Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 25, 2019 is:

lèse-majesté • layz-MAJ-uh-stee  • noun

1 a : a crime (such as treason) committed against a sovereign power

b : an offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power

2 : a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance


“David’s grandfather, President Eisenhower, had left David all his clothes in his will, and David felt obliged to wear them…. Naturally, it would be something along the lines of lèse-majesté for him to remove the presidential jacket and vest and sit in his shirtsleeves, so he gamely continued to sweat in the sweltering heat, out of respect for Ike.” — Michael Korda, Another Life, 2000

“Thai law makes it illegal to defame, insult or threaten ‘the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent.’ … Though other countries still have similar laws—both Spain and the Netherlands have lèse-majesté laws on the books—Thailand’s enforcement of its laws may make them the strictest in the world.” — Adam Taylor, The Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2019

Did you know?

Lèse-majesté (or lese majesty, as it is also styled in English publications) comes into English by way of Middle French, from the Latin laesa majestas, which literally means “injured majesty.” The English term can conceivably cover any offense against a sovereign power or its ruler, from treason to a simple breach of etiquette. Lèse-majesté has also acquired a more lighthearted or ironic meaning, referring to an insult or impudence to a particularly pompous or self-important person or organization. As such, it may be applied to a relatively inoffensive act that has been exaggeratedly treated as if it were a great affront.

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