Pomp and Circumstance - Meaning, Origin and Usage

If you’re making a pretentious display of grandeur around your achievements, you’re using “pomp and circumstance” to elevate your position in the eyes of your peers or subordinates. This phrase has typical use by people witnessing the event in a description of loathing for sitting through the presentation.

Pomp and circumstance is something you might hear when your colleague references an overbearing manager talking about their achievements.

The manager or your boss might refer to a project and how they were the defining character for making it happen instead of mentioning their team. Typically, it displays megalomanic behavior in individuals who think highly of themselves, while others find them overbearing.

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of pomp and circumstance, and we’ll look at how to use it in a sentence.

Pomp and Circumstance Meaning

The meaning of pomp and circumstance refers to an ostentatious display of superiority. For example, you’re giving a speech at a gala dinner, and you end up talking too much about your achievements, making you seem like you are the center of the universe.

People watching you make a fool of yourself will find it irritating, and they’ll refer to your speech as all “pomp and circumstance,” referring to your selfish and self-centered behavior.

Pomp and Circumstance Example Usage

Some of the ways people use pomp and circumstance in a conversation are the following.

  • His speech was nothing but pomp and circumstance.
  • The boss held us back for an hour to tell us about the project, but it was all just pomp and circumstance.
  • You think you know what you’re talking about, but that was all just pomp and circumstance.

Pomp and Circumstance Origin

The origin of pomp and circumstance comes from the Shakespeare play, “Othello,” where during Act III, scene III, you hear the line “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!” The word “pomp” refers to a celebration or a spectacular display.

It comes from Latin, French, and English language origins, and the more common modern iteration of the word is “pompous.” In the 1980s, there was a form of “glam rock,” known as “pomp rock.” Circumstance refers to your surroundings.

In 1640, Philip Massinger wrote a play named the “Bashful Lover,” featuring the line “The minion of his prince and court, set off With all the pomp and circumstance of greatness.” The phrase pomp and circumstance might not seem like it has much use in modern language, but it’s still around.

Phrases Similar to Pomp and Circumstance

Some of the phrases and idioms similar to pomp and circumstance include the following.

  • Pomp and ceremony.
  • Pride and glory.
  • Selfish display of credit.
  • Splendor and circumstance.

Phrases Opposite to Pomp and Circumstance

Some phrases with the opposite meaning to pomp and circumstance would be the following.

  • Selfless act.
  • There is no “I” in teamwork.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Pomp and circumstance.
  • Pomp, and circumstance.

Both are interchangeable, but the modern variant removes the comma. The comma comes from the original Shakespeare, while Massinger was the first to use the phrase without adding the comma.

Ways People May Say Pomp and Circumstance Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase incorrectly in conversation. If you’re referring to someone appearing genuine, then it’s the wrong word. Some people may use it when describing a long speech and not the content of the talk.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Pomp and Circumstance

If you’re attending a speech or presentation where someone is going on about their achievements without referencing anyone that helped them get there, then they are full of pomp and circumstance. Typically, you will use it to describe an overbearing person.

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