• panache •
pê-næsh, pê-nahsh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Count noun) A plume of feathers, originally worn on a helmet. 2. (Mass noun) Dashing flair combined with stylish elegance, flamboyance, verve.
Notes: Today's Good Word is so fresh off the steamer from Paris that the accent is still on the last syllable, where it always falls in French. It has hardly had time to propagate, but does have one daughter, panached, which means "plumed, striped to resemble a plume". Don't forget that the [sh] sound comes from the French pronunciation of CHE.
In Play: Panache is a highly self-confident, flamboyant flair in our appearance and behavior: "Miss DeBote spoke about the new communications system with such panache that most people in the audience thought she actually understood how it works." This is such a commonly used word that it would be easy to lose track of its original meaning; let's not do that: "The hall was decorated with bunting accented by red, white, and blue panaches."
Word History: French panache "plume, verve" was borrowed from Italian pennacchio "plume". Italian inherited pennachio from Late Latin pinnaculum "(dear) little feather", the diminutive of Latin pinna or penna "feather, wing". The original root from which pinna was derived was Proto-Indo-European (PIE) pet-/pot-. Latin attached a suffix, -n, resulting in something like pet-na, which became penna, then pinna. The Germanic languages added the suffix -er. Then, when the [p] became [f] and the [t], [th], English ended up with feather, after the same changes we see in the shift of PIE pêter to pater in Latin and father in English. (I wish we could muster more panache in this expression of gratitude to Angie Gifford for suggesting today's Good Word; we could not muster more sincerity.)
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