AskDefine | Define laureate

Dictionary Definition

laureate adj : worthy of the greatest honor or distinction; "The nation's pediatrician laureate is preparing to lay down his black bag"- James Traub n : someone honored for great achievements; figuratively someone crowned with a laurel wreath

User Contributed Dictionary



From laureatus, from laurea laurel tree, from laureus of laurel, from laurus laurel: compare French lauréat. Compare laurel




  1. Crowned, or decked, with laurel - Chaucer
    • To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies. - Milton
    • Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines. - Pope

Derived terms

  • Poet laureate
    (Obsolete): One who received an honorable degree in grammar, including poetry and rhetoric, at the English universities; -- so called as being presented with a wreath of laurel
    (England):Formerly, an officer of the king's household, whose business was to compose an ode annually for the king's birthday, and other suitable occasions; now, a poet officially distinguished by such honorary title, the office being a sinecure. It is said this title was first given in the time of Edward IV
  • Nobel laureate


  1. One crowned with laurel; a poet laureate. A learned laureate - Cleveland


  1. : To honor with a wreath of laurel, as formerly was done in bestowing a degree at the English universities.



  1. Feminine plural form of laureato


  1. Plural of laureata


Extensive Definition

In English, the word laureate has come to signify eminence or association with literary or military glory.


The laurel, in ancient Greece, was sacred to Apollo, and as such was used to form a crown or wreath of honor for poets and heroes; and this usage has been widespread. "Laureate letters" in old times meant the dispatches announcing a victory; and the epithet was given, even officially (e.g. to John Skelton) by universities, to distinguished poets.
The name of "bacca-laureate" for a bachelor's degree shows a confusion with a supposed etymology from Latin bacca lauri (the laurel berry), which though incorrect, involves the same idea. From the more general use of the term "poet laureate" arose its restriction in England to the office of the poet attached to the royal household, first held by Ben Jonson, for whom the position was, in its essentials, created by Charles I of England in 1617. Jonson's appointment does not seem to have been formally made as poet-laureate, but his position was equivalent to that. The office was really a development of the practice of earlier times, when minstrels and versifiers were part of the retinue of the King; it is recorded that Richard Coeur de Lion had a versificator regis (Gulielmus Peregrinus), and Henry III of England had a versificator (Master Henry); in the 15th century John Kay, also a "versifier", described himself as Edward IV of England's "humble poet laureate". Moreover, the crown had shown its patronage in various ways; Chaucer had been given a pension and a perquisite of wine by Edward III of England, and Spenser a pension by Queen Elizabeth I. W. Hamilton classes Chaucer, Gower, John Kay, Andrew Bernard, John Skelton, Robert Whittington, Richard Edwards, Spenser and Samuel Daniel, as "volunteer Laureates".
Sir William Davenant succeeded Jonson in 1638, and the title of poet laureate was conferred by letters patent on John Dryden in 1670 two years after Davenant's death, coupled with a pension of £300 and a butt of Canary Islands wine. The post then became a regular institution, though the emoluments varied, Dryden's successors being T. Shadwell, who originated annual birthday and New Year odes, Nahum Tate, Nicholas Rowe, Laurence Eusden, Colley Cibber, William Whitehead, Thomas Warton, Henry James Pye, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Alfred Tennyson and, four years after Tennyson's death, Alfred Austin. The office took on a new luster from the personal distinction of Southey, Wordsworth and Tennyson; it had fallen into contempt before Southey, and on Tennyson's death there was a considerable feeling that no possible successor was acceptable, William Morris and Algernon Swinburne being hardly court poets. Eventually, however, the undesirability of breaking with tradition for temporary reasons, and thus severing the one official link between literature and the state, prevailed over the protests against following Tennyson by any one of inferior genius. It may be noted that abolition was similarly advocated when Thomas Warton and William Wordsworth died. The poet laureate, being a court official, was considered responsible for producing formal and appropriate verses on birthdays and state occasions; but his activity in this respect has varied, according to circumstances, and the custom ceased to be obligatory after Pye's death. Wordsworth stipulated, before accepting the honor, that no formal effusions from him should be considered a necessity; but Tennyson was generally happy in his numerous poems of this class. The emoluments of the post have varied; Ben Jonson first received a pension of 100 marks, and later an annual "terse of Canary wine". To Pye an allowance of £27 was made instead of the wine. Tennyson drew £72 a year from the Lord Chamberlain's department, and £27 from the Lord Steward's in lieu of the "butt of sack".
laureate in German: Laureat
laureate in Polish: Laureat
laureate in Ukrainian: Лауреат

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

A per se, Meistersinger, Olympic medal winner, Parnassian, ace, arch-poet, award winner, ballad maker, balladmonger, bard, beat poet, boss, bucoliast, champ, champion, chief, commander, crowned with laurel, dean, distinguished, elegist, epic poet, fili, fugleman, genius, head, higher-up, honored, idyllist, imagist, jongleur, leader, librettist, major poet, maker, master, medalist, minnesinger, minor poet, minstrel, modernist, nonpareil, occasional poet, odist, paragon, pastoral poet, pastoralist, poet, poet laureate, poetress, principal, prizeman, prizetaker, prizewinner, prodigy, rhapsode, rhapsodist, ruler, satirist, scop, senior, skald, sonneteer, star, superior, superman, superstar, symbolist, the greatest, the most, top dog, troubadour, trouveur, trovatore, vers libriste, vers-librist, virtuoso, world champion, world-record holder
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