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sinecure

Printable Version Pronunciation: si-nê-kyur Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Any position with compensation but few or no duties or responsibilities: a featherbed position. 2. An ecclesiastical benefice with no attached spiritual duties in a parish.

Notes: Sinecures are one of those frustrating manifestations of our society that lead to both anger and humor. It has a rather pompous synonym, sinecureship, as one might hold a high sinecureship in government. Then there is the adjective sinecured, as to marry someone sinecured for life, not to mention sinecurism, the practice of allowing or holding sinecures.

In Play: Sinecures are popular positions for incompetent relatives: "Seamus Allgood is working out well in the sinecure his uncle gave him in his company." Doesn't it seem that every job but yours is a sinecure? "Lucille Ondaflor was too young to retire, so they transmoted her to a sinecure in mailroom management."

Word History: Today's word comes from a Medieval Latin phrase, beneficium sine cura "an endowed Church office without the care (of souls), as opposed to a curate, who is a pastor with a flock of souls. The phrase underlying today's word is Latin sine "without" and cura "care, concern". English derives cure and curator from the same root via various routes—but not curare. This word is a corruption of wurari, a word from Macusi, a Carib dialect spoken by the Indians of Guiana. (Today's Good Word was a suggestion of Aaron Corday, a contributor in our Alpha Agora, who obviously cares a great deal about words.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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