Definition of éminence grise
1 : a confidential agent; especially : one exercising unsuspected or unofficial power
2 : a respected authority; specifically : elder statesman the éminence grise of classical music
éminence grise was our Word of the Day on 07/11/2013. Hear the podcast!
Examples of éminence grise in a sentence
the revered éminence grise of Civil War historians
Did You Know?
Éminence grise (literally, "gray eminence") was the sobriquet of Père Joseph (1577-1638), the Capuchin monk who served as secretary to Cardinal Richelieu, Chief Minister under Louis XIII. Richelieu's ambition for French domination of Europe aligned neatly with Joseph's hope to convert European Protestants to Roman Catholicism. Joseph's nickname came from the color of his cloak-and from the fact that Richelieu himself was known as the Éminence Rouge (Red Eminence). The term éminence grise came to mean a loyal confidant of any powerful individual, but recently the word has alternately come to mean a respected senior member within a field or profession (the gray in this case perhaps alluding to the color of an elder's hair).
Origin and Etymology of éminence grise
French, literally, gray eminence, nickname of Père Joseph (François du Tremblay) †1638 French monk and diplomat, confidant of Cardinal Richelieu who was known as Éminence Rouge red eminence; from the colors of their respective habits
First Known Use: 1925
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up éminence grise? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).