Printable Version
Pronunciation: -jês-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The glory of the greatest in size, beauty, power or position. 2. Breath-taking trappings of great power and riches, as the majesty of the throne room. 3. [Capitalized] An honorific title of address given to those of the greatest power and position, always preceded by a possessive pronoun, such as "your Majesty" or "their Majesties".

Notes: Majesty accompanies only the greatest, not merely the great. Dukes and duchesses do not enjoy majesty; only kings, queens and higher beings do. As you can see, this is a word closely associated with royalty of the past but it still applies to anything of breath-taking size and beauty (see In Play). The adjective from this noun is majestic, which requires an -al- before the adverbial suffix: majestically.

In Play: This word should not be wasted on the great or greater, but should be reserved for only the greatest: "The majesty of the Grand Canyon is unmatched by the beauty of any other canyon in the world." Outside the few remaining countries with royalty, today's Good Word is used as an honorific form of address only ironically: "His majesty, the new boss, is having an executive bathroom installed next to his office just for Himself!"

Word History: Today's word came, via French majesté, from Latin maiestas. Latin inherited the root of maiestas from an earlier root *meg- "great, large". This root survived pretty much unscathed in most European languages as mega-, found in such words as megaton and megabyte. This is because Greek preserved it in its adjective megas "great", from which mega- was borrowed. Latin and Sanskrit, however, changed the E to an A, giving us the Latin words borrowed by English, such as major, mayor, and magnify. In Sanskrit this root became maha "great", which came to English in maharajah "great king", maharishi "great seer", and mahatma "great spirit", a title given to Mohandas Gandhi, better known as Mahatma. (The great spirit who suggested today's Good Word is Don McCormick—a great if not majestic gesture, it was, too.)

Dr. Goodword,

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