Definition of Panoply


The next time a splendid display of adornment or regalia comes into view think of the word panoply. Think of it again when describing a group of items or ideas all connected together for a specific use---the parts inside a computer, the skills an actor uses, the outfit you wore last time you attended a formal event---all panoplies.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the term panoply originated in Greece from the word panoplia and was used to describe a complete set of armor. Panoplia is a combination of two words, pan (meaning all) and hopla (meaning arms or armor). The armor could include the ceremonial dress of a warrior with all the accessories, swords and shields he owned. It can also be used to describe anything that covers and protects and this would include the fighting armor too.

Ancient Panoplies

Although the word does not appear to come in use until sometime during the fourteenth or fifteenth century signs of panoply have been around for a long time. Many artifacts---surviving fresco's and pottery---from ancient Greece, Rome and Mycenae depict the panoply worn by its soldiers and leaders ready for battle. From the tombs of warriors and leaders have been found helmets and armor, swords and shields that give us some idea of what an ancient panoply might have looked like. The Metropolitan Museum Of Art has a collection of arms and armor dating from Renaissance Europe that tell us of the ornate and decorative aspects of traditional panoply.

Finding A Panoply

Today a panoply can be seen at parades showcasing military brigades. Although armor is no longer what it use to be, ceremonial dress is still very popular. In battle soldiers are equipped with a modern version of a panoply. Their set of armor includes helmets, boots, guns, grenades and bullet proof vests. Graduation ceremonies are another place where a display of ceremonial dress is found. Although not technically armor the idea of ceremonial dress fits the idea of a splendid display. Robes, mortarboards and any accessories such as pins and stoles can create quite a splendid display.

Modern Uses

The definition of the word panoply used today refers to the splendid or magnificent display of just about anything made up of diverse parts and pieces. And so the word is used in many ways---as business names, product names, personal online ID's and website names. Huntsville, Alabama has a an annual arts festival called Panoply. Panoply is a software product designed as middleware to be used in computing environments interacting with a wide (and hopefully splendid) variety of other computers and devices.

Similar Words

Panoply is not a word that is heard very often in the course of a daily conversation. There are other words that are generally used instead. Array is one that describes a group of elements or objects that create a complete unit. An array could include a suit or armor and all of the elements that would be needed to complete the whole suit. Assemblage, collection and grouping are other choices used in place of panoply.

About this Author

Melissa holds a Fine Arts degree in Environmental Design and an MA in Information Management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Melissa writes web content on a variety of topics--art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business. Her work with Demand Studios includes over 450 articles found on eHow and

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