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gray eminence

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noun

a person who wields unofficial power, especially through another person and often surreptitiously or privately.

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Origin of gray eminence

1940–45; translation of French éminence grise
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does gray eminence mean?

Gray eminence is a term for a person who wields power in an unofficial capacity or who influences things behind the scenes, mostly or completely out of public view.

The term is an English translation of the more commonly used éminence grise. The spelling grey eminence is also used.

The terms are usually used in the context of politics and are typically applied to someone who wields power through another person who holds an official position. The term often implies that the person is doing this secretly or in an unauthorized or otherwise shadowy way.

The terms are most often applied by the media or by those who are critical of such influence.

Example: The press is calling him a gray eminence and implying that he is the one orchestrating things behind the scenes.

Where does gray eminence come from?

The figurative use of the term éminence grise is first recorded in the 1900s. The first records of the translated version of the term, gray (or grey) eminence, come later, around the 1940s. The noun eminence refers to a position of high rank or status. It is often used as a way of addressing or referring to cardinals in the Catholic Church, as in your eminence or his eminence.

The term éminence grise was originally a nickname applied to Père Joseph, also known as François Leclerc du Tremblay. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s the point. He was the secretary and a confidential advisor of someone you probably have heard of: Cardinal Richelieu, who wielded a lot of political power in France in the 1600s. Père Joseph’s nickname was based on the fact that he was a monk who wore grayish-colored robes.

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How is gray eminence used in real life?

The term éminence grise is more commonly used than gray eminence. It was applied to Dick Cheney when he served as vice president under President George W. Bush, for example.

 

 

Try using gray eminence!

Is gray eminence used correctly in the following sentence?

It seems pretty obvious that there is a gray eminence making decisions in private, because the prime minister doesn’t seem capable of this type of political maneuvering.

How to use gray eminence in a sentence

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