Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Eleemosynary

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is eleemosynary. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Eleemosynary means “of, relating to, or supported by charity.”

// She used her inheritance to establish and fund several eleemosynary institutions.


“I would not want you to think that Grady Thrasher is not a serious man. … He is a retired attorney, a prize-winning children’s author, a filmmaker, a philanthropist, and the partner, with his wife—artist Kathy Prescott—in various eleemosynary endeavors.” — Pete McCommons, (Athens, Georgia), 2 Nov. 2022

Did You Know?

A grammarian once asserted in reference to eleemosynary that “a long and learned word like this should only be used under the stress of great need.” Whether or not you agree with such prescriptions, the word eleemosynary isn’t exactly ubiquitous. Its tricky spelling doesn’t do it any favors—though this wasn’t always the case. The good people of early England had mercy on themselves when it came to spelling and shortened the root of eleemosynary, the Latin eleemosyna, to ælmes, which they used to mean “charity.” (You may be more familiar with alms, an ælmes derivative that refers to food, money, etc., given to the poor.) The original Latin root, however, was resurrected in the early 17th century to give us our modern conundrum of a spelling.

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