Pride is a complex word and a concept that can be rather ambiguous. It corresponds to two polarly different meanings, and finding a line between them may be difficult at times. The first interpretation of this term which comes to mind is connected to the one from the Bible, where pride is mentioned as a primary vice that creates sin (English Standard Version Bible, Prov. 21-4). However, one can also positively experience pride. This essay aims to look at different definitions of this complicated term and determine its origins.
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The word first appeared around the 12-13th centuries in its positive sense – “to congratulate oneself.” Around the 15th century the meaning “a group of lions” came into use. It is believed that pride originated from an Old English word presto, and this word came from prud, which has later transformed into pride (Online Etymology Dictionary). Even though the word had a positive connotation at first, with time, its biblical sense overtook the discourse.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, pride can mean both “inordinate self-esteem” and “a reasonable and justifiable self-respect.” Aside from being proud of one’s doings, whether it is for a good reason or not, one can feel proud towards another person. Usually, the term is used in this interpretation regarding parents being proud of their children’s achievements. In religious tradition, however, pride is widely considered to be the original deadly sin. It is believed that other sins stem from pride, and, as the Book of Proverbs says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Prov. 16.18). This interpretation of the word often leads to a negative attitude towards the concept of pride in the eyes of the public. Modesty and humbleness are thought to be way more valuable for society than pride. However, there is evidence that these things should be maintained at a healthy balance, as taking pride in one’s deeds can increase motivation for work (Weidman et al. 620). Thus, it is very important to distinguish the core definitions of the term because they change the meaning of a phrase drastically.
While the connotations of the word concerning morals are the two most important and frequently used meanings, there are some more interpretations of the term. Firstly, pride as a word representing a group of lions poses an interesting case. It is hard to tell what came first, the notion of pride or the perception of lions as noble and regal animals. However, one notion enriched the other. Either lion started to be seen and glorious animals and the word pride was attributed to them, or the word pride came first, and, because of it, lions gained royal status among beasts. Both ways, one influences people’s perception of the other and, even though about royalty, pride is more likely to signify immeasurable self-esteem, people do not see lions in a bad light.
Aside from this connotation, pride has a new meaning, which it has gained fairly recently. In modern times, the term is used for expressions like “LGBT+ pride” or “pride month.” Pride parades started as riots, and the word pride was reclaimed to signify the courage people had to show their true selves to the world (Peterson et al. 18). Thus, this connotation is only remotely connected with self-esteem or vanity and is rather a synonym for visibility.
To conclude, the most common definitions for pride express almost the opposite meaning, and the word was ambiguous throughout most of its history. This translates well to everyday life, where it is sometimes hard to tell if a person is taking pride in their deeds or being arrogant. Disregarding the negative connotations, the concept of pride gained a positive figurative meaning and was adopted by the LGBT+ community.
The Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2017.
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Peterson, Abby et al. Pride Parades and LGBT Movements: Political Participation in an International Comparative Perspective. Routledge, 2018.
“Pride.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2020. Web.
“Pride.” Online Etymology Dictionary, 2020. Web.
Weidman, A. C. et al. “The Benefits of Following Your Pride: Authentic Pride Promotes Achievement.” Journal of Personality, vol. 84, no. 5, 2015, pp. 607-622.