• A mark or expression of praise, congratulation, or appreciation for excellency

  • A ceremonial rite (such as a tap on the shoulder with a sword) granting knighthood

  • (Antiquated) A symbol in musical notation (similar to "{" ) that denotes two or more lines as played simultaneously


We at WinEveryGame like to congratulate anyone who wins a word game, but one wordsmith who really earned a tip of our cap was David Wilson. A man of terrific character, acuity, and word-play-wisdom, David has earned our highest accolade: a host of grand-sounding titles that only lexicographers would come up with. Let's do them alphabetically: he's the Agha of Awesome, the… - wait, you mean you don't know who David Gibson is? Do you even word-game?

We're just kidding: even those of us who are pretty serious gamers might not know much about the North American Scrabble Championship (NASC), an annual tournament that, in 2016, was won by David Gibson. It takes a lot to win the NASC - 5 solid days of rigorous word-play against some of the top Scrabble players on the planet. Yes, this is a real thing, and winners like David earn every bit of the accolades they receive at the awards ceremony afterwards. Oh, and the $10,000 - hard to think of a better accolade than that.

Whether it's a shiny trophy, a laudatory speech, or $10,000, an accolade is definitely something you want. The thing is, you have to earn it. No matter what form it takes, an accolade is essentially an expression of commendation. It's given in recognition of something superlative you've done, like winning a marathon or raising enough funds to pay for a new community center. Accolades are often physical objects, but they can just as easily be actions, like a pat on the shoulder and a few words of admiration. Accolades are frequently given at ceremonies, but they can also be ceremonies that are conducted as a means of giving someone a special acknowledgement.

Actually, there's a specific type of ceremony that’s especially associated with the word accolade: the bestowing of knighthood. The most familiar version involves a royal figure bestowing the honor by tapping a worthy individual on each shoulder with the flat side of a sword. That ritual has been practiced in various forms in Europe for hundreds of years, and this meaning of accolade is just as timeworn. Nowadays, this meaning isn't used much; in modern speech, you're more likely to hear it used in its more general sense.

But before you start congratulating yourself for having finished reading this entry, we should let you know that accolade also has a specific, and somewhat uncommon, use in music. This meaning doesn't have anything to do with awards or appreciation, but instead refers to a parenthetical mark that spans multiple lines of music and signifies that they are to be played simultaneously. This might sound fancy and complicated, but it's really just the same curly bracket - the "{" - that's used in other disciplines like poetry and math (though music is the only area where it's called an accolade). This use of accolade, though, is also pretty old-fashioned, and in modern music the symbol is more commonly referred to as a brace. Personally, we feel this is a change for the boring, so we give accolades to everyone who tries to work this meaning into their own usage.

Example: A Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer, and a Teen Choice Award highlighted the poet's many accolades.

Example: The poet's hometown gave him his latest accolade when they named a new library after him.

Example: Last year, the poet was knighted at an accolade presided over by the Queen of England.


After doing something really spectacular, you might get congratulated with a hug (or, if you're lucky, a kiss - hubba-hubba). That's a handy way to remember the origin of accolade, since the word derives from the Latin word collum, for "neck" (also the root of collar). In this case, collum is especially associated with a sense of "moving around," "rotating," or "circling about," likely because it's descended from kwel-, a Proto-Indo-European root with the same meaning. Latin speakers would combine collum with the prefix ad- ("in relation to," "about," or "towards") to form accollare, a verb meaning "to hug," specifically by throwing one's arms around the neck of another. By the 1500s, this had inspired the French word accolade, which could mean either an embrace or "a kiss" (or both together - again, probably only if you're lucky).

By the early 17th century, English speakers had adopted accolade as a way of referring specifically to the embrace about the neck that occurred during knighting ceremonies, which also usually included the more familiar tap on the shoulders with a sword. From here, use of the English accolade would be generalized to include any type of award or commendation. This generalized usage is attributed to mid-19th century.

In Literature

From Ronda Rousey's My Fight/Your Fight:

But there is far greater value in accomplishments you earn than in accolades that are merely given to you. When you earn something, you never have to worry about justifying that you truly deserve it.

Rousey uses the word accolade here to refer to acclamations, in this case given perfunctorily rather than truly on merit. This brings up a great point: you get accolades only when someone else wants to recognize you; however, that doesn't necessarily mean you deserve them, especially if the awarders have ulterior motives or questionable judgement.

From Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote:

As he had already told him, he said, there was no chapel in the castle, nor was it needed for what remained to be done, for, as he understood the ceremonial of the order, the whole point of being dubbed a knight lay in the accolade and in the slap on the shoulder, and that could be administered in the middle of a field…

This passage has a great example of accolade's oldest usage as a word for the ceremony conferring knighthood, which in Cervantes' days likely still included an embrace around the neck.


Accolate is the brand name of an asthma medication marketed by Astra Zeneca. While it's very possible that this name was inspired by accolade, don't let the one-letter difference trip you up!


  • Praise cascades in accolades

  • An accolade's how a knight is made


Award, Praise, Trophy, Compliment, Achievement, Knight, Knighthood, Music

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of accolade. Did you use accolade in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.