misericords

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misericord a ledge projecting from the underside of a hinged seat in a choir stall which, when the seat is turned up, gives support to someone standing. Medieval misericords were often decorated with elaborate and sometimes bawdy scenes from secular or religious life, visible when the seat was raised.

Dating in this sense from the early 16th century, misericord (denoting pity) is recorded from Middle English, and comes ultimately from Latin misericordia, from misericors ‘compassionate’, from the stem of misereri ‘to pity’ + cor, cord- ‘heart’. Other early uses in English include an apartment in a monastery in which some relaxations of the monastic rule were permitted, and a small dagger used to deliver a death stroke to a wounded enemy.

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