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Definition of misericord


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mis·er·i·cord or mis·er·i·corde  audio  (mzr--kôrd, m-zr-) KEY 

NOUN:
    1. Relaxation of monastic rules, as a dispensation from fasting.
    2. The room in a monastery used by monks who have been granted such a dispensation.
  1. A bracket attached to the underside of a hinged seat in a church stall against which a standing person may lean. Also called miserere.
  2. A narrow dagger used in medieval times to deliver the death stroke to a seriously wounded knight.

ETYMOLOGY:
Middle English, pity, from Old French, from Latin misericordia, from misericors, misericord-, merciful : miserr, to feel pity ; see miserere + cor, cord-, heart; see kerd- in Indo-European roots

WORD 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.


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