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.
Fascinating! I love words. I always thought it meant (other than small) not feeling well. I guess that could be weak. I'm feeling puny today. 🙁
Interesting word! I thought it always meant weak or sick and didn't know it went that far back in history.
We lived in the deep South for a season. The word puny was often used to describe a physical condition of just not feeling right. Perhaps not really sick, but not feeling up to par. When asked "How are you?" One might hear, "I'm feeling a might puny today!" Found that interesting.