• charisma •
kê-riz-mê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (No plural) A magnetic attraction that allows someone to influence others. 2. A favor from God, an unusual talent or gift, such as a charisma for creating miracles.
Notes: Today's Good Word was Anglicized to charism for a while but then was reborrowed from Greek, along with the Greek plural, charismata. If you have charisma, you are charismatic, which allows you to do things charismatically.
In Play: We most often hear this word in its first sense above: "The charisma of the new Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has boosted the spirits of the Republican presidential campaign." We should not forget its spiritual implication, however: "Unless you have a charisma for foreseeing the future, you should take an umbrella with you to work today."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the Greek word kharisma "divine favor" from kharis "grace, favor". In Germanic languages it picked up N as a suffix, becoming gern "willingly, happily", used in many phrases meaning "to like". In English the initial G became Y, giving us yearn. The R in the root apparently also underwent metathesis (switched places with the vowel) and also became greedy. In Latin the same underlying root went into the creation of hortari "to encourage, urge", the verb underlying hortatorius, which English borrowed as hortatory. (We offer Doug Smith a hortatory word of thanks to encourage him to send us more Good Words like charisma.)
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