• gratuitous •
Pronunciation: græ-tu-ê-tês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. (Given) without expectation of anything in return, free, for nothing, voluntary. 2. Without call, added or given for no reason, unwarranted, unjustified.
Notes: The noun that this word is based on is gratuity "a tip", money given over and above the charge for a service. In the States, we give gratuities to cabbies, various hotel employees, waiters in restaurants, and others. In fact, gratuities are expected so much in these jobs that salaries are usually lowered in lieu of income on tips. The noun for today's Good Word is gratuitousness. The adverb is gratuitously.
In Play: The first meaning of today's Good Word remains "free, for nothing", as in: "Without the gratuitous help of his supporters, Chick Pease could not have won the election." The other meaning refers to something that is added or provided without motivation, for no reason: "The gratuitous violence on TV these days far and away exceeds the actual violence that occurs in real life."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin gratuitus "free, spontaneous, voluntary", unchanged save for the gratuious O added to the suffix by English. The Latin adjective comes from the noun gratia "favor" which, in turn, was built on the adjective gratus "pleasing". The same Latin root turns up in many English words borrowed from Latin, including gracious, gratitude, and congratulate. The Proto-Indo-European root behind the Latin words, gwer- "to favor", apparently also appeared in a compound made up of gwer "favor" + dho "to do", which went on to become Celtic bardo- and, finally, Gaelic bàrd "bard". This word originally referred to a wandering minstrel, who would favor you with a song or poem. This word was borrowed by English and went on to become the epithet of its greatest writer, The Bard, William Shakespeare.