Daily Archives: January 22, 2009


A word of generous coin, from start to finish. It opens with muni, which smacks of money, and ends with cent – though neither of these pieces actually has to do exactly with money or penny, whatever the jingle of their bond may be. The muni comes from Latin munus, “gift” (which also, in an extended sense of “official duty,” underlies municipal, however ungifted municipal officials may occasionally be), lending an air of redundancy to the common collocation munificent gifts. It should not be confused with nummus, “coin,” just as remuneration, which also grows from this root, should not be thought to be renumeration (numbers may be involved in munificence, but not etymologically). As to the cent, it’s just an illusion (as some apparently munificent donations turn out to be – every iffy cent), produced by the meeting of fic (from facere, “make, do”) and ent (a suffix to set the class of word, influenced by the kindred spirit magnificent). Yet it trips nicely on the tongue nonetheless, launching at the lips and then tapping and sliding the tip with a bite of the teeth in between; it begins with two nasals, then gives two voiceless fricatives before finally stopping through a nasal to the [t]. The sound of a murmur, then banknotes being taken out and set down? We may hope, at least, that at the heart of all munificence is something unific.