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 Definition: Out of money, penniless.

Pronunciation: Im-peh-kew-nee-uss


Impecunious comes to us from the Latin word pecunia, meaning money.  Pecunia became pecuniosus meaning rich, moneyed, or wealthy.  It entered English around 1590 as pecunious and was then combined with the prefix im- to convey a negation or the absence of money.  Pecunious is still used today but, just as impecunious, it is extremely rare.

Why this word?

Let’s face it, we’re not all rich.  Odds are you lie in the 99% and not the 1%.  So who couldn’t use a word other than “broke” to demonstrate that you are currently a bit short on funds?  One could argue that the use of such a word would demonstrate that while you are lacking in economic wealth, you are rich in intellectual resources.

How to use the word impecunious?

“Unfortunately her nephew, an impecunious but greedy sort, had a key to her house and while she vacationed he helped himself to some of her valuables.”

“His habitual impecuniousity made it very difficult for him to get, never mind keep, a girlfriend.”

“She was ashamed to admit to her new friends the current impecunious nature of her family due to her parents’ unemployment.”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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