• perquisite •
Pronunciation: pêr-kwi-zit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An (additional) benefit, an (extra) value received for something we do. 2. Criterion for a position, quality required for performance of an activity.
Notes: The clipping of this word, spelled perk, has just about elbowed its mother out of the English language. The spelling is explained by folk etymology: languages always prefer the pronunciation and spelling of words already in the language to aliens (perq). This word should not be confused with prerequisite.
In Play: In the first sense of today's word expect sentences like: "Access to the company airplane was a perquisite for the job that Danilo didn't expect." The second sense is comfortable in expressions like this: "Farnsworth had all the perquisites of an outstanding car salesman."
Word History: Today's Good Word represents a modification of Medieval Latin perquisitum "thing gained, profit", the noun use of the neuter past participle of perquirere "to seek, ask for". In classical Latin the meaning was "thing sought after". This word consisted of per "thoroughly" + quaerere "to seek", source also of Portuguese and Spanish querer "to want" and English query. Latin quaerere was based on PIE kwo-/kwe-, the root of all interrogative pronouns, such as Latin qui "who, which", quo "where (to)", and qua "how". Since [k] became [h] in Germanic languages, we are not surprised to see what ([hwaht]), who ([hu]), where ([hwer]), when ([hwen]) in English. German later dropped the [h] and came up with wer "who", was "what', wann "when" and wo "where". Russian lost the [w] to produce kto "who", kuda "where to", kak "how", and kogda "when". (The only perquisite of contributing marvelous Good Words like today's is our gratitude, today earned yet again by Rob Towart.)