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In what century did the term welfare - as in the sense "social effort to improve the well-being of the poor" - enter English?

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Answer: the 20th

The word welfare derives from the Old English wel faran, the condition of being or doing well.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first instance of its use in the sense social effort to improve the well-being of the poor is from the November 1904 issue of Century Magazine:

"The welfare manager, who may be either a man or a woman, is a recognized intermediary between the employers and employees of mercantile houses and manufacturing plants."


The most famous use of the word Welfare has to be the one in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to ... promote the general Welfare, ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

But that's in the older sense of welfare.
swhite at

The answer is quite a surprise to me. I would have expected Dickens or the Salvation Army or the English Suffragettes to have used the word in that sense in the 19th century. But I have no reference to support my expectations.

[Mootguy: Perhaps they did, but the OED's first "recorded" (i.e., written) use is from 1904. ]
james.t.wood at

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