Origin of the word
The Greek word ‘parakonan’ is a combination of ‘akone’ meaning ‘sharpening stone, whetstone’ and ‘para’ meaning ‘on the side’. The combination of elements was used as a verb meaning ‘to whet or sharpen’. In Italian the noun ‘paragone’ was the name given to a touchstone used for testing gold, while the verb ‘paragonare’ meant ‘to compare or measure, judge or test on a touchstone’.
Since gold is a highly prized precious metal, it would have been considered to be top quality; hence the Middle French ‘paragon’ was used to represent ‘an excellent model or pattern’. This is where we find the genesis for the meaning of the word paragon in English and how we use it today.
The word paragon is often used to convey the best possible or top-quality person or thing.
“We’re talking about the superhumans! Those saintly paragons who are supposed to serve as inspirations to the public, so they can get all teary eyed and gooey once every four years.” Independent. 23rd September 2017: Why is anyone shocked that Paralympians have been accused of cheating?
“My mother was a paragon of austerity. But even she loved chocolate.” Guardian. 27th May 2017: My mother was a paragon of austerity. But even she loved chocolate.
“He was a literary superstar who had set himself up as a paragon of family virtue: a father of nine whose novels erected domestic bliss as the moral ideal.” The Telegraph. 16th June 2008: The secret affair that almost ruined Dickens.
1. someone who is perfect or who is the best possible example of a particular quality