Saturday, March 21, 2015


Art asked about the word pension, which in our day is an agreed-upon payment made to a retired employee. At various times since the 14th century, it has meant

·      payment made to retain loyalty – almost a bribe;
·      payment made to an artist or scholar to produce public works;
·      a tax;
·      a payment to an ecclesiastic taken from the revenues of a benefice;
·      payment for board or lodging.

It came from an Anglo-Norman word that meant compensation or annuity. In turn, that was indebted to a Latin word that meant a measured weight. The idea was that whatever was coming to a recipient was carefully weighed or measured.

Some other English words sharing the same Latin ancestor include compensate, depend, expend, impend, and stipend.

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