• pelf •
Pronunciation: pelf • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Money, riches, especially if ill-gotten. 2. Trash, rubbish, detritus, dust.
Notes: Wow! An English word pronounced exactly as it is spelled. How lucky can we get? Unfortunately, it isn't much used today in the US, and only rarely elsewhere. This word brings with it an adjective, pelfish "related to pelf, trashy", and it may be used as a verb meaning "pilfer, steal, rip off".
In Play: The original meaning is the first above: "Morris Bedda found that no amount of pelf could make him happy." It remains the most often used sense: " For efficiency we rather require that people be motivated by that pelf and gilt" (Forbes, July 14, 2013). The second sense is less often used: "Henry will you rake up all that pelf in the back yard?"
Word History: Apparently today's word comes directly from Anglo-Norman pelf, a variant of Anglo-Norman pelfre "booty", from Old French peufre "rubbish, frippery". This word derived from Medieval Latin pelfra, the plural of pelfrum, "stolen goods". It is clearly related to pilfer, though the connection has been lost. How the word got into Medieval Latin is anyone's guess. (The recommendation of today's Good Word came from Tony Bowden of London, author of Limericks by Tony Bowden here on the alphaDictionary website.)