Gratitude Definition

by Deborah Perdue

Gratitude Defined

Gratitude can be defined as the act or quality of being thankful or appreciative of something that has been done to you or for you. It is an abstract noun and is commonly used interchangeably with words such as thankfulness, indebtedness and appreciation. The word ‘grateful’ is closely associated with gratitude, because a person who is grateful is showing gratitude.

Origin and history of the word

The word gratitude originates from the old Latin word ‘gratus’ which roughly translates to a state of being pleased. As old Latin was phased out by medieval Latin, ‘gratus’ turned into the word ‘gratitudo.’ It is believed that the Old French language had a role to play in this change. Etiologists and linguistic experts believe that the word was adopted into the English vocabulary in the early 1800s. It has since given rise to new words like ‘grateful’ and ‘gratefulness.’

Interpretation of gratitude in different cultures
Gratitude is commonly accepted all over the world as an admirable virtue. People believe that there are many ways of showing gratitude. The simplest is by verbally expressing your appreciation. The phrases ‘thank you’, ‘I am grateful’ and ‘I really appreciate’ are among the most commonly used. Different cultures have their own unique phrases used to express gratitude with examples being ‘gracias’ from Spanish language and ‘Asante’ from Swahili.
The other culturally-accepted form of gratitude is through giving gifts. These vary from culture to culture. Some people give money, others give actual little tokens while others go to the extent of offering things like their livestock or food.
Finally, gratitude can be expressed by showing the person kindness and offering them a service that will warrant their gratitude. For example, if a young messenger comes a long way to deliver a package, in addition to saying thank you and tipping them you could offer them some water or write a good review about them or their company. This way, there is mutual appreciation.

Examples of heartwarming gratitude stories in history
Even before the word gratitude was coined, the quality was alive and well in almost all parts of the world. One of the most famous stories of gratitude in history is the Biblical story of the ten lepers. It is said that after Jesus healed them, and only one came back to say thank you. This impressed Jesus so much that he pronounced added blessings upon his life. In this case, both parties showed gratitude; one verbally and the other in kind.
A second example is a more recent one involving a stranded school girl and a homeless person
in Preston. The young Preston Art School student found herself stranded and without money to get a taxi to take her home. The homeless man known as Robbie, seeing the girl’s distress offered to give her three pounds which was all he had. She declined the offer, but was very touched by Robbie’s willingness to give up all he had to help a complete stranger. The young girl expressed her gratitude by spearheading a fundraising campaign to raise money to help the old man. They managed to raise twenty thousand pounds.

Bottom line
After all is said and done, there is no denying that gratitude is one of the most important human virtues. As Cicero wisely put it, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues — it is the parent of all others.”

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