What is Panache?

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What is Panache?

Panache is a term that in the modern context is used to describe a person or style who/which is dashing and flamboyant. The origin of the word panache comes from the Middle French word ‘penacche’, from the old Italian word ‘pennacchio’ (or old Latin word ‘pinnaculum’, meaning little wing) which is an ornamental plume that is worn on a head gear such as a helmet or a hat. The modern word panache that is very widely used in the English language today is derived more from the French word.

The word as used in English is influenced greatly by French king Henry IV, a beloved king of flamboyant style and reckless courage. Despite these attributes he was one of the most revered French monarchs because of his military leadership prowess. In battles he often wore a helmet with plumes of white feather, and his battle cry was ‘Follow my white plume!’, which translates in French as ‘”Ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc!”

However, as now seen in positive light, the meaning of the word was greatly influenced by the Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac. Prior to the play, the term was usually suspect.

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