Printable Version
Pronunciation: pê-næsh Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A decorative plume of feathers, especially on a headpiece. 2. (Mass—no plural) Flair, elan, verve, flamboyant confidence in style or manner.

Notes: Remember how English came by this word: snitched from French, preserving the French pronunciation of CH [sh] with accent on the last syllable. We have a rarely used adjective, panached "plumed". (My spellchecker doesn't even know it.)

In Play: Although now rarely used, the original meaning is still available: "Maude Lynn Dresser attended the Royal Ascot wearing a fashionable hat, accented with a white panache that added an exclamation point to her stylishness." This word is by far more often used in its metaphorical sense: "Maude Lynn strode to her seat with the authoritative panache of nobility."

Word History: Today's Good Word is yet another we grabbed from French, this time the word panache "plume of feathers", which French picked up from Italian pennaccio, inherited from Late Latin pinnaculum "peak, pinnacle". The connection between the two meanings of this word was made by King Henry IV of France, famed for wearing a white plume on his helmet and for his war cry, "Ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc!" (Follow my white plume!) It was then used extensively by Rostand in his 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. Pinnaculum comprises pinna + -culum, a diminutive suffix. Pinna is the combining form of penna "feather, wing, fin", from a suffixed form of PIE pet-/pot- "feather, wing, fly, flow", source also of English feather, German Feder "feather", Russian ptica "bird" and pero "feather", Ancient Greek potamos "river", as in hippopotamus "river horse" and pteron "feather, wing", as in the borrowed pterodactyl, literally "finger-winged".

Dr. Goodword,

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