One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A piece of work; a duty or allotted task; a school task or lesson to be prepared; (US) a piece of schoolwork imposed as a punishment.
Mid 17th century; earliest use found in Henry Oldenburg (c1619–1677), scientific correspondent and secretary of the Royal Society. From classical Latin pēnsum quantity of wool to be spun, allotted piece of work, task, use as noun of neuter of pēnsus, past participle of pendere to weigh.
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