Bet You Can’t Guess Where The Word “Glamour” Comes From

by John Dempsey, Writer and Editing Professional

Today is National Grammar Day so it’s (not “its”) time to celebrate! Now, many of us may have bad memories of teachers correcting us on “Can I use the bathroom?” and similar common phrases all in the name of grammar. (I don’t know, can you? 🙄)

So you may be surprised to learn what those of us who style ourselves grammar geeks, the kind who don’t leave home without a whom, have known all along: grammar is glamorous—literally!

What does grammar mean?

Grammar is the way we construct sentences, and it establishes the proper structure of a language—think of it like the blueprint for how a language puts together sounds and words to make meaning.

But when most of us use the word grammar, we mean the set of rules and norms that determine what is and isn’t correct use of language. We also use the word grammar to mean how well someone follows these rules of language: if somebody has “bad” grammar, they ain’t been using words like they should of. 

Put your grammar woes aside with our top tips for amping up your writing, just in time for National Grammar Day!

Where does the word grammar come from?

The word grammar comes into English from French and Latin, and ultimately from the Greek grammatikós. The Greek grammatikós means “knowing one’s letters” and is based on the word gramma (“letter”). This gramma is related to the -gram in words such as diagram, anagram, and even kilogram.

How is the word glamour related to grammar? 

The word glamour, which can also be spelled glamor, means “the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, especially by a combination of charm and good looks.”

Once upon a time, though, glamour meant a magic spell or a charm. This usage was introduced from Scots into English literature by the 18th-century novelist Sir Walter Scott. It was originally a Scottish variant of the word grammar, used generally to mean “learning” or “occult learning” because prior to then, a student’s proper schooling did include magic and astrology.

How did the spelling of grammar lead to glamour? Well, acoustically speaking, L and R are very similar sounds, and so they can get confused or substituted. In this case, the similarity between the two sounds resulted in a whole new word.

Today, glamour doesn’t refer to magic, but the sense of magic metaphorically lives on when we talk about the nearly magical glitz and glamour of captivating places such as Las Vegas or New York City.

How Grammar Coach™ can make your writing glamorous

When we say someone has “good” grammar, we mean that their writing and speaking perfectly follows the standard conventions of language. Having good grammar will do so much more for you than simply keeping those nit-picky grammar experts away. Good grammar will help you succeed at work, school, and life:

  • Good grammar will keep your teachers from deducting points from your tests and essays.
  • Good grammar ensures that your resumes and cover letters will have a professional look and get noticed.
  • By using good grammar, you can guarantee that your work documents, emails, and writing are clear, effective, and show that you truly know your stuff.

Does this sound like something you need? Well, we’re here to help. If you want your grammar to be as glamorous as can be, Grammar Coach ™ has you covered!

With just a free sign-up you get:

  • Suggestions on snappy synonyms to use to jazz up repetitive writing.
  • Spelling checks to make sure your beautiful writing isn’t marred by hideous typos and ghastly misspellings.
  • Protection from embarrassing grammar faux pas such as subject-verb disagreements.

For only a few bucks a month, the premium versions can zhuzh up your grammar even more with:

  • Formality suggestions to give your writing the vocabulary ensemble it needs to match the tone you want.
  • Engagement advice that will fill your writing with punch and pizzazz that will never put a reader to sleep.

So while we’ll coach you to understand the difference between “can I” and “may I” (and other thorny issues), rest assured we won’t advise you to correct your friends when they mix up the two!

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John Dempsey is a freelance writer from Drifton, Pennsylvania. His work has been published by the Wall Street Journal and Reel Life with Jane, and he contributes regularly to on areas ranging from vocabulary and educational topics to slang and pop culture.

Put your glamorous skills to the test with a grammar quiz!

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