• pinchpenny •
Pronunciation: pin(t)sh-pe-nee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun
Meaning: 1. Miserly, stingy, niggardly, penny-pinching. 2. Characterized by a scarcity of money, as 'a pinchpenny budget'.
Notes: Basically an adjective, today's Good Word may be used freely as a noun referring to a miserly, stingy person. Both have been replaced by the phrases penny pinching and penny pincher, respectively. I personally like the rarer, old fashioned compounds like pickpocket, scofflaw, and today's word. They decorate the language and give it a special, unique character.
In Play: We think mostly of pinchpenny as a personal noun: "Daddy is such an old pinchpenny, he wouldn't even buy me a used car to drive to school." Although today's word is used mostly as a noun, don't forget it serves as an adjective, too: "Our pinchpenny boss probably won't give us a bonus this year; he'll keep all the tax cut for himself."
Word History: Today's Good Word is one of several archaic inactive compounds, like pinchback "miser", pinchbar "crowbar", pinch-water "low tide". It is obviously a compound comprising pinch + penny. Pinch was pinchen in Middle English, borrowed from Old French pincer "to pinch", akin to current Italian pinzare "to sting" and Spanish pinchar "to prick, sting", both derived from a Romance imitative root pints- of unknown origin. The origin of penny is also a mystery. In Britain, this word has a plural for individual coins, pennies, and a collective for a group of coins, pence, coincidentally the name of the US vice president. It has cousins everywhere among Germanic and Slavic languages, German Pfennig "penny", Danish penning "money", Dutch penning "penny", Swedish peng "coin"; Polish pieniądze, Czech peníze, and Slovak peniaze—all plural nouns meaning "money". However, the proto-word they all derived from has been lost in the fogs of time.