Merry Christmas! Today’s Word Nerd is holiday-themed because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Egg nog may have been involved. As it happens, both of these words apply to the holiday season.
Presents: items presented as gifts.
Presence is from the mid-14th century, “the fact of being present,” from the Old French presence, which is itself from the Latin praesentia “a being present,” from praesentem. Presence, meaning “carriage, demeanor, aspect” (especially if impressive) is from 1570s; that of “divine, spiritual, or incorporeal being felt as present” is from 1660s.
Presents, the plural of present, is a Middle English word from around 1200, originally from the Medieval Latin praesent?re to give, show, present for approval.
If you say “this actor has a lot of presents,” you’re saying he’s got many gifts.
If you say “I want a lot of presence,” you’re saying you want to have charisma.
Today’s Word Nerd was suggested by my son, Chris MacQuarrie, who is smarter than me; when I said “I need to think of a Christmas idea,” it took him about 10 seconds to say “presents and presence. Boom.” Thanks, Chris!