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pecuniary- MW

Pecuniary: of or relating to money

  • pecuniary needs

  • pecuniary rewards

  • Pecuniary advantage

  • Does this word have an interchangeable use with financial?

DC

Financial: relating to money or how money is managed:

financial difficulties/success

financial affairs

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These words are not interchangeable in absolutely every context; for example, it is idiomatic to say that a student is receiving "financial aid," but not that she is receiving "pecuniary aid." We also wouldn't refer to "the global pecuniary system" or "the pecuniary crash of 2008."

However, they are indeed close synonyms, and there are many contexts in which you could safely substitute one for the other. For example, "He is having financial difficulty" and "He is having pecuniary difficulty" are equivalent in meaning.

That said, the two words are by no means equally common. In the modern United States, at least, I believe that "financial" is both much more widely used and more widely understood than "pecuniary," and this Google Ngram seems to bear that impression out.

To some, "pecuniary" may also sound a bit old-fashioned. It seems it was more common than "financial" in the early part of the nineteenth century, but has been less common since about 1870.

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  • A good answer, but too kind to 'pecuniary' to say 'a bit' old-fashioned. It is a word to know the meaning of, in the rare event that you might hear it used, but not to be used unless you have a very strong reason for not using 'financial'. – JeremyC Jul 16 '19 at 21:32
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    +1 It's like using "penurious" instead of "poor", or "enervated" instead of "tired". If you are familiar with all the nuances of "pecuniary", and you are certain your audience will understand, then by all means luxuriate in your grandiloquence. If not, then it's best to keep things simple. – Andrew Jul 16 '19 at 21:42

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