I was reading the etymology of amadouer when I lighted on these attested morphemes:


From Middle French amadouer (“to coax, lure”), from a- + *madouer (“to lure, give food to”), from Old Norse mata (“to lure, feed”), from Proto-Germanic *matōną, *matjaną (“to feed, eat”), from Proto-Indo-European *meh₂d- (“wet”). Cognate with Icelandic mata (“to bait, allure”), Danish made (“to feed”), Gothic 𐌼𐌰𐍄𐌾𐌰𐌽 (matjan, “to eat, have a meal”), Old English mete (“food”). More at meat.

  1. Please see the titled question. How did *meh₂d- semantically shift to mean *matōną? What does eating or feeding have to do with wetness? I know that people drink while eating, but I'd reckon that PIE and Proto-Germanic had verbs for drinking?

  2. Which type of semantic shift is this?

  • Animals have to get fat before long journeys, read "trans-saharan trade". We talk of juicy beef after all.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 0:35
  • the root of to eat is very close and it is very very basic. ma is still a frequent colloquial particle, seemingly from X-mal, x-times, i.e. at once, at this suitable time but mir "me, to me" as used in selfreflexive verbs may be hidden in it. Messe "mass" also comes to mind (cp. Lat Vesper, whence Ger. Vesper, "brunch"). Also, Mahlzeit "meal-time"
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 0:41
  • Cp. meadow, grass and graze.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 1:31
  • mead, Ger. Most (honey wine, cider) vs Mast, mästen, "to stuff up, (transitive) gain mass", vs Matsch, Modder, modern "pulp, slime", Maische "the medium in beer brewing": We sy ansätzen (on-set) either about fat accumulating, or about setting up a brew, a stew, etc (which may get thick due to yeast), and various other ways. Soup is eaten as well as slurped (Suppe schlürfen); Eating noisily with the mouth open is *schmatzen (so as to drool? Close to Schmutz, smut? Observe s-mobile; Cp. schlämmen to slime as schlummern, lummern to slumber, limb; Is soup slim stew?).
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:38
  • Also soup vs saufen (to drink like an animal, also of alcohol); supper; Cp. sober and that [in]ebriated is somewhat uncertain, the root being a-typical. I do suspect a relation to sabbath (rest). I mean I see it and salat "prayer*, salam "peace" e-ver-y-where. Just cp lavo ~ labo to sich laben.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:44

1 Answer 1


Kroonen's dictionary says, following [Lubotsky (1981)]

*matjan- w.v. 'to lap' -- [...] In spite of Torp 1909: 305 and Pokorny IEW: 694-5, unrelated to *mati- 'food' (q.v.)."

The only Germanic reflex given is an old Norse term "to suckle, nurse", agreeing with Albanian evidence and agreeing not so much with the semantics in Sanskrit "to rejoice" in relation to intoxication," and Greek "to drip, melt, ...".

They reconstruct respectively PIE *mh2-d- and tentatively *med-; The later is found in wiktionary under "measure".

*mati- has more explanation. I am not going to quote the whole thing, if I only understand half of it. Follow the sources (Lubotsky 2012 also has some on water):

  • Lubotsky, A.M. 1981 [Lubotsky 1981] Gr. πήγνῡμι: Skt. pajra- and loss of laryngeals before mediae in Indo-Iranian. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 40, 133-138

  • Pokorny, J. 1959 [Pokorny IEW] Indogermanisches etymologisches Worterbuch. Bern.

  • Torp, A. 1909 [Torp 1909) Wortschatz der germanischen Spracheinheit. Vierte Auflage. Göttingen.

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