Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Panache

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is panache. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Today, when we say that someone has panache, we are saying that they have energy, spirit, and style. Originally, the word referred to an ornamental tuft or plume of feathers, and especially one affixed to a helmet.

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

PANACHE in Context

“Down home and upbeat, the Bloomfield Bluegrass Band is an all-Sonoma County ensemble of veteran performers whose primary musical obsession is the traditional bluegrass repertoire played with verve, panache, polish and pluck.” — The Argus-Courier (Petaluma, California), 28 July 2022

Did You Know?

Few literary characters can match the panache of French poet and soldier Cyrano de Bergerac, from Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play of the same name. In his dying moments, Cyrano declares that the one thing left to him is his panache, and that assertion at once demonstrates the meaning of the word and draws upon its history. In both French and English, panache (which traces back to Late Latin pinnaculum, “small wing”) originally referred to a showy, feathery plume on a hat or helmet; our familiar figurative sense debuted in the first English translation of Rostand’s play, which made the literal plume a metaphor for Cyrano’s unflagging verve even in death. In a 1903 speech Rostand himself described panache: “A little frivolous perhaps, most certainly a little theatrical, panache is nothing but a grace which is so difficult to retain in the face of death, a grace which demands so much strength that, all the same, it is a grace … which I wish for all of us.”

Leave a Reply