The word pleitesía comes from Latin, specifically from the word pleités which, in turn, comes from the verb placere, which means to like, please or seem appropriate. The noun placitum refers to what someone likes. With the passage of time, the term evolved in its meaning and homage is a manifestation of recognition towards someone.
In other words, it is a show of respect. However, it is not a question of respect between equal persons but there is usually an individual who holds a privileged position and another who is below it.
The expression pay homage
"Rendir pleitesía" is a common expression in Spanish and indicates an attitude of reverence towards someone, usually a person of some high rank and with some power. For example, "my friend pays homage to his boss." In this sense, it is sometimes used as a synonym for another expression, "to cheat someone," that is, to flatter her.
Also, it can be used in a derogatory sense, implying that someone has a servile attitude towards another person, for example, "the new worker pays homage to the chief of staff because he is worried about his future job."
On the other hand, paying homage is equivalent to worshiping in some contexts, as happens when someone deeply admires a famous person ("my mother pays homage to the Rolling Stones").
A reflection on the term
Both the word obeisance and the expression render obeisance are cultured forms that are used infrequently. This unusual use has a sociological explanation: in the society model in which we live, there are no social groups privileged by their birth. In this way, even if there are still rich and poor, bosses and employees, there is no class system of society and, consequently, no one must be obliged to pay homage to anyone.
During the Middle Ages in Spain there was a social division and this caused the lower social classes to have to pay homage to the higher ones. In this sense, there are several concepts that refer to the submission of some with respect to others: vassalage, servant, commoner and others.
Thus, the vassal had to pay homage to the lord and the same happened to the lord with respect to the nobleman and the nobleman in relation to the sovereign. Somehow, the vast majority of the population had to pay homage to someone and it was not a courtesy formula but rather expressed a servile, obedient and docile attitude.
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