From Judaism 101: "... the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word 'charity' suggests benevolence and generosity... The word 'tzedakah' is derived from the Hebrew root tzadei-dalet-kof, meaning justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act..."
If tzedakah just meant charity, then American Jews would likely use the English word 'charity.' As a general rule, if a word finagles its way into a new language, it's either:
- a word children learn (mom, dad, grandma, etc)
- a concept that doesn't quite exist in the new language (tzedakah, schlemeil, machatunim)
- a restaurant trying to charge you more for food (aubergine, frites, a la carte) :)
And BTW, Maimonides' ladder traditionally lists the highest form of tzedakah as helping someone become self-sufficient. Double-blind giving is second.