Venerable

adjective

  1. Deserving of respect or interest, especially because of age, status, or accomplishments

  2. Made sacred through significant historical or religious associations over time

  3. A title attached to an archdeacon in the Anglican Church or to someone who has been deemed worthy of the first degree of sanctity in the Roman Catholic Church


Usage

Growing old can be hard, but growing venerable is quite an honor! When someone is regarded as venerable, it means that they are viewed as deserving respect. Most of the time when we describe someone as venerable we mean that they deserve this respect because of their old age and all of the wisdom and experience which (hopefully) goes along with their grey hairs. Thus, you might remark, "Let's all show proper respect to Great Grandmother as the most venerable member of our family." Sometimes though venerable can describe someone or something which deserves honor because of status or successes, aside from age. For example, your wise great grandmother might remind you, "The President is venerable because of the position he holds, regardless of his age or how you feel about his policies." Someone who holds a position of honor like President or Justice of the Peace should be shown reverence because of the symbolic importance of the role they fill. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church uses Venerable as a title to describe those who have attained the first degree of sanctity, and the Anglican Church uses Venerable as a title for archdeacons.

Venerable can describe inanimate objects or traditions in much the same way it can describe people. Some things can be termed venerable due strictly to their old age. There is a kind of sanctity which something accrues simply by virtue of persistence. For example, if there were an oak tree in your front yard which had grown there through three generations of your family, you might tell your son, "Your climbing tree is really a venerable old oak, Tom!" A slightly more specific sense of the word applies that same basic idea to things or locations which are associated with lofty historical events or religious functions. For example, as every English monarch since Harold II has been crowned at Westminster Abbey, you might speak of "the venerable halls of Westminster Abbey." The passage of time confers importance on most things, but the passage of time in conjunction with such historical and religious significance confers something approaching sacredness.

Note: Venerable should not be confused with Vulnerable. Vulnerable has completely different roots and means "susceptible to getting harmed."

Example: The ill-bred young people paid no attention when the venerable gentleman entered the room.

Example: The venerable pages of his grandfather's diary were filled with precious memories.

Example: The simple traditions of a people grow more sacred through their recognition over time, eventually becoming venerable.

Example: The Venerable Bede is an important source of historical information about early England.

Example: Hiking through the venerable Redwood Trees at Big Sur inspires deep thoughts.


Origin

Venerable entered English in the early 15th century, meaning "deserving of respect." It derives from the Old French venerable and the Latin venerabilis, both of which mean "worthy of reverence." The latter stems from the verb venerari, which means "to worship" or "to revere."

Derivative Words

Venerably: This adverb describes an action performed in a venerable way or a quality possessed in a venerable manner.

Example: The Wilsons venerably honored each of their family traditions

Example: Some people insist that the courthouse fa├žade is venerably aged, but to me it just looks old and ugly.

Venerability: This noun form refers to the condition or quality of being venerable, in any of its senses. Not to be confused with Vulnerability - which means "weakness".

Example: Mr. Wilson's decision to tear down the old palisade around his estate displayed a complete disregard for the venerability of that iconic fence.

Venerableness: This noun form refers to the condition or quality of being venerable, in any of its senses.

Example: Grandma seems perfectly content to have traded her youth for venerableness.

Venerate (Venerated): This verb form refers to the act of deeply revering someone, and the participial form venerated describes a person or thing which is thus revered.

Example: Many cultures believe that the living have a solemn duty to venerate their ancestors.

Example: The venerated philanthropist was mourned by many friends and admirers after his passing.

In Literature

From Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus:

Friends! trust not the heart of that man for whom Old Clothes are not venerable.

Here, Carlyle, through his narrator Teufelsdrockh, emphasizes the sanctity which comes to well-aged everyday objects, since they have been in direct contact with so much of the drama of human life.

Mnemonic

  • If someone is so admirable
    Sacred and beyond measurable,
    They are venerable.

Tags

Honor, Elderly, Tradition, Past


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