Printable Version
Pronunciation: jen-êr-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Giving much, more than expected. 2. Large, full, copious, as 'a generous portion of pie' or 'a generous belly'. 3. Spirited, lively as 'a generous horse'.

Notes: Here is a word that is semantically far astray from the original PIE sense. The adverb is the expected generously, and we have two choices for a noun, the clunky generousness or the much smoother generosity.

In Play: The most often used sense of today's word refers to unselfishness and magnanimity: "Hercules had little money but was very generous with his time." Only slightly less often used is the sense referring to size: "Heathcliff was given a generous portion of the fish, covered with generous sprinklings of dill and freshly ground black pepper."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from one of the Romance languages, probably French généreux with the same definition as the English loan word. French inherited the word from its mother, Latin, generosus "of noble birth", the adjective for genus, generis "race, birth, descent". In fact, the original meaning of generous was "aristocratic, of noble birth". Latin inherited its word from PIE genê-/gonê- "to bear, birth, bring forth", source also of Sanskrit janati "bears, generates", Ancient Greek gino "I become", and Breton genel "to give birth to". The same PIE word became kin in English and Kind "child" in German. Greek genesis "origin, beginning" became the name of the first chapter of the Bible. We also see it in Latin praegnare "to be pregnant", comprising prae- "pre-" + gn- "be pregnant", a reduced form of the PIE word. (Now let's thank Eileen Opiolka, a very generous contributor to the Alpha Agora and of exceptional Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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