Sunday, May 11, 2008


Q. It’s become practically a cliché to praise someone by saying “kudos to . . .” I’ve been told that it’s an acronym for Know (that) You Deserve Our Salute. Is that true?

A. Not a chance. The word does mean glory, fame, renown, praise -- all sorts of synonyms in that ballpark. But it’s not an acronym. It’s a word unto itself, and it came to us from the Greek word kudos, which meant glory and renown earned in battle.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that it started as university slang, which makes sense. The first citation given is from 1831: “He obtained kudos immense.” [Fraser's Magazine, III. 391] The fact that it appears in italics in that quote shows that it was still considered a foreign word at that time.

The strangest thing about the word is that it is singular. You will see it misused in back-formations as kudo, but there’s no such animal. There is, however, an African antelope known as the kudu.

SIDEBAR: Kudos, the game

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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