I stumbled across an archaic noun yesterday; one that I rather like. Benighnity is defined as a benevolent deed or favor motivated by selflessness or devotion. Benightnity is also possessing the nature of kindness and tolerance towards other beings. Its closest synonym would be benevolence.
I like archaic words in part because they express concepts in ways that are rarely used today. Also, archaic words surprise the reader and cause her or him to pause for a moment longer than they usually would while skimming text. That said, it’s wise not to sprinkle archaic words into daily conversation so as to avoid sounding effete and snobbish.
To see benighnity and benevolence side by side, we notice the unfamiliarity of benighnity’s spelling. It seems that benighnity should be familiar because it is derived from the Latin noun “benignitās”, which means friendliness, graciousness, and kindness. The Latin adverb benignus indicates an act that is done neatly, rightly, and well. We see right away that the contemporary adjective benign is directly derived from Latin.
When we consider antonyms of benighnity–cruelty, harshness, malevolence, miserliness and spitefulness–we understand the full implications and scope of the antique word. As far as I can tell, benighnity and cruelty are the most obvious polar opposites of each other. To be of a personality that manifests benighnity as a default trait is more auspicious than to be of a personality that manifests cruelty by nature.
I like to compare such qualities of benevolence, goodness, and kindness as aspects akin to the physical property, heat. Meantime cruelty, evil, and indifference are like the physical state, cold–the absence of energy and heat. One may say that benighnity encompasses life while cruelty encompasses death.
We might also consider benighnity with a parallel to the saying, “Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue.” Benighnity is not an absence of cruelty, it is a disposition for confidence, friendliness, generosity, and kindness. To remove humanity’s ignorance and indifference of each living being’s suffering is an imperative act of benighnity.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Renaissance doctor, humanist, and writer, François Rabelais. “There is no truer cause of unhappiness amongst men than, where naturally expecting charity and benevolence, they receive harm and vexation.”