Pomp and Circumstance

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16 comments on this post.
  1. Christian:

    A brilliant explanation. Thank you.

  2. Chris Way:

    Nice to know: The term “Pomp and Circumstace” is also used by the character of Danny Dravott in Kiplings “The man who would be king”, describing his upcoming marriage.

  3. Steve Aspenson:

    Why not just acknowledge the etymology of circumstance a bit more to understand the phrase? There’s a pompous display, and some others standing around staring at it?

  4. mododavid:

    Thank you so much for the explanation. This is the ONLY place I’ve found that has explained this phrase and has done it so well. I’ve been curious about this phrase since the first time I read the Odessey (about ten years ago in college), and I wondered why these ancient characters would use such a presumably modern phrase. Bad translation I guess. Thank you. Also, you’re right. Everyone explains the obvious “pomp” well enough, but there’s never a good explanation of “circumstance.”

  5. Eleanor:

    Excellent answer! not only informative, and exact but thorough, enough information was given to assist the learner/requestor so if it is said or given in the wrong content you supplied multiple scenerios and information to use as resources to pull from.

  6. Craig Salvay:

    Consider using the word “tautology” in your explanation of the connection between “pomp” (Greek origin) and “circumstance” (Latin origin). Though pomp came to Latin from Greek (“pompein” = to send), I observe that literature and dictionaries of the 14th through 17th centuries seem often to use or cite the Latin (often French) and Greek words, perhaps to make the linguistic scholars of those centuries pleased that all then-modern forms of a meaning were being preserved and carried into English. Regardless of the origin of the practice of dual citation/usage (Latin & Greek), this practice among English linguists provided a language that is the richest repository of words in the modern world.

  7. McLaffs:

    Great explanation. I’ve reluctantly used the term to playfully describe the procedures necessary to award contracts for construction work. What I’m trying to get across is “these next actions are ceremonial in nature.” I feel okay with my past usage, post-explanation. “Okay” itself, is an etymological endeavor for another day.

  8. Syn:

    I had always thought it was a statement of mocking contrast.

    The display of glory and greatness leading to military adventure, (pomp)
    verse the dreariness, death and despair of war.(circumstance).

    or does that make no sense?

  9. Andrey:

    The full quote from Shakespeare is actually: “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war”. Not sure if it actually meets the explanation given here: “the ceremony or fuss made about an important event”.

  10. Pompa Circensis:

    I wonder if Shakespeare lifted it from this expression?

    “Pompa”: Latin for Procession. “Circensis”: A chariot circus. These were big parades/processions prior to a day of chariot games.

    ( There were other “Pompa”s. eg: “Pompa Triumphalis” for when a conqueror received a Triumph ).

    I wonder if then, the latin expression “pompa circensis” was common at the time of Shakespeare and may have been introduced into English as “Pomp and Circumstance”.

    This is just speculation, but the similarity of the two expressions and the oddness of a term like “circumstance” make me wonder.

  11. Pompa Circensis:

    Interesing: I came across this page while reading about this topic:

    perhaps this was inspiration/origin for “Pomp & Circumstance” expression?

  12. John:

    Interesting point, especially considering that Elgar’s cantata ‘Caractacus’, written just four years before his first ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ March includes a ‘Pompa Triumphalis’ as its climactic final scene. Set in Ancient Rome, the ‘Triumphal March’ depicts the entry of the British captives into the city. So perhaps this is what got Elgar thinking about the Shakespeare quote when he wrote his marches.

  13. Dediree:

    I saw an interview with Prince Harry and a statement was made the event had “the pomp without the circumstance”. My immediate thought was how could that be. I had to dig deep to get to this conversation. This is great. I apprappreciate all the comments thus far.

  14. dick chudnow:

    Wow, great explanation. I’ve listened to Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance since I was a kid, and never wondered what, exactly, “Circumstance” meant. Now I do. THANK YOU!!

  15. Gerhard Vermaak:

    I’ve read the definition or the description of pomp and circumstance as well as all the comments with great interest. In my humble opinion pomp and circumstance can also br applied in great ceremonies like royal events where the king or queen ride through the streets and all the spectators(circumstance) wave at them.
    Something similar could be when a general and his troops enter a town after conquering the enemy and the inhabitants welcoming them. The same could be when a football team goes through the streets after winning the finals.
    One thing is certain: the British high society likes its pomp and circumstance.I like all the humour about it,


  16. John:

    I was listening to sports radio yesterday and the host was discussing the Covid-19- diminished pro/college football season. He stated “without the fans in the stands, you miss a lot of the ‘pomp & circumstances'”. It wasn’t quite ‘pomp and circumcision’, but it sure demonstrated his ignorance of the phrase…

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