Which Word Wednesday: Regal vs. Royal

By April 27, 2011 culture, language No Comments

Despite the kerfuffle (that’s for my friends over at Christ and Pop Culture) surrounding Friday’s wedding of Prince William and Catherine, I’m planning to be a gawker from across the pond. I’m hosting a viewing party (my mom, sister, and niece will be in attendance) because:

1) I love weddings, and

2) I’m feeling sentimental, because way back in 1981, my mom got my sister and me out of bed to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana.

This week’s Which Word Wednesday is in honor of the momentous event. We’re going to look at the entry of regal/royal from Ron Evans’s The Artful Nuance: A Refined Guide to Imperfectly Understood Words in the English Language.

Here are the Oxford American Dictionary definitions:

regal :: adjective
of, resembling, or fit for a monarch, esp. in being magnificent or dignified

royal :: adjective
having the status of a king or queen or a member of their family

Both of these words are related to a monarchy—so appropriate for Friday’s event—but what sort of usage helps can we tuck away based on these definitions?

It looks like royal is reserved for one within a monarchy, whereas regal would be appropriate for something resembling a monarchy, whether person, place, or thing. Evans says: “Royal describes anything associated with kings, queens, or the crown, without necessarily implying magnificence.”1

[polldaddy poll=4979934]

What’s my WWW verdict? A royal is a person within the monarchy, and that status cannot be altered. But a royal may not necessarily be regal—undignified behavior may lower a royal’s regal standing.

What’s your verdict? Do you plan to be a royal wedding gawker this week? Share your comments and be sure to cast your vote in the poll.

Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

1. Ron Evans, The Artful Nuance: A Refined Guide to Imperfectly Understood Words in the English Language (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 172–173.

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