Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Glamor of Prestige

Two words that have surprising hidden meanings are glamor and prestige. In our time, glamor means charm, attractiveness, and physical beauty. Prestige means a person's standing in the estimation of others. It is usually based on reputation and industrial-strength achievement, making it a deeper and more desirable quality than mere skin-deep glamor.

Here comes the hidden part. Originally, glamor in English meant magic, enchantment, and a spell. In the original Greek, it meant the study of letters, the methodical study of literature. This included all literature and learning, so at one stage of history, magic, astrology, and the occult arts were included. The Old French gramaire was sometimes used as a name for the dark arts, and –gr– eventually turned into –gl–.

Originally, prestige meant an illusion produced by magic. The Latin praestīgia meant a trick, deceit, or illusion. Since such dazzling acts often produced admiration and amazement, the more positive sense of respect developed.

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

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