A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What's the origin of the word "kudos"?

September 13, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

A friend asked me this question the other day, and since I'm clueless, I'm throwing it to you. Just exactly how did the word "kudos" originate to be a reward of sorts?

From the Greek kydos which entered English as British university slang in the early 1800s. It came to America in the 1920s and 1930s, used frequently by Time magazine. In fact, kudos and tycoon are about the last remnants of the Time-style vocabulary that Henry Luce and his cohorts evolved in the early days of that magazine.

Incidentally, kudos is singular, meaning honour, fame, or glory. If you hear someone say, "I give a kudo to so and so" (Dr. Laura did this the other day)--now that's clueless.

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