grandee

noun

gran·​dee gran-ˈdē How to pronounce grandee (audio)
: a man of elevated rank or station
especially : a Spanish or Portuguese nobleman of the first rank

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In Medieval Spain and Portugal, the grandes ("great ones," from Latin grandis, meaning "great") were at the pinnacle of the ranks of rich and powerful nobles. A grandee (as it came to be spelled in English) could wear a hat in the presence of the king and queen—the height of privilege—and he alone could address a letter directly to royalty. (Even Christopher Columbus had to direct his reports of the New World to an important noble at court, who read them to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.) Today the term can still be applied to nobility, but it can also be used for anyone of importance and influence anywhere, such as the "pin-striped grandees of London's financial district."

Examples of grandee in a Sentence

only a Spanish grandee—and no one of lesser rank—can address comments to the king and queen of Spain
Recent Examples on the Web Non-musical segments featured such Hollywood grandees as Jack Benny and George Burns along with promising new comedians like David Steinberg and Steve Martin. Fred A. Bernstein, Washington Post, 27 Dec. 2023 The Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London, opened to the British public in 1817, has since served, thanks to the old masters bequeathed it, as a window onto that world of the grandees. Julian Bell, The New York Review of Books, 26 Dec. 2023 There’s a certain kind of theater parody made by theater people, where the characters are either provincial rubes or name-dropping, Olivier-quoting grandees of their local scene, and theater is made out to be a kind of small-town cult for the flamboyantly uncool. Vulture Staff, Vulture, 20 Oct. 2023 Local farmers couldn’t own their land and were instead rent-paying tenants of grandees like Nicholas—aristocrats in all but name. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2023 Yet So far Russia ‘s grandees and people are rallying to the Motherland and its ruler; its huge army is holding. Time, 24 Aug. 2023 While France’s overall animation sector employed 7,790 staffers last year, local grandees hope to see those figures swell to 15,000 by 2030, and have thus made doubling the workforce the third key pillar of the wider Great Image Factory initiative. Ben Croll, Variety, 13 June 2023 Each book in the series seeks to shed some light on the era’s inequities, hypocrisies and the contrasting worlds of privileged grandees and street denizens such as brothel keepers, pickpockets and con artists. Rachel Pannett, Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2023 In short, a grandee’s banquet. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, 13 Nov. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'grandee.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Spanish grande, from grande, adjective, large, great, from Latin grandis

First Known Use

1593, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of grandee was in 1593

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Cite this Entry

“Grandee.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grandee. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

grandee

noun
gran·​dee gran-ˈdē How to pronounce grandee (audio)
: a man of elevated rank or station
especially : a high-ranking Spanish or Portuguese nobleman

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