Word of the Day


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an organization to which you give money so that it can give money and help to people who are poor or ill, or who need advice and support

Origin and usage

Charity comes from the Latin noun ‘caritas’, which is derived from the adjective ‘carus’ meaning ‘dear’. It originally meant ‘Christian love of your fellow human beings’ and only started to be applied to organizations that help others in the late 18th century.


As Christmas approaches, many charities increase their fundraising efforts. A 2010 study placed the UK eighth in the world index of most charitable nations, a list which was led by Australia. In 2017 the total amount given to charity in the UK increased to £10.3 billion, up from £9.7 billion the previous year. In terms of who gives the most, those aged 45-64 are the most likely to give to charity, while those aged 16-24 are the least likely to donate. Other figures show that the average Brit gives £30,000 to charity over their lifetime.

The proverb Charity begins at home is sometimes used to justify looking after our nearest and dearest before showing kindness to outsiders or strangers, but in fact when Sir Thomas Browne used the expression in his Religio Medici in 1642 he would have been referring to the term’s original meaning of Christian love.


“The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”
(Jack London)

Related words

aid, alms, donation

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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