Friends! First of all, thanks for your time and help.

I'm conducting a research on the word "Mark", and before I explain all I know so far, let me tell you: The goal is to trace the connection between all cognates until it results in the current English word "mark"—one of its meanings being "symbol", "figure", and the main topic of my art research.

The word begins in Proto-germanic, "mörk", meaning "forest. Since forests were natural borders, the word modified a bit and its new meaning was exactly this: "boundary". From this, words like "Marquis" are born—that is, the one responsible for caring for the borders.

Close to these times, the word would acquire the meaning "mark" (such as a mark on the ground), "sign" (such as evidence of sth [a boundary, for instace]) and other visual connotations, leading to words like "Marksman". (Not 100% sure of how it connects to images, please, leave your insights)

This is all happening within a narrow cultural scope (mainly German, then France and England), and spreading throughout all Nordic cultures and having similar meanings in Icelandic, Norwegian, and others up to this day.

The missing link here is the damn unit marc (for gold and silver): why would a piece of gold/silver have such name? Were there objects called "mark"? (A coin/ingot with a symbol, for instance.) I believe this is where we get 100% sure of the visual meaning/connotations of the word "mark". (It's already obvious, but this is academic, so...)

The word is eventually connected to the Germans “brand” (to burn) and livestock branding, getting even more visual then.

Here goes an insight from another forum:

The German WP article on Mark (Gewicht), i.e. the weight unit, gives the following etymology:

The etymologic dictionary by Kluge traces the word back to Germanic marka- "unit of weight or value", originally "partition, divided"; the one by Pfeifer cites Old High German marc "demarcation, sign" as word of origin and assumes that marc first referred to the embossment, and only secondary the ingot or the coins minted from it.

Either etymology would also be a fit for Mark in its meaning of "border". Other German words based on the stem mark (markieren - to mark something; Marken - badges or vouchers) that reinforce my impression that the common denominator here is the "sign", the "standing for something".

Any sort of reference (text) or visuals (paintings, etc.) would be extremely appreciated. Thanks!

Ps: excuse me if this is an easy/stupid question. I’m not a native English speaker, so the more specific a topic gets, the harder the research.

  • See also en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mark – reinierpost Mar 19 '18 at 14:29
  • 2
    Weights and coins were marked (stamped) to make them official (and hence, supposedly conformant to their standard weight). Scraping weight off an official weight or mark was a punishable offense. – reinierpost Mar 19 '18 at 14:37
  • Thank you for your aid, @reinierpost ! Would you have a reference on that? – Rik Mar 31 '18 at 1:24
  • Nor really, but its German Wikipedia page has some. – reinierpost Apr 21 '18 at 17:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.