lèse-ma·​jes·​té | \ ˌlāz-ˈma-jə-stē How to pronounce lèse-majesté (audio) , ˌlez-, ˌlēz- \
variants: or lese majesty

Definition of lèse-majesté

1a : a crime (such as treason) committed against a sovereign power
b : an offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power
2 : a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance

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Lèse-majesté (or lese majesty, as it is also styled in English publications) comes into English by way of Middle French, from the Latin laesa majestas, which literally means "injured majesty." The English term can conceivably cover any offense against a sovereign power or its ruler, from treason to a simple breach of etiquette. Lèse-majesté has also acquired a more lighthearted or ironic meaning, referring to an insult or impudence to a particularly pompous or self-important person or organization. As such, it may be applied to a relatively inoffensive act that has been exaggeratedly treated as if it were a great affront.

First Known Use of lèse-majesté

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lèse-majesté

Middle French lese majesté, from Latin laesa majestas, literally, injured majesty

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The first known use of lèse-majesté was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Lèse-majesté.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/l%C3%A8se-majest%C3%A9. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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