My kids’ vocabulary books have this section at the end of each lesson called “Fun and Fascinating Facts” about the words or roots in that week’s list. This one comes courtesy of Rowyn’s book–and is something I really did find fun and fascinating!
So, puny. I know it as “small, weak.” And that meaning has been around since the 1590s. But before that, puny meant “inferior in rank.” And before that, it was used of underclassman in school situations. Why? Great question. 😉
Puny comes from the Latin phrase puis ne–literally, “born after.” This phrase was applied, in Roman days, to children after the firstborn, who would inherit the estate of his parents. So a second, third, etc. son was puis ne and therefore inferior in rank and considered less powerful in society’s eyes.