-) KEY NOUN:
- Relaxation of monastic rules, as a dispensation from fasting.
- The room in a monastery used by monks who have been granted such a dispensation.
- A bracket attached to the underside of a hinged seat in a church stall against which a standing person may lean.
- A narrow dagger used in medieval times to deliver the death stroke to a seriously wounded knight.
Middle English, pity
, from Old French, from Latin misericordia
, from misericors, misericord-
, to feel pity
; see miserere
+ cor, cord-
; see kerd-
in Indo-European rootsWORD HISTORY:
A dagger, a support for someone who is standing, and a special monastic apartment share the same name because, oddly enough, they are all examples of mercy. The word misericord
goes back to Latin misericordia,
"mercy," derived from misericors,
"merciful," which is in turn derived from miserr,
"to pity," and cor,
"heart." In Medieval Latin the word misericordia
denoted various merciful things, and these senses were borrowed into English. Misericordia
referred to an apartment in a monastery where certain relaxations of the monastic rule were allowed, especially those involving food and drink. The word also designated a projection on the underside of a hinged seat in a choir stall against which a standing person could lean, no doubt a merciful thing during long services. Finally, misericordia
was used for a dagger with which the death stroke was administered to a seriously wounded knight.