sump-chu-we-ri • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Controlling expenditures, as company sumptuary rules. 2. Controlling or regulating real estate activities, as sumptuary laws regulating the spacing between houses. 3. Regulating moral or personal behavior in a specific area, as sumptuary laws forbidding sales on Sunday (Blue Laws).
Notes: This word began its life as one of the adjectives of the now defunct noun, sumpt, which meant "expenditure". The other adjective is sumptuous "expensive, costly". The person in charge of expenditures may be called the sumptuary, which makes a plural, sumptuaries, possible, as in a gathering of the company sumptuaries.
In Play: Today's Good Word first and foremost covers expenditures: "Alfred felt that his sumptuary policy disallowing company expenditure for Twinkies was nothing more than judicious." However, it may also be used to refer to real estate law or law pertaining to moral behavior in a specific place: "Donegal's research at city hall turned up a sumptuary law still on the books that prohibited kissing in buggies."
Word History: It is difficult to believe that today's rather dry legal term could be related to sumptuous—but so it is. The basic meaning of sumptuous is "expensive, made at great cost", though it is often used today in a sense close to "lavish, luxurious". Today's word comes from Latin sumptuarius, the adjective of sumptus "expense", based on the past participle of sumere "to take, assume, buy". For additional history of this word, see sumptuous.
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