pittance (n.)

c. 1200, pitaunce, "pious donation to a religious house or order to provide extra food; the extra food provided," also "a small portion, scanty rations," from Old French pitance "pity, mercy, compassion; refreshment, nourishment; portion of food allowed a monk or poor person by a pious bequest," apparently literally "pity," from the source pity. Perhaps via Medieval Latin *pietantia, from an assumed verb *pietare, or otherwise derived from Latin pietas. Meaning "small amount, portion, or quantity" is attested by 1560s.

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Miserere (n.)

c. 1200, "recitation of the 51st Psalm" (in Vulgate, the 50th), one of the "Penitential Psalms," so called from the phrase Miserere mei Deus "Have mercy upon me, O God," the opening line of it in the Vulgate, from Latin miserere "feel pity, have compassion, commiserate," second person singular imperative of misereri "to have mercy," from miser "wretched, pitiable" (see miser).

From 15c.-17c. it was used as an informal measure of time, "the time it takes to recite the Miserere." The musical settings of the psalm are noted for their striking effectiveness. The Latin verb also is in miserere mei "kind of severe colic ('iliac passion') accompanied by excruciating cramps and vomiting of excrement" (1610s); literally "have mercy on me."

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manhood (n.)

Middle English manhede, manhode, "state of being human" (early 13c.), from man (n.) + -hood. Sense of "manliness, qualities considered becoming to a man" (variously: "courageous behavior, bravery; courteous behavior, gentility; compassion, kindness") is from c. 1300. Meaning "state of being an adult male" is from late 14c.

 Similar words in Old English also were less explicitly masculine: manscipe "humanity, courtesy," literally "man-ship;" mennisclicnes "state of man, humanity, humaneness, human nature" (compare mannish). The more purely "manly" word was werhad "male sex, virility, manhood" (see first element in werewolf).

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ruth (n.)

c. 1200, perhaps late Old English, ruthe, "misery, sorrow, grief;" also "pity, compassion, sorrow for the misery of another" (often in have ruth, take ruth); also "remorse, repentance, regret;" from Old Norse hryggð "ruth, sorrow," from hryggr "sorrowful, grieved" (see rue (v.)) + Proto-Germanic abstract noun suffix *-itho (see -th (2)).

Or else formed in English from reuwen "to rue" on the model of true/truth, etc. The Old English word was rue (n.2).

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malinger (v.)

"to pretend illness to escape duty," 1820, from French malingrer "to suffer," a slang word that probably also at one time meant "pretend to be ill," from malingre "ailing, sickly" (13c.), which is of uncertain origin, possibly a blend of mingre "sickly, miserable" and malade "ill." Mingre is itself a blend of maigre "meager" (see meager) + haingre "sick, haggard," which is possibly from Germanic (compare Middle High German hager "thin").

The sense evolution in French would be through the notion of beggars who feigned to be sick or exhibited sham sores to excite compassion. Malingerer is attested from 1761, in a translation of de Saxe; malingering as a verbal noun is attested from 1778. Related: Malingered.

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sympathy (n.)
Origin and meaning of sympathy

1570s, "affinity between certain things," from French sympathie (16c.) and directly from Late Latin sympathia "community of feeling, sympathy," from Greek sympatheia "fellow-feeling, community of feeling," from sympathes "having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings," from assimilated form of syn- "together" (see syn-) + pathos "feeling" (from PIE root *kwent(h)- "to suffer").

In English, almost a magical notion at first; used in reference to medicines that heal wounds when applied to a cloth stained with blood from the wound. Meaning "conformity of feelings" is from 1590s; sense of "fellow feeling, compassion" is first attested c. 1600. An Old English loan-translation of sympathy was efensargung.

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plunge (n.)

c. 1400, "a deep pool," from plunge (v.). From late 15c. as "a sudden pitch forward;" meaning "act of plunging, a sudden immersion in something" is from 1711. Figurative use in take the plunge "commit oneself" is by 1823, from an earlier noun sense of "point of being in trouble or danger, immersion in difficulty or distress" (1530s); the exact phrase might owe its popularity to its appearance in "The Vicar of Wakefield" (1766), which everybody read:

Mr. Thornhill's assurance had entirely forsaken him : he now saw the gulph of infamy and want before him, and trembled to take the plunge. He therefore fell on his knees before his uncle, and in a voice of piercing misery implored compassion.
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piety (n.)

mid-14c., piete (late 12c. as a surname), "mercy, tenderness, pity" (senses now obsolete in this word but preserved in its doublet, pity), from Old French piete "piety, faith; pity, compassion" (12c.), from Latin pietatem (nominative pietas) "dutiful conduct, sense of duty; religiousness, piety; loyalty, patriotism; faithfulness to natural ties," in Late Latin "gentleness, kindness, pity;" from pius "kind" (see pious).

From 1570s in English as "filial affection, dutiful conduct or behavior toward one's parents, relatives, country, etc." Meaning "piousness, faith in and reverence for the Supreme Being" is attested in English from c. 1600. Compare pity (n.).

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thought (n.)

Old English þoht, geþoht "process of thinking, a thought; compassion," from stem of þencan "to conceive of in the mind, consider" (see think). Cognate with the second element in German Gedächtnis "memory," Andacht "attention, devotion," Bedacht "consideration, deliberation."

Bammesberger ("English Etymology") explains that in Germanic -kt- generally shifted to -ht-, and a nasal before -ht- was lost. Proto-Germanic *thankija- added a suffix -t in the past tense. By the first pattern the Germanic form was *thanht-, by the second the Old English was þoht.

Second thought "later consideration" is recorded from 1640s. Thought-crime is from "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (1949); thought police is attested from 1945, originally in reference to war-time Japanese Special Higher Police (Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu).

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humane (adj.)

mid-15c., a parallel variant of human (adj.), with a form and stress that perhaps suggest a stronger association with Latin humanus than with Old French humain. Human and humane were used interchangeably in the senses "pertaining to a human being" and "having qualities befitting human beings" (c. 1500). The latter at first meant "courteous, friendly, civil, obliging," then "marked by tenderness, compassion, and a disposition to kindly treat others" (c. 1600). By early 18c. the words had differentiated in spelling and accent and humane took the "kind" sense.

Compare germane, urbane. Meaning "inflicting less pain than something else" is from 1904. Inhuman is its natural opposite. The Royal Humane Society (founded 1774) was originally to rescue drowning persons; such societies had turned to animal care by late 19c.

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