• benefit •
ben-ê-fit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An advantage for someone, a good thing given, as the benefits of regular exercise. 2. An addendum to wages, as health benefits or vacation benefits. 3. A public or private event to raise funds for some cause, as a musical benefit for the poor.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as a verb, as a regulation that benefits farmers. It belongs to a large family of cognates. A beneficiary is someone who benefits from something that is beneficial (the adjective) to him. Some cognates have wandered off on their own. A benefice is a paid position in a church. Beneficent refers to an act of kindness, a benefaction.
In Play: Benefit is a common word, used every day in business: "I think a helicopter ejection seat would be of benefit to any pilot experiencing engine problems." It also can be of benefit around the house: "One of the benefits of living in my house is that dad is a mathematician who can help me with my math."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Anglo-French benfet, derived from Old French bienfait "good deed". French inherited this word from Latin benefactum "good deed", made up of bene "well" + the past participle of facere "to do". Bene was an adverb corresponding to bonus "good", irregular, as well is an irregular adverb for good. It goes back to Proto-Indo-European dwe-no- "show favor, revere", which also provided bonus. Facere came from PIE dhe- "to set, put", which came to English through its Germanic ancestors as do and deed, German tun "do" and Tat "deed", and Russian as delat' "do, make" and delo "deed, business". In French, Latin facere became faire "do, make", the past participle of which is fait "deed, fact", as in fait accompli "done deed". (Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira suggested we do benefice, but since that word has such a narrow meaning, we went with today's Good Word, which I hope will be of benefit to all our readers.)
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