use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

lu·cre (lkər)
Share:
n.
Money or profits.

[Middle English, from Latin lucrum; see lau- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Word History: In the 1520s, William Tyndale made an influential translation of the New Testament from Greek into English. Many of Tyndale's English renderings of Greek phrases were considered so apt that the translators of the King James Version of the Bible reused them eighty years later, thus ensuring their familiarity to speakers of Modern English. Among the familiar phrases that Tyndale apparently coined in his translation are the powers that be (Romans 13:1) and filthy lucre (Titus 1:7,11). This last expression occurs as part of the translation of Greek phrases like aiskhrou kerdous kharin "for the sake (kharin) of shameful (aiskhrou) gain (kerdous)." When translating these words, Tyndale was probably guided by the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Old and New Testaments that had been the standard edition of the Bible in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In the Vulgate, the passage was rendered with the Latin words turpis lucrī grātiā, "for the sake (grātiā) of shameful (turpis) gain (lucrī)." It was only natural that Tyndale, working in the early Reformation, would remember the wording of the familiar Latin translation. As a result, he rendered the phrase as because of filthy lucre, using the English word lucre, which comes from Latin lucrum, "material gain, profit,"the same Latin word that appears in the form lucrī in the Vulgate. But we cannot attribute the modern pejorative connotations of lucre wholly to Tyndale's influence. In Latin itself, lucrum could be used to mean "avarice." When the Latin word was borrowed into Middle English as lucre, it was often used in the simple neutral sense "material gain, profit." Already in the 1300s, however, lucre began to appear in contexts favoring the development of pejorative overtones, such as in Chaucer's phrase from the Prioress's Tale: foule usure and lucre of vileynye ("foul usury and lucre of villainy").

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.