• parvenu •
pahr-ve-nu • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A member of the nouveaux riches who has suddenly risen to a much higher income level but is rejected by those of older wealth, ostensibly for a lack of the social graces associated with their social plane.
Notes: We contrast parvenus with Old Money, those who made their money the old fashioned way—by inheriting it. The established elite refers to the newcomers to wealth exclusively in French terms like parvenu and nouveau riche, which parvenus are considered less likely to understand. Parvenu may be used as an adjective, as someone's parvenu antics at the cotillion.
In Play: Wealthy people distinguish themselves from parvenus by treating them condescendingly: "Humphrey Dumpling was scorned as a parvenu by the elite society of New Monia even though he had more money than all of its members combined." (Then again, maybe they shunned him because he had more money than they did.) "Morley Quiddity was much too parvenu to develop an interest in the balls and fêtes that his wealthy neighbors so religiously attended."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the past participle of French parvenir "to arrive", which goes back to Latin pervenire "to come up, arrive", based on per "through" + venire "to come". Per goes back to a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root meaning "forward, through" that came down to English as for and fore, as well as first. In Greek it emerges as peri "around, near", found in periscope and periodontist. Venire "to come" appears in the phrase, venite adoremus "come let us adore him", in the Christmas carol, "Come all Ye Faithful" (Adeste Fideles). It goes back to a PIE root gwa- "come, go", which is also the source of English come and go, believe it or not. (We would like to thank Kurt Bonifay and Jackie Strauss for sharing with us their established wealth of Good Words like today's.)
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