awkward phrase 'kitchen cabinet' to refer to essentially the same thing.
In Play: Usually a camarilla surrounds someone in a position of power: "The boss never listens to our complaints; he only listens to his personal camarilla of self-indulgent sycophants." Now, power may be interpreted in many ways: "Gilda Lily and her snooty camarilla glided past Mortimer, giggling as though they knew something no one else did."
Word History: Camarilla is a diminutive of Spanish cámara "room" meaning "small room". It is based on Late Latin camera "chamber" from Classical Latin camera "vault". Latin borrowed the word from ancient Greek kamara "an object with a vaulted cover, top, or ceiling". The Latin word went into the making of quite a few words that English borrowed. French turned it into chambre "room", which we quickly snatched. English also grabbed the original, camera, shortened from camera obscura "dark chamber", when a camera was just that, a box with a pinhole that allowed an upside-down picture to be projected on its back to be traced. Comrade comes from Spanish camarada "a company of soldiers lodging together" (literally "a roomful") and, later, a member of such a company. (Our gratitude today is due Douglas Schulek-Miller, a member of Dr. Goodword's rather large and nonsecretive camarilla of word suggesters, for submitting today's Good Word.)