Lionize and lionise

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Lionize and lionise are two spellings of the same word, which many find confusing. We will examine the definition of lionize and lionise, where these words came from, when each spelling should be used, and some examples of their use in sentences.

Lionize and lionise mean to treat someone as if he were important, to hail someone as a celebrity, to bestow public approval and accolades upon someone. Synonyms for lionize and lionise that may be found in a thesaurus are idolize, revere, admire. The words lionize and lionise were coined at the turn of the nineteenth century by combining the word lion and the suffix –ize, which is used to turn nouns into verbs. The lion is considered the king of beasts, and the word lion came into use in the 1700s to mean someone who is admired in his field, usually after a long period of success. For instance, a successful businessman may be referred to as a lion of industry. Lionize and lionise are transitive verbs, which are verbs that take an object. Lionize is primarily the American spelling of the term, and lionise is primarily the British spelling, though the pronunciation of these words when spoken in a sentence are the same. In American English, there is a longstanding convention of changing most -ise endings to -ize, and this has given rise to the view that -ise is simply British and -ize American. Over the last several decades, in an effort to differentiate British English from American, many British publishers have begun giving -ise endings even to words that have always been spelled -ize. Related words are conjugated as lionizes and lionises, lionized and lionised, lionizing and lionising. Noun forms are lionizer and lioniser, lionization and lionisation.


Many on the Left have come to lionize him, yet he also flirted with Republican-style Social Security reform. (The Washington Examiner)

At its most ambitious, the show attempts to lionize the working poor, albeit working poor stuck to a truck, but employing the sort of emotional shorthand that turns most everything to treacle, hokum, and bathos. (The Chicago Reader)

He believes what he calls “the heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy” should be lionized, and that the idea that a recession might be caused by anything other than excessively high rates on these heroes defies “common sense.” (New York Magazine)

Hired by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to find amusing ways to lionise Modi or lampoon opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, Bhalerao is a social media warrior in an election campaign being fought online as never before. (The South China Morning Post)

It is also uncomfortably close to that annoying urge to lionise the best and brightest on International Women’s Day. (The Australian Financial Review)

A state-funded Russian film that lionises a Soviet World War II tank and its crew has become the second highest grossing home-grown production since the collapse of the Soviet Union, part of a Kremlin-backed drive to instil patriotism in young people. (The Moscow Times)