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?



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