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I know that the adjective "prestigious" can be used for a thing, but what about an individual? I mean if there is an equivalent adjective for people which conveys the same meaning to the second person. Please have a consideration on my self-made example:

  • In my opinion, 'Harvard' is the most prestigious university in the world.

But what can I use in the following sentence to fill in the blank:

  • he is the most ........ person I have ever seen.

Is it possible to use 'prestigious' for an individual too? In my mother language we use exactly this word for both senses and this is why I doubt if I know needed information about this adjective or not.

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    Please see Q: Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?) If you want the most from this website, I highly recommend you wait 2 or 3 days before selecting an answer. By selecting one as quickly as you do, you are hurting your chances to receive other answers, which you might judge to be even more helpful than the one you have currently selected. – Alan Carmack Jul 31 '16 at 15:05
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    By the way, you probably don't really need the inverted commas around Harvard – Au101 Jul 31 '16 at 22:32
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I would say no, you can't use "prestigious" for a person. When we say that Harvard is prestigious, we mean that it confers prestige on people who go there. With that sense of the word, it doesn't make sense to describe a person as prestigious: what would that even mean?

Wiktionary suggests that typical things describable as "prestigious" include "award, prize, job, address, school, university, college, club, journal, firm, institution, office, etc." but not people.

As an alternative, you could talk about the person's high status or high reputation. I think you'd be more likely to talk about the reasons for their high prestige: e.g., if they've won a huge number of awards, you could say that they're "the most decorated person" or, if they're a sportsperson or academic, you'd tend to talk about their success in their sport or their intelligence. Other good words to use include "respected", "admired", "celebrated", "renowned", "reputable", or "eminent", as suggested by Gary Botnovcan in a comment.

  • Good, but @David Richerby you did not mention to any adjective to fill in the blank or you meant there is no any proper word in English for this sense. I for one did not find any word excepting 'prestigious' which you mentioned that it is not possible to use; though I knew it already. – A-friend Jul 31 '16 at 12:14
  • Don't mention it. ;) Thanks for the answer. it was helpful David. – A-friend Jul 31 '16 at 12:29
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    To describe a person, you may want to consider "respected", "admired", "celebrated", "renowned", "reputable", or even "eminent". – Gary Botnovcan Jul 31 '16 at 14:47
  • @GaryBotnovcan Those are great suggestions so I added them to the answer. Thanks! – David Richerby Jul 31 '16 at 15:06
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    @A-friend Did you see my answer? You can use "prestigious" with an individual. – Alan Carmack Aug 1 '16 at 12:59
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Yes, it certainly can.



enter image description here The actual Ngram graph can be viewed here.

here are some examples from Google Books (you can find these yourself by going to the actual Ngram Viewer (the link is above) and clicking on the various links at the bottom of it).

1971

The prestigious individual also possesses symbols of his success in the commonly valued enterprise, and the symbols are likely to stand for real rewards.

1972

...if a highly credible or prestigious person attempts to increase his power by persuading others to value more highly the outcomes he controls...

1979

With some of the most prestigious people in the field of children's books as judges Pat Ellis is expecting to attract some fine manuscripts.

1987

Fine clothes represent an upper-class, prestigious individual; dirty clothes represent a lower-class, unpopular individual.

1999

The chair that reclines and has arms and a broad headrest is reserved for the most prestigious person in an organization; the lowliest person answering telephones is more likely to be on a swivelling stool with perhaps a low back rest.

1999

Three prestigious people warmly supported my application: The first, Francis Perrin, the atomic expert and former administrator of the Atomic Energy Commission...

Note, there are some "false positives", especially with individual, which itself is often used as a modifier, but the examples above should suffice to answer your question. Example of a "false positive," with individual not used to refer to a person:

1999

Of the three most prestigious individual honors a player can garner, the Cy Young Award was the last to be created.

(The Great Book of Baseball Knowledge: The Ultimate Test for the Ultimate Fan)

Note: prior to about 1900 the word meant deceitful, illusory, dazzling skillful.

  • A simple explanation for why these usages took off around 1960 is that the word "prestigious" itself similarly took off around the same time: books.google.com/ngrams/…. – Eric Wofsey Jul 31 '16 at 21:45
  • Prior to about 1960, the word meant "magical" or "bewitched", and was a rare and technical term. – James K Jul 31 '16 at 23:35
  • @JamesK The OED has the more contemporary meaning of the word being used from 1900. – Alan Carmack Aug 1 '16 at 12:37
  • OK but what does "0.00000055%" mean? That's a tiny number. For example, 0.00000055% of the population of the USA isn't even two people. So is this actually evidence that the phrases are used with any meaningful frequency? – David Richerby Aug 1 '16 at 14:16
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    Indeed, if you add things like "prestigious school" or "prestigious award" to the Ngram, you see that applying the word to people is fairly unusual usage. "Prestigious award" is about 8.5 times as common as any of the "person" words you consider; "prestigious university" is about ten times as common. – David Richerby Aug 2 '16 at 10:39
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You usually use the term prestigious about something that confers respect on people associated with it: you could therefore use the word respected about somebody who enjoys such respect- either on his own account or by association with something prestigious. See NGram for prestigious award/event/person.

  • sounds OK, but as far as I know the adjective 'prestigious' indicates a higher social class too and 'respected' person is just somebody who is respectable / honorable. – A-friend Aug 1 '16 at 7:01
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    A-friend, 1) Do you have a reference for prestigious meaning a higher social class? 2) don't confuse respected and respectable. respected: admired by many people for your qualities or achievements. respectable considered to be socially acceptable because of your good character, appearance, or behaviour. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/respectable – JavaLatte Aug 1 '16 at 9:55
  • No, it was my fault and I had to be more accurate and clear; actually I meant 'higher social class' is a connotation which has been driven from my mother language. This is why I am looking for an adjective like the mentioned ones in this thread which indicates a higher social class too. – A-friend Aug 1 '16 at 13:51
  • Thank you very much for helping me understand the correct meaning of those two similar words; it was really helpful. – A-friend Aug 1 '16 at 13:53

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