Saturday, April 10, 2021

Seeking Definition: Fourth Attempt

 I was on a quest. After looking through many issues of the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, I detected a specific tone which I described with the word "dignity".

            I began a search to discover the definition of that word and if I was using the correct word for the tone. Previous posts on this blog show the dictionaries I searched through. The last was a search online in the Cambridge Dictionary.

            Knowing that the Oxford Dictionary is considered a core source of information about the English language, I went to Lexico, their online dictionary source.


1.      The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

‘a man of dignity and unbending principle’

A. A composed or serious manner or style.

‘he bowed with great dignity’

2.      A sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.

             ‘it was beneath his dignity to shout’

 3.      A high or honorable rank or position.

             ‘he promised dignities to the nobles in return for his rival's murder’

        In this definition, "dignity" is still linked to behavior: serious manner, worthy of honor.

       The second definition is about self-respect, a big solid change from the previous sources I looked at. I especially liked the part about "pride in oneself". This was getting closer to that tone I had detected in the Monitor.

       This definition still mentions rank, but it is the third definition, not the first. Do dictionaries rate their definitions by usage? Had this definition truly become less common?

       I was not satisfied. I had chosen the word "dignity" on purpose, and I still didn't have a good reason. What was I actually looking for?



Saturday, April 3, 2021

Seeking Definition: Third Attempt

       I had discovered the tone of  "dignity" in the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, but I couldn't seem to find a definition that fit with the tone I had identified or with my own gut feeling.

       I turned to an online dictionary: Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press.


1.      calm, serious, and controlled behavior that makes people respect you:

He is a man of dignity and calm determination.

She has a quiet dignity about her.

I think everyone should be able to die with dignity.


  1. the importance and value that a person has, that makes other people respect them or makes them respect themselves:

 How could you wear something so indecent? Have you no dignity?

In the hospital, she felt stripped of all her dignity.

He longs for a society in which the dignity of all people is recognized.


  1. the quality of a person that makes him or her deserving of respect, sometimes shown in behavior or appearance:

 Laws of privacy are designed to protect the dignity of individuals.

       This definition emphasizes behavior: calm, serious, quiet. This is much closer to what I think of for "dignity", but again, I confess, I'm not always this well behaved, and I'm not sure the Monitor is telling me to do this.

       Also, in this definition, there is an emphasis on "respect". This was not in previous definitions. Hmm. A slight shift: here dignity and respect are assumed for everyone, and I see the first mention of "self-respect".

       Finally, in this definition, there is no mention of rank or office.

       This definition feels a lot closer to my personal definition of "dignity".

       The tone of the Monitor was much closer to this definition than the previous, older ones. Still, I did not choose "respect" as the overall tone, I chose "dignity".

       Did I choose the wrong word?

Saturday, March 27, 2021