Tuesday, March 13, 2012


PENURY (ˈpɛn jʊri), n.  [A middling truncation of an obscure usage, declinated from “penitentiary,” for “holding down by tying and steaking all persons of little means in a community to encourage remorse;” from OE pinn “pin, peg,” and a combination of M.Fr. paene “scarcely” + Gr. pan-, combining form of pas (neut. pan, masc. and neut. gen. pantos) “all,” and from L. -arius-aria-arium “connected with, pertaining to; the man engaged in,” from PIE relational adjective suffix -yo for “of or belonging to”; the 19th century usage of penitentiary to mean “an asylum for prostitutes” shifted, semantically, to penury, in the sense given above, shortly before its final devolvement to pen, circa 1881, as a corral not for prostitutes or the poor, but pigs and other cloven-hoofed lifestock.]

1.  A person, or the state of being, involved in piggy banking.

1644  Milton: “But as for the multitude of Sermons ready printed and pil’d up, on every text that is not difficult, our London trading St. Thomas in his vestry, and adde to boot St. Martin, and St. Hugh, have not within their hallow’d limits more vendible ware of all sorts ready made: so that penury he never need fear of Pulpit provision, having where so plenteously to refresh his magazin.”

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