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Definition: Destitute. A person with no worldly possessions or wealth of any kind. Lacking in money.

Pronunciation: Im-peh-kew-nee-us

Origin: From the Latin root pecuniosus, meaning ‘rich’. Entered into English in 1596.

Why this word?

This word is something of a fascination. Picture this – you’ve lost everything. You’ve lost all of your money. You’re down on your luck. You have nothing. You want to use guttural, crude words to describe your guttural, crude situation – words like broke and bust. There are many things that you want – you might want help. You might want a second chance. You might even just want a whiskey. But the absolute last thing that you want or need is a grandiloquent word to describe your lousy situation. Nobody who has lost it all has ever wanted to be described as impecunious.

Incidentally, the word pecunious is an obsolete word for ‘rich’ – something that you may not like the sound of, but may well enjoy having the adjective applied to your character. I find myself drawn to the original Latin word – Pecuniosus. It makes the concept of wealth sound like a disease – something that I’m sure could be put to good use in the 21st century if resurrected …

How to use this word

Don’t. Impecunious is not a word destined for salvation. It is quite simply the wrong word to describe someone who is down on their luck – and, for that reason, it very much deserves to be stripped of its lexical value and left destitute, begging on the steps of the lexographic poorhouse.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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