AskDefine | Define magnanimity

Dictionary Definition

magnanimity n : liberality in bestowing gifts; extremely liberal and generous of spirit [syn: munificence, largess, largesse, openhandedness]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The quality of being magnanimous; greatness of mind; elevation or dignity of soul.
  2. That quality or combination of qualities, in character, which enables one to encounter danger and trouble with tranquility and firmness, to disdain injustice, meanness and revenge, and to act and sacrifice for noble objects.


The quality of being magnanimous; greatness of mind; elevation or dignity of soul

Extensive Definition

Magnanimity (derived from the Latin roots magn- great, and anima, soul) is the virtue of being great of mind and heart. It encompasses, usually, a refusal to be petty, a willingness to face danger, and actions for noble purposes. Its antithesis is pusillanimity. Both terms were coined by Aristotle, who called magnanimity "the crowning virtue."
Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the American Language defines Magnanimity as such:
MAGNANIM'ITY, n. [L. magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.] Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle considered it the suitable virtue for a great man, arising from his other virtues.
Edmund Spenser, in The Faerie Queen, had each knight allegorically represent a virtue; Prince Arthur represented "magnificience," which is generally taken as a synonym of "magnanimity". The uncompleted work does not include Prince Arthur's book, and the significance is not clear.
Democritus states that "magnanimity consists in enduring tactlessness with mildness".
As an adjective, the concept is expressed as "magnanimous," i.e. "He is a magnanimous man." An example of referring to one as magnanimous can be seen in Hrólfs saga kraka where King Hrólfr Kraki changes the name of a court servant from Hott to Hjalti for his new-found strength and courage, after which Hjalti refuses to taunt or kill those who previously mocked him. Because of his noble actions, the king then bestows the title Magnanimous upon Hjalti.
One form of magnanimity is the generosity of the victor to the defeated. For example, magnanimity has been codified between societies by the Geneva Conventions.
Magnanimous relief efforts can serve to offset the collateral damage of war.
C. S. Lewis, in his book The Abolition of Man, refers to the chest of man as the seat of magnanimity, or sentiment, with this magnanimity working as the liaison between visceral and cerebral man. Lewis asserts that in his time, the denial of the emotions that are found in the eternal, the sublime, that which is humbling as an objective reality, had led to "men without chests."
magnanimity in German: Großmut

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1