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Popular literally means of the common people.

By medium: popular culture - popular fiction - popular film - popular music

Related: advertising - audience - celebrity - classic - common - cult - culture - fame - hit - icon - influence - mainstream - marketing - mass - media - mass media - people - person - pop - pop icon - popular culture - populism - subculture - success - symbol - vulgar

Compare: elite

Mona Lisa (ca. 1503-1507) - Leonardo da Vinci


Popularity is the quality of being well-liked or common. Popularity figures are an important part of many people's personal value systems, and forms a vital component of success in people-oriented fields such as politics.

The term's earliest use in English was during the fifteenth century in law and politics, meaning "low", "base", "vulgar", and "of the common people" till the late eighteenth century by which time it began to mean "widespread" and gain in positive connotation. (Williams 1985)

Many different variations of popularity exist, and many ways in which to gain it. General popularity usually involves respect in two directions: the popular person is respected by his peers, and will simultaneously show them respect, thus reinforcing their belief that he is deserving of his popularity. Likewise, amicability is an important component of popularity, as a person who does not like others is unlikely to be liked by others. This reciprocal nature of interpersonal popularity is often overlooked by people (particularly the young) who are attempting to become popular: being loud or a show-off may be successful in gaining attention, but is unlikely to provide the necessary mutual respect characteristic of "true popularity".

Humor may also be a viable means of increasing one's popularity, as there are few people in the world who do not warm to somebody who amuses them. However if taken too far this strategy can result in one being seen as a clown or buffoon, who ends up laughed at rather than laughed with, and who misses out on the crucial component of respect. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popularity [2004]


Lacking general approval or acceptance. --AHD

See: non-mainstream

Minority and majority popularity

When something (a person, movie, piece of music) is popular, it is popular with either:
  1. a large number of people: the mainstream, the broad populace, the masses.
  2. a smaller number of people: a subset of the mainstream. When something is popular within a subset of the masses, that subset is called a subculture. The word cult will often be used in that context, as in cult audience, cult-status, cult following, cult movies. The "cult object" can even become a fetish, as is the case with people who obsessively collect things.
One may thus speak of mainstream popular culture, thus contemplating subsets, "Kraftwerk have impinged on mainstream popular culture to the extent that they have been referenced in The Simpsons and Father Ted."

Word History

In his influential book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, British culture theorist Raymond Williams devotes two full pages to the term popular. There, he traces the term from its earliest uses in English in the fifteenth century in law and politics. During the first few centuries of its existence, popular was understood as a negative term, meaning "low," "base," "vulgar," "of the common people." By the late eighteenth century, Williams tells us, it began to mean "widespread," and, late last century, the more familiar positive meanings we associate with "popular" began to accrue. This history is important because the meaning of the term shifts from embracing the perspective of an elite class that looked down its collective nose at the common people to celebrating-and remaking-what those common people valued. Thus, over the course of its lifetime, the class allegiance of popular has shifted dramatically. --Anahid Kassabian in http://www.drake.edu/swiss/popularandbusiness.html

Popular vs ubiquitous

The term popular has a long, strange, and highly charged history. It modifies a stunning array of nouns, from uprising to hairstyle, from candidate to culture. In that last usage, popular culture, it has circulated in two related sets of debates that have significantly influenced popular music studies. First, it has figured in a theoretical dispute, described in this essay, as a response to the term "mass culture." Second, it continues to be a focal point for a set of institutional struggles, characterized by journalists as "the culture wars," aimed at securing opportunities for scholars to study mass-mediated culture within universities. Those struggles have now made it possible to teach and study the popular-popular television, popular literature, popular film, and, central to the subject of this volume, popular music. But what do we mean when we use the word "popular?" --Thomas Swiss

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