Cultural Watch

Word of the Day – pecuniary |

Pecuniary / pi-kyoo-nee-er-ee / adjective


Of or relating to money


Whatever Mr. Penson’s civic convictions, he also has a pecuniary interest in the outcome. —CHARLES V. BAGLI, “OWNER OF GRAND CENTRAL VIES WITH DEVELOPER OVER SKYSCRAPER ON AN ADJACENT BLOCK,” NEW YORK TIMES, SEPTEMBER 23, 2014


Pecuniary, “relating to money,” comes from the Latin adjective pecūniārius, a derivative of pecūnia“property, possessions, wealth, money,” itself a derivative of pecū “flock, herd, farm animals,” livestock being a very important source of wealth in early farming societies. Pecū and its related nouns are derivatives of the Proto-Indo-European noun peku– “sheep,” from the root pek-, pok- “to pluck, fleece, card (wool, flax).” Peku- is the source of Umbrian pequo “cattle” (Umbrian was an Italic language spoken in Umbria, north of Rome), Greek pókos and pékos “sheep’s wool, fleece,” and Lithuanian pekus “cattle.” By regular phonetic change peku- becomes fehu– in Proto-Germanic, becoming Gothic faihu “possessions, property,” German Vieh “cattle, beast, brute,” Old English feoh, fioh, feh “cattle, property (in cattle),” Middle English fe, feo, feh “livestock, herd of livestock, movable property, wealth, money.” Modern English fee “charge, payment, sum paid, “ but also “landed estate, inherited estate,” comes partly from the Middle English and Old English nouns, but fee in the sense “inherited estate, feudal estate” also comes from Old French fieu, fief “estate in land” and Anglo-French fe, fee, fie, from Germanic fehu. Pecuniary entered English in the early 16th century.

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