Reading this article they referred to Justice Scalia as an "august public official." The phrase is also used in the book "Parade's End" by Ford Madox Ford on page 423. I can't seem to find the definition anywhere online, so what does the term "august public official" mean?


As has been pointed out to me "august" can simply mean respected. In this case though, is "august public official" considered an idiom, and is the term always used for public figures? It looks like from the history of the word "august" coming potentially from the "augurs" that the answer might be yes, august has always been used to refer to public officials.

closed as general reference by Andrew Leach, John Lawler, TimLymington, tchrist, James Waldby - jwpat7 Dec 15 '12 at 19:48

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Here you go: ODO on august – Andrew Leach Dec 15 '12 at 18:13
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    Look up august /ɔ'ɡəst/ adj. in any dictionary. – John Lawler Dec 15 '12 at 18:13
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    Okay, so it really isn't an idiom then? I'm just foolish for not consulting the dictionary? Dang it. – ihtkwot Dec 15 '12 at 18:14
  • Thank you both. I don't know why I didn't just think to look up august in the dictionary. – ihtkwot Dec 15 '12 at 18:15
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    I would say a very different pronunciation. Pronunciation is far more important than spelling or punctuation; writing problems largely don't occur in speech because pronunciation makes distinctions that are ambiguous in writing. – John Lawler Dec 15 '12 at 18:40

ODO on august

   respected and impressive:
      she was in august company

Both ODO (ibid) and etymonline indicate a 17th-century origin, from Latin augustus "venerable, majestic, magnificent, noble," probably originally "consecrated by the augurs, with favorable auguries".

The term is not only used in the phrase "august public figure", as the ODO example illustrates. However, when it is used in such a phrase, it may well be sarcastic and actually imply that the public personage is not respected at all.

  • man two questions, and two closed questions, I am striking out on this stack, sorry for the lack of research on my part – ihtkwot Dec 16 '12 at 1:39
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    @ihtkwot: Don't think of it as "striking out." Sure, the question was closed, but you still got a helpful answer – and a couple upvotes. Hang in there. – J.R. Dec 16 '12 at 3:03

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