The novel's influence
Despite mixed perceptions of its literary merit, Pollyanna has proved to be both enduringly popular and, in unexpected ways, influential.
Through the success of the book, the term "pollyanna" (along with the adjective "pollyannaish" and the noun "Pollyannaism") entered the language to describe someone who is cheerfully optimistic and who maintains a generous attitude toward the motives of other people. It then became by extension (and contrary to the spirit of the book) a derogatory term for a naïve optimist who always expects people to act decently, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
The word "pollyanna" may also denote a holiday gift exchange more typically known as Secret Santa. This term is used in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. It can instead mean a gift exchange rotation in which several families each give gifts to one other family in the "pollyanna" each year. This is often done when siblings in a large family begin to have children of their own.