Play Words in the News


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Republicans, look away now. There is rarely a week when the royal family are out of the news, but this week the focus has been particularly intense in view of the forthcoming wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. While the tabloids have been whipping themselves into a frenzy over Ms Markle’s father (would he/wouldn’t he be walking her down the aisle on Saturday?) other outlets have focused on the ceremony and who will conduct it, the guest list, the bridesmaids and pageboys, the food, the clothes, and any other aspect that can be seized on to provide a few column inches. It is at times like this that royal watchers come into their own, while etiquette experts are on hand to sniff snootily that the couple’s chosen catering option of bowl food, while bang up-to-the-minute, is ‘not very aristocratic’: aristocrats, as is well known, dine exclusively off plates.

In addition to its core meaning of ‘relating to a king or queen or the members of their family’, royal has a couple of other senses, and forms many compounds. It is used in the names of organizations and institutions that were established or supported by a royal person: the Royal Society, for example, was founded under the patronage of Charles II months after he returned from exile during the Interregnum, the period between 1649 and 1660 when the country was without a king (or queen).  The adjective royal also has an informal emphatic meaning, as in ‘a right royal mess’, while the noun is used, often in the plural form and especially in the media, to refer to members of the royal family. The royal ‘we’, meanwhile, is the use by a monarch, religious leader or person in high office of the plural first person pronoun rather than the singular, especially in official documents.

Royal comes from the Old French ‘roial’, which comes from the Latin ‘regalis’ meaning ‘regal’. It entered the language around 1400.

If you have an appetite for more royal-themed material, check out our infographic on royal idioms, or try our bespoke royal-wedding-based quiz:

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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