Word of the Day : July 23, 2011


noun puh-NAHSH


1 : an ornamental tuft (as of feathers) especially on a helmet

2 : dash or flamboyance in style and action : verve

Did You Know?

Few can match the panache of French poet and soldier Cyrano de Bergerac. In his dying moments, he declared that the one thing left to him was his panache, and that assertion at once demonstrates the meaning of the word and draws upon its history. "Panache" derives via Middle French from Late Latin "pinnaculum," meaning "small wing" or "gable," a root that also gave English the word "pinnacle." In both French and English, "panache" originally referred to a showy, feathery plume on a hat or helmet; its "dashing" figurative sense developed from the verve and swagger of one bold enough to wear such an adornment in public. When the dying Cyrano turned his huge nose heavenward and spoke of his panache, his nose became the literal and figurative pinnacle of a multifaceted pun.


Ever the showman, he not only caught the ball, he made a diving catch and caught it with panache.

"During the war, Donovan wanted panache to be shown by his 'cowboys' at the OSS, and he usually got more panache than results." -- From Gary Wills' 2010 book Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "amanuensis," our Word of the Day from June 28? The answer is ...


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