Regardless of what we say or do, today’s word is something with which humans have always been obsessed. Furthermore, this is something over which humans have always been obsessed. While it can take the form of possessing a certain model of McLaren, obtaining the latest Apple or Samsung smartphone, having an important title at work that only consists of an acronym, or even wanting to seem upper class for the neighbours, within us all is a drive towards some sort of status.
In etymology, our word status comes from the Latin status, meaning standing, which is appropriate considering that what “status” does is to give us some sort of standing among our peers. Before we get too harsh in our self-judgement and reflection, it is important to realise that seeking status isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is just a reflection of our inherent need to feel successful and accepted. Beyond just having knowledge of what a particular celebrity is doing and realising that we want to do it too, status can also be applied in a non-social sense, defining a certain situation, condition, or legal sense.
One of the first known usages of the word in English comes from John Evelyn’s 1671 writing in Letters to Sir Thomas Clifford, where, using the definition of state or condition of an event, he writes that, “The third and last period includes the status or height of the war..to the conclusion of it in the Treaty at Breda, 1667.” Next, status of an event was transferred into a legal sense when, in 1791, James Boswell wrote in his biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson, that “To abolish a status, which in all ages God has sanctioned, and man has continued, would..be extreme cruelty to the African Savages.” Entering the realm of human social relations, our word was first used in the context of having a particular position in society in 1820 by the Scot Sir Walter Scott who wrote in The Monastery, “The shopkeeper..stood indeed pretty much at his ease behind his counter,..but still he enjoyed his status, as the Bailie calls it, upon condition of tumbling all the wares in his booth over and over, when any one chose to want a yard of muslin.” Finally, morphing into the meaning we initially spoke of- possessing a particular item- our term was first used in 1950 by Margaret Mead, though she used the term in reference to having children, probably since the iPhone wouldn’t be released for almost another 60 years.