September 22, 2008

#01-164: Reading Boomtown Chronicles 36

wide view of an urban area with bushes in the foreground, over which is written "READING BOOMTOWN CHRONICLES"
Shenzhen, the Boomtown

Note: Between Lesson #01-128 and #01-207, I wrote 72 lessons explaining expressions in articles published in the Shenzhen Daily. Read more about "Reading Boomtown Chronicles."

Get Ready: What benevolence have you done? What causes have you donated to?

Boomtown Chronicles Part XIV - published Monday, September 15, 2008

  • Title: "Where an act of benevolence began."

benevolence: This word has two roots, both of which are commonly found in other words.

The bene- in "benevolence" is from the Latin for "good." (In fact, in modern Italian, "bene" still means "good" or "well.") We see this root in words like "benefit" and "benefactor" (both come from the same Latin word, meaning "do a good service" for someone) and "benediction" ("good speaking," like a blessing), as well as in the Latin phrase used when we want someone to pay close attention to something we write, nota bene ("note well," often abbreviated "N.B.")

The -volence in "benevolence" comes from a word meaning "to wish" or "to want to." The same root is found in "volunteer" (one who does something because he/she wants to) and "volition," meaning "will": "He did it of his own volition" means "He did it of his own free will.

So "benevolence" is literally "good will," the wish to do good things for others.

And its opposite? "Malevolence." The mal- means "bad," as in "malaria" ("bad air"--people thought it came from the air, not from mosquitoes) and "malice" (bad intention).


Our second word has a similar feeling to "benevolence." That word is "donation" and its related words (donate, donor, etc.), which is how the "benevolence" was demonstrated.

The root here is the Latin donare, meaning "to give as a gift." This word has kept this exact meaning as it transitioned from Latin to French to English.

The root is also found in other forms. For example, "condone" means the same as to "turn a blind eye" to something (see Lesson #01-160). The con- means "with," indicating some kind of cooperation, and the done here (rhymes with "loan") is like "giving a break."

The more common word "pardon" is close to this meaning, but here the par- comes from per- which here means "thoroughly" or "completely," so to pardon means something like "to absolutely give [someone] a break."

As you can see, Latin words have contributed a lot to English (usually by way of French).


Read more:

Practice: Choose the correct term to fill in the blank in the sentence below:

  1. benediction
  2. benefactor
  3. benefits
  4. benevolence
  5. condone
  6. donation
  7. malevolence
  8. N.B.
  9. pardon
  10. volition
  11. volunteer

  1. The teacher would not ________ bad behavior in his classroom.
  2. Please ________ my question, but is it okay if I smoke here?
  3. The courts usually go easier on a suspect who turns himself in of his own ________.
  4. The program was mostly supported by a secret ________.
  5. ________: The opinions expressed in these lessons are strictly my own.
  6. Volunteering in the community ________ everyone--including the person volunteering.
  7. We recently made a ________ to a group that feeds hungry children.
  8. You could almost feel the ________ coming from the angry old man.
  9. We sometimes ________ to help with a feeding program.
  10. The priest gave a ________ at the end of the service.
  11. The ________ in his attitude was plain to see.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 22, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. d; 3. f; 4. k; 5. a; 6. g; 7. h; 8. e; 9. b; 10. c; 11. i