: a man of elevated rank or station
Did You Know?
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."
After winning the golf tournament, it was expected that the young player would shake hands and pose for pictures with the grandees who had supplied the prize fund.
"[George] Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention (1787), helped sell the notion of a strong and united nation to his fellow Virginia grandees, and served two terms (1789-1797) as our nation’s first president before retiring to his beloved Mount Vernon." -- From a book review by Peter Rowe in The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 7, 2010
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Word Family Quiz
What relative of "grandee" refers to language that is impressive-sounding but not meaningful or sincere "? The answer is ...
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