el·​ee·​mo·​sy·​nary ˌe-li-ˈmä-sə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce eleemosynary (audio)
: of, relating to, or supported by charity

Did you know?

A grammarian once asserted in reference to eleemosynary that "a long and learned word like this should only be used under the stress of great need." Whether or not you agree with such prescriptions, the word eleemosynary isn't exactly ubiquitous. Its tricky spelling doesn’t do it any favors—though this wasn’t always the case. The good people of early England had mercy on themselves when it came to spelling and shortened the root of eleemosynary, the Latin eleemosyna, to ælmes, which they used to mean "charity." (You may be more familiar with alms, an ælmes derivative that refers to food, money, etc., given to the poor.) The original Latin root, however, was resurrected in the early 17th century to give us our modern conundrum of a spelling.

Examples of eleemosynary in a Sentence

used his vast fortune for establishing and funding a host of eleemosynary institutions

Word History


Medieval Latin eleemosynarius, from Late Latin eleemosyna alms — more at alms

First Known Use

circa 1616, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of eleemosynary was circa 1616


Dictionary Entries Near eleemosynary

Cite this Entry

“Eleemosynary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eleemosynary. Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Legal Definition


: of, relating to, or supported by charity
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