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Does the word "luxury" or "luxurious" have a negative meaning or nuance?

In dictionary, it is described as follow: something expensive which is pleasant to have but is not really necessary

According to this, the word "luxury" seems quite dry and neutral.

This word can be translated into Korean with 2 similar words and they emphasize different points(they are not strictly distinguished, they just have slightly different nuances). One emphasize the meaning of "unnecessary", the other emphasize "pleasant". The former gives negative nuance and the latter gives positive nuance.

How does the word "luxury" give its nuance to the English speakers? Is it positive or negative, or just neutral?

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  • 3
    It depends on the context.
    – fev
    Sep 11, 2023 at 6:04
  • There are two definitions in the OALD: ; there are three in the Witktionary. This is to say that, first, it is necessary for you to check several dictionaries; that way you might determine the answer yourself. If you still can't understand, then it is important that you made the links of these sources available in your question; people will know better what the problem is; those links and the explanations about what is still not clear is what one calls "your research".
    – LPH
    Sep 11, 2023 at 6:18
  • 1
    It depends whether, for example, you are speaking of a treat you have allowed yourself to have, or referring disapprovingly to a wealthy person's lifestyle. Sep 11, 2023 at 7:47
  • 1
    Refering to the luxury goods industry (a market that encompasses a wide range of high-end products such as fashion, jewelry, watches, fine leather goods, fine fragrances) is just factual. As indicated by @fev, nuance depends on the context.
    – Graffito
    Sep 11, 2023 at 10:59
  • 1
    In advertising luxury is definitely positive.
    – Peter
    Sep 13, 2023 at 1:11

1 Answer 1

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As has been said by @fev in his comment, it depends on context. "Luxus" is of latin origin (who'd have guessed that?) and Latin had actually two words:

Luxus meaning "luxury" or "excess"
Luxuria meaning "rankness" or "offensiveness"

In English "luxury" originally meant "lechery" or "lust". For instance, Shakespeare:

She knows the heat of a luxurious bed.
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.
Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4

Over time the meaning changed from purely negative to also mean "sumptuous" or "opulent". But still, it can be used in a negative way, connoting "extravagance", "prodigality", "thriftlessness", etc..

That doesn't mean it has to have that meaning. "Luxury" (or "luxurious") can also be used as synonym for "gracious", "lavish(-ness)" and so on.

The basic question is: if someone uses a lot of resources to accomplish something he could get for less, is that (always) a bad thing or could it be a good thing too? If I have my toilet bowl gold-plated, is that just wasteful? Or might there be some aesthetical goal at play which any other material would fail to accomplish? And isn't painting the walls the same? After all, the reason for the walls, the protection from cold or weather would be accomplished by unpainted ones too, no? So, is the golden toilet bowl lavish, luxurious, indulgent, opulent? Are the negative connotations just the envy of the ones not able to afford it?

You are the judge.

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