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The “Meal” in Piecemeal

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The word piecemeal means bit by bit. If you pay back a debt piecemeal, you repay it a little at a time. The -meal in piecemeal is an old term that means a measure of time or a specified portion. In Middle English, this element appears in several words, such as littlemeal, meaning little by little; pennymeal, meaning penny by penny; and dropmeal, meaning drop by drop. They’re all the etymological kin of the term meal, meaning a fixed portion of time for eating food. This is part of a complete episode.

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