Saturday, January 04, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: munificent \myoo-NIH-fuh-sunt\
1 : very liberal in giving or bestowing : lavish
2 : characterized by great liberality or generosity

"Munificent" was formed back in the late 1500s when English speakers, perhaps inspired by similar words such as "magnificent," altered the ending of "munificence." "Munificence" in turn comes from "munificus," the Latin word for "generous," which itself comes from "munus," a Latin noun that is variously translated as "gift," "duty," or "service." "Munus" has done a fine service to English by giving us other terms related to service or compensation, including "municipal" and "remunerate."

Continuing an optimistic, can-do etymological start to 2003...
E.T. bonus: Latin phraseology, also from M-W: factotum \fak-TOH-tuhm\
1 : a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
2 : a general servant

"Do everything!" That's a tall order, but it is exactly what a factotum is expected to do. It's also a literal translation of the New Latin term "factotum," which in turn traces to the Latin words "facere" ("to do") and "totum" ("everything"). In the 16th century, "factotum" was often used in English as if it was a surname, paired with first names to create personalities such as "Johannes Factotum" (literally "John Do-everything"). Back then, it wasn't necessarily desirable to be called a "factotum"; the term was a synonym of "meddler" or "busybody." Now the word is more often used for a handy, versatile individual responsible for many different tasks.

Previous E.T.

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