• muniment •
myu-nê-mênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An archived official document that proves someone's rights or privileges. 2. (Obsolete) Something serving as defense or protection.
Notes: This word is from a broken family. If it reminds you of munition, you're right: munition and munity had the same by now archaic meaning, "right or privilege", in the past. The obsolete verb munite, meant "to fortify, protect". How the semantic shift came about will become clear in the Word History.
In Play: This word refers to documents only rarely accessed: "Rhoda Book is working on a history Gallstone Castle, work that is painstaking for it involves combing through a multitude of estate muniments." Muniments must attest to facts: "One muniment proved that Horace Gallstone IV had lived in the castle with his wife and his mistress for 13 years."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes ultimately from classical Latin munimentum "fortification, defense", which had already picked up by Medieval Latin the figurative sense of "a document, title deed, charter" that provides ammunition for the defense in civil suits. It is based on the verb munire "to fortify". The original idea was to build a wall around something that needed protection. The word originated as PIE mei-/moi- "to strengthen", source also of Sanskrit minoti "strengthens, grounds, builds", but also with the PIE -r suffix, Latin murus "wall". So the semantics of "fortification" bifurcates into military terms: munitions, ammunition, and walls: mural, intermural, all English borrowings from Latin.
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