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From Medieval Latin eleemosynarius (alms dispenser), from Late Latin eleemosyna (alms), from Ancient Greek ἐλεημοσύνη (eleēmosúnē, alms), from ἐλεέω (eleéō, I have mercy), from ἔλεος (éleos, pity).

Compare Italian elemosina.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌɛlɪiːˈmɒsɪnəɹi/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌɛlɪˈmɑːsənɛɹi/, /ˌɛlɪˈmɑːzənɛɹi/, /ˌɛliɪˈmɑːsənɛɹi/
  • (file)


eleemosynary (comparative more eleemosynary, superlative most eleemosynary)

  1. Relating to charity, alms, or almsgiving.
    • 1894, Henry James, The Coxon Fund:
      I am bound to say he didn't criticise his benefactors, though practically he got tired of them; she, however, had the highest standards about eleemosynary forms.
    • 1918, Christopher Morley, "Owd Bob" in Mince Pie:
      He did some work for the New York Public Library . . . and also dabbled in eleemosynary science for the Russell Sage Foundation.
  2. Given in charity or alms; having the nature of alms
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book I ch i:
      An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money.
    • 1855, Walt Whitman, "To the Pending Year" in Leaves of Grass:
      Crouch low thy neck to eleemosynary gifts.
  3. Supported by charity
    • 1871, John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, p. 482:
      ... it is also true that the policy of nations, or the bounty of individuals, formerly did much to counteract the effect of this limitation of competition, by offering eleemosynary instruction to a much larger class of persons than could have obtained the same advantages by paying their price.
    • 1959, Frank Chodorov, The Rise and Fall of Society, Devin-Adair, Chapter 14, page 143:
      [The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution] set the State up as the largest eleemosynary institution in the history of the world.
    • 1991, Washington Post, October 27:
      Amidst all this, the legal business, the acquiring of land, the construction of the Montgomery Block, Billings had generosity and time to support the founding of the University of California and a half dozen churches, schools, orphan asylums and other eleemosynary institutions.

Usage notesEdit

A formal, literary word; in everyday use charitable is used instead.




eleemosynary (plural eleemosynaries)

  1. (obsolete) A beggar

Related termsEdit