The Joy of Language Learning

Words With a Royal Ancestry

As monarchies of the past gave way to democracies, the concept of an absolute and all powerful ruler lost its appeal. Kings and queens still exist but a good proportion of them only serve nominal roles unlike their predecessors who were considered incarnates of God on Earth and wielded great power. Thus, it is only natural that a position with so much power would also influence our language and that is the reason why quite a few words with a royal ancestry can be found in our dictionaries today.

Image Credit: Europeana/Unsplash

The Latin word regere means to rule, guide or keep straight. A related Latin root is rex- (or reg-) means king since it’s a king’s duty to guide and rule over his subjects. Even today, the term rex is used to denote the ruling king and is generally used after a name or in titles of a lawsuit. In a similar vein, a regent (not to be confused with reagent) is someone who rules or governs on behalf of the royalty.

The derived term regal began to mean something resembling or fitting a monarch. Thus a regal stride means king-like walking. Similarly, regalia used to mean the rights and privileges of the king or queen. Now, it is used to refer to the crown, ornaments, emblems, etc. used during coronation. In a broader sense, it can also be used to mean elaborate clothing and decoration that indicates higher status as in “the Pope arrived in full regalia”.

Native American Regalia.
Image Credit: Laura Hamilton

If regal is joined with an -e, the term regale used to mean the rights of the King of France. But now it is used in a different sense, courtesy of the prefix re- and the French word gale (rejoicing). Regale, thus, means to entertain or amuse as in ‘he regaled the guests with his antics’.

A guitarist regaling his audience.
Image Credit: James Barbosa
Maximilien Robespierre, whose rule is also called ‘Reign of Terror’.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

A related Latin root, regnum (kingship or rule), became reigne in Old French and later reign in English. So we can say something like ‘the king’s reign lasted for 2 years only’ or ‘he unleashed a reign of terror’. If regnum is prefixed with inter- (between), the word so formed, interregnum, refers to the gap between two successive terms of governance.

The term regnant too has been derived from the same root and literally means ruling or reigning. It can also be used in a broader sense to refer to something that is dominant or having the greatest influence. For instance, it can be said that contrary to the regnant belief, the world seems to be getting less violent with every passing century.

Now that you have reached the end, there’s a quiz and crossword waiting for you. A good look at the table below will help you ease through them.

Table Summary:

RexDenotes the ruling king, generally used after a name or in titles of lawsuit
RegentSomeone who rules or governs on behalf of the ruler
RegalFitting a monarch
RegaliaCrowns, ornaments, emblems, etc. used coronation; Elaborate clothing or decoration
RegaleTo entertain or amuse
ReignA period of rule
InterregnumGap between two successive terms of governance
RegnantRuling or reigning; Something that exerts great influence

Welcome to your Royal Quiz

Who is a regent?

"Regal" in the given headline means:


What does "regalia" mean in the given headline?


What does "regale" mean in the given headline?


"Reign" in the given headline means:


"Interregnum" in the given excerpt means:


What does "regnant" mean in the given excerpt?


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