Eleemosynary is a great word I think. When mentioned it to someone he said that it only means "charitable", and why do we need 2 words for that concept? I thought it was mainly used to mean "being supported by charitable funds", which really is a different concept. For example, while a church would be eleemosynary, a dog pound might sell their orphan dogs for part of their support and receive gifts also. However, the dictionary doesn't seem to agree with me. How have you seen the word used?
BTW the source of eleemosynary is Medieval Latin eleemosynarius, from Late Latin eleemosyna, alms, from Greek eleemosyne, from eleemon, pitiful, from eleos, pity.
My favorite "property" of eleëmosynary is the way (as you touch on above) even as "Cholmondeley" was shortened to "Chumley" and "Leicester" turned into "Lester," eleëmosynary became "alms". Now _that's_ shortening!
More to the point, why shouldn't there be two "English" words meaning the same thing? The language is full of pairs of such words. Often one is of Latin extaction and the other Greek, but it also happens with other languages.
Sometimes we even construct such a pair deliberately. Many years ago "Adrenalin" was trademarked by a presumptuous drug manufacturer, after many years of general lower-case unrestricted use. The scientific community was so incensed that its members stopped calling it that and renamed it epinephrine. "On top of the kidneys" was just translated directly from Latin into Greek.
I've always thought of eleëmosynary as an adjective acknowledging a charitable motive for doing something. Donating clothing to a homeless shelter or food to a food bank would be eleëmosynary activities.
[This message was edited by haberdasher on Mon Jun 23rd, 2003 at 18:32.]
So, "eleemosynary" has 2 dots? I don't even know how to do that!
I was reading a book this weekend about adjectives for wordlovers, and it said that "eleemosynary" meant being completely supported by charity. However, in reading all the definitions in dictionary.com and onelook, I can see that it seems to, in fact, be a synonym for charitable, as you say haberdasher. A fellow logophile told me that he thinks it is more of a church term than "charitable" is. Perhaps that's the distinction, especially since it has been shortened to "alms"?