Printable Version
Pronunciation: lu-kêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Money or other pecuniary advantage, especially that obtained from suspicious or questionable sources. 2. Financial or other gain from some endeavor.

Notes: This word is most often heard in the idiomatic expression filthy lucre, but it has a wider array of uses. Today it is used almost always in a pejorative sense, but it is still available without this semantic blemish. The adjective is lucrous,

In Play: This word is quite topical today: "The electoral processes in the US are heavily influenced by fountains of lucre, some legitimate, other quite questionable." Remember, this word does not necessarily carry a pejorative connotation. "Some athletes receive more lucre from endorsements than from playing their particular sport."

Word History: English simply copied letter-for-letter today's Good Word from Old French lucre, which it inherited from Latin lucrum "material gain, profit; wealth, riches", of uncertain origin. It may go back to Proto-Italic lukro-, from PIE lhu-tlo- "seizure, gain". If true, this would give today's word cognates in Greek apolauein "to enjoy" and German Lohn "wages, pay". Filthy lucre is King James Bible translation of Greek aiskhron kerdos "dishonest gain" in Titus I.11. (I wish it were possible to send George Kovac some lucre in gratitude for his wonderful Good Word suggestions over the years—like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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