Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About | Media | Search | Contact  


Home

Today's Word

Subscribe

Archives



Feb 10, 2021
This week’s theme
There’s a word for it!

This week’s words
glossophobia
agathokakological
pensum
perlage
sialoquent

pensum
“I will not waste chalk.”

Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

pensum

PRONUNCIATION:
(PEN-suhm)

MEANING:
noun: A task given, especially as a punishment.

ETYMOLOGY:
In the beginning, a pensum was the amount of wool to be spun. Eventually, the word became generic and came to refer to a piece of work or task. Later, it morphed into another specialized form: a task given as a school punishment. The word is from pendere (to hang, weigh), ultimately from the Indo-European root (s)pen- (to draw, to stretch, to spin), which also gave us pendulum, spider, pound, pansy, pendant, ponder, appendix, penthouse, depend, spontaneous, vilipend, filipendulous, perpend, equipoise, pendulous, and pensive. Earliest documented use: 1667.

USAGE:
“I preferred this to the hand-cramping pensums Mademoiselle would think up, such as making me copy out two hundred times the proverb Qui aime bien, châtie bien [Spare the rod and spoil the child].”
Vladimir Nabokov; Speak, Memory; Victor Gollancz; 1951.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
What for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but the irresistible power of unarmed truth. -Boris Pasternak, poet, novelist, Nobel laureate (10 Feb 1890-1960)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere

Donate

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2021 Wordsmith