Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


formal ceremony, especially involving expensive clothes, special traditions, etc.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun pomp was borrowed from French ‘pompe’ and Latin ‘pompa’. It was first used in English in the 14th century.


A Last Night of the Proms unlike any other took place on Saturday at the Royal Albert Hall, with a much reduced orchestra, a small choir and no live audience. Many of the traditional favourites were performed nevertheless, including Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no.1 in new arrangement by Anne Dudley. The meaning of pomp in this context is pretty clear, but what about ‘circumstance’? These days it is generally used in the plural with the meaning ‘a fact or condition that affects a situation’. There are other meanings which you can explore here, but none of them seem to fit very well with pomp. In fact Elgar was quoting from Act 3 Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ which uses an old, uncountable meaning of ‘circumstance’, little used these days, which is close to ‘ceremony’ or ‘ceremonial’. ‘Circumstance’ is one of the entries in the new Macmillan Collocations Dictionary; you can find it here.


Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th’ ear-piercing fife;
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!

(Shakespeare, Othello)

“Lo, all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Ninevah and Tyre!”
(Kipling, Recessional)

Related words

ceremonial, ceremony, flummery, ritual

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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