• An official statement or written piece of lavish praise
  • Effusive commendation and acclaim


Lexicography is absolutely wonderful! Surely there is no nobler pursuit than the defining of words. Why, the wonderful smell of a dictionary page or the satisfaction of identifying synonyms is enough to lift a word-lover to cloud nine. On a list of the best things in the world, lexicography would certainly land in the top three, along with playing with puppies and Grandma's cookies (in no particular order). If we were to huddle all national leaders together in the task of forming a dictionary, world peace would be only a few definitions away - assuming they manage to strike a truce on various definitions of moot!

The previous passage of gushy praise was part of an encomium found scribbled in the margins of an old copy of Funk and Wagnall's (the full piece was much longer, extending from the "Ds" all the way to the "Ys," but, as one might assume, the rest is just more of the same). An encomium is a formal work of enthusiastic, heartfelt praise. The commendations given in encomiums are not merely casual, just-saying-it-to-be-polite compliments. No, these tributes are sincere and elaborate, meant to communicate senses of undying admiration and appreciation. In fact, the praise expressed in an encomium is meant to be so meaningful that creating one is often an undertaking - unless you're a great improviser, you probably wouldn't make one up on the spot. They can be quite verbose, and at times even a little pompous, with the intricacy of the wording actually serving as a form of self-expression for the person giving the tribute. Although they can come in any form - writing, speech, interpretive dance, one-act play expressing your love of Beyoncé, etc. - encomiums are generally prepared in advance and often given in preannounced shindigs, like weddings, reunions or press-events, where there is sure to be an audience. Encomium can also be used more generally to describe adoring praise itself, as opposed to an expression of such. So, really, every encomium contains encomiums!

Example: The sly students knew that all they had to do to delay class was to mention Harry Potter, at which point their teacher would launch into a long-winded encomium of all things Dumbledore.

Example: On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the local newspaper printed an encomium dedicated to all those who participated in relief efforts.


The beginnings of encomium can be traced back to Greek, where its ancestral form was derived from the roots en (for "in") and komos (which specifies a happy gathering or planned occasion, literally "merrymaking"). These roots possibly suggest the circumstances under which the eager praise of an encomium was given. Encomium would first show up with both its familiar meaning and spelling in Late Latin before being appropriated by English in the late sixteenth century.

Derivative Words

Encomiast: This noun describes a person who gives praise - literally, a person who gives an encomium.

Example: Every Sunday the minister assumed the role of God's personal encomiast, giving lengthy and enthusiastic sermons that applauded his heavenly acts.

In Literature

From M.G. Lord's Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll:

It is with an eye toward using objects to understand ourselves that I beg Barbie's knee-jerk defenders and knee-jerk revilers to cease temporarily their defending and reviling. Barbie is too complicated for either an encomium or an indictment. But we will not refrain from looking under rocks.

Here, encomium is used in contrast with indictment to indicate that neither extreme is adequate for gaining a true understanding of the complex nature of Barbie Dolls.


  • An encomium's a home of praise.


Encomiums are sometimes associated with eulogies, but although the terms are similar, they are not quite interchangeable. A eulogy is a tribute to someone who has passed away and is given at a funeral or written in an obituary. This makes eulogy a kind of encomium; however, encomiums can be given for anyone, living or dead, as well as for nonhuman subjects such as pets, objects, ideas, etc.


Eulogy, Honor, Appreciation

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