Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 27, 2020 is:
parvenu • PAHR-vuh-noo • noun
: one that has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it
“It’s impossible to exaggerate the rapidity with which Lexus came to dominate the North American luxury market. At its introduction in 1989, its competitors denigrated it as mere parvenu…. By 1990, the LS had become the bestselling large luxury sedan in the land.” — David Booth, The Calgary Herald, 19 July 2019
“Croatia … does not have one of the strongest leagues in the world, one in which most clubs rely on selling young players, for a premium, to the aristocrats and parvenus of England and Spain. In an era in which financial might so often makes right, when the traditional European powerhouses hold the balance of power to a greater extent than at any time in history, … Croatia’s achievement in making it this far is breathtaking.” — Rory Smith, The New York Times, 15 July 2018
Did you know?
French has been generous in providing us with terms for obscure folks who suddenly strike it rich. In addition to parvenu, French has loaned us nouveau riche, arriviste, and roturier, all of which can describe a rich person of plebeian origins, especially one who is a bit snobby. Those colorful and slightly disparaging terms for the newly moneyed clearly show their French heritage, but it may be harder to see the French background of a term Massachusetts locals once used for coastal merchants made rich through the fishing trade: codfish aristocracy. Codfish comes from Middle English (beyond that its origin is a mystery), but aristocracy passed into English via Middle French (it is ultimately from Greek aristos, meaning “best”).