Charisma

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Charisma – the word is pronounced with the ‘ch’ as a ‘k’ and with the stress on the second syllable, ker-RIZ-mer – is the power, possessed by some individuals, to attract and influence others. The word’s meaning is therefore very close to one of the meanings of ‘charm’ – see further Charms, amulets, and talismans. However, ‘charisma’, unlike ‘charm’, tends to be used when an individual has the power to attract and influence large numbers of people (whom he or she does not know personally), and so the word is used paradigmatically of political and religious leaders. Thus we may say ‘Tony Blair had great charisma, whereas Gordon Brown, his successor as prime minister, was completely lacking in charisma’.

The adjective from ‘charisma’ is ‘charismatic’ - pronounced with the stress on the third syllable – as in ‘Mahatma Gandhi was a charismatic leader’.

In the context of Christian belief a charisma – note that in this use the word takes an article and has a plural 'charismata’ - is a special power or talent conferred on an individual by God, and the word ‘charismatic’ may be used as a noun to denote a person who has received such a power or talent. The charismatic movement is a movement within various Christian denominations which places particular emphasis on, and gives a special place within its practices to, the charismatic gifts of healing, preaching, ‘speaking in tongues’, and the like.

Etymological note: 'charisma' comes, through Church Latin, from the Greek charisma (grace, favour), which comes in turn from charis (grace, kindness, gratitude, a favour).