Words-worth: Confidence

Everyone's talking about confidence. Where did the word come from?

Last Updated: 14 Apr 2016

What the world needs now is confidence, and lots of it. Consumers need confidence about their prospects to encourage them to spend; while businesses hope that spending will continue. Investors need confidence in the banks. The markets need confidence in countries. Clearly, confidence is a valuable commodity. At root, confidence is a matter of trust, as we recognise when we tell something to someone 'in confidence'. The word comes from the Latin verb confidere, to rely strongly upon, and that's what it meant when it appeared in English early in the 1400s. A century or so later, it had come to take on its most common modern usage: a sense of self-assurance or boldness, based upon a belief that everything will be all right. Indeed, it can even mean an assurance based on nothing at all. That's what confidence tricks, first named in the 19th century, rely on: the 'mark' places his confidence in the 'con-man', and duly loses his money. But while consumer confidence ebbs and flows, confidence tricks never go out of fashion.

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