• glitterati •
gli-tê-rah-ti • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, plural
Meaning: The smart set, the beautiful people, the jet set, highly fashionable and highly visible celebrities and wealthy folk.
Notes: Today's Good Word, like such words as pliers, binoculars, and pants, has no singular. If you are a member of this illustrious group, you may only call yourself "one of the glitterati".
In Play: The glitterati are probably less 'lettered' (see Word History) than the literati, but they wear more bling, to put it in current youthspeak: "I find the Academy Award TV show enjoyable because I love watching the illiterati interviewing the glitterati." This word is obviously a facetious derivation, which can only be applied toward humorous ends: "There isn't that much wealth here in Podunkton so that our glitterati are more like 'glimmerati'."
Word History: Today's Good word is a blend of glitter and literati. Literati is simply Latin literati, the plural of literatus "literate, 'lettered'", obviously also the source of literature. Have you ever noticed that words referring to light often begin with GL: glow, gleam, glisten, glimmer? That is because the original Proto-Indo-European word for "shine" was something like ghol-/ghel/ghl- "shine", with the familiar O/E/nothing variants we can't explain. This same stem, with its vowels, became both gold and yellow in English, which means that 5000 years ago, all that glittered may have been gold. (Today we thank Chris Berry for suggesting this glittering lexical morsel for our edification.)
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