The word karma has Sanskrit origin. It ultimately comes from the PIE root *kʷer- which means "to do or make". The word karma is cognate with Britain. I know what the word karma means (good or bad behavior being reciprocated), but I don’t see the semantic connection on the Latin side. What happened to Britain? I think it has to do with the meaning "do or make", but I don’t know what sense or why.

UPD: Here is a reference to Britain being a descendant of PIE *kʷer-. See closer to the end of the page in the Unsorted formations section.

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    The word karma is cognate with Britain - any reference for this claim?
    – tum_
    Mar 11 '20 at 14:37
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    As a basic requirement for this question to be even remotely convincing in its assumptions, I suggest you give a PIE reconstruction of Britain. If you’re claiming that Britain also came from PIE *kwer, you should give an etymological trace from Britain to *kwer.
    – dROOOze
    Mar 11 '20 at 15:00
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    Wikipedia explains the etymology of Britain as derived from the Celtic word for Britons which meant "the painted, tattooed ones", which can well be connected with the meaning of the PIE root *kʷer- "to do, make" as "the done, the made ones". Have you checked this article? If so, why doesn't that explanation suit you?
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 11 '20 at 15:28
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    I think it would be better if it was written "how", not "why" Mar 12 '20 at 1:10
  • @ErgativeMan, that would presuppose that there was an explanation. The question rather asks why wiktionary had chosen to index it like that, whoever they referenced. "How" should rather ask "how likely"? I don't know I don't see the difference
    – vectory
    Mar 12 '20 at 16:13

On the face of it, there is no good answer. Ethonymy is literally folk etymology.

This does not give the curious etymologist a free pass to speculate wildly, but the semantics reflecting *kʷer- (as per your wikilink) vary so wildly that it looks like speculation to beginn with. This suits me well, because I want to elaborate an idea.

Pretext: Some labial plosives reconstruct labial velars in some languages (Greek, P-Celtic, some Italic tongues, ...). Greek kephale has not been related to Latin caput, which seems odd; wiktionary reconstructs *gʰebʰ-, and *kaput- respectively. Trying to ameliorate these, and always on a quest for German ge-, Lat. *co-, PIE *'ke-, *'kom, I did not get very far. I searched my Lexicon and at Greek bous, *gʷṓws the admittedly haphazard thought for ge- reappeared. Labio velars can occasionally come from *K + *w, so trying to separate the labial element from the velar I was grabbing for a straw. The nearest lexeme in my mind was still bous. I reason thus, a labiovelar can also come from *K + *b (or *b^h). That was not was I was looking for at all. Now to your question.

  1. *kʷer- lists a Hittite reflex "to cut", and several others. It also lists synonyms *yeh₁- and *h₂er-. The latter reinforces my assumption that *kʷer- can have an internal derivation.

  2. Following the pretext, look for *b(h) roots suitable for comparison; check *bʰardʰéh₂, *bʰeh₁-, bʰeh₂-, *bʰreyH-, in that order. *bʰreyH- "to cut" rings a bell, of course.

Sure enough I can imagine backstories towards Briton for any given sense, but that's besides the point, I don't want to speculate. I only looked at *bʰreyH- because the link in the root index was dark-colored, visited before, but I didn't remember. That means it's a wild guess, except that *-r- clicked. Hence any further elaboration comes as an afterthought. Hittite is supposedly most archaic evidence, so I'm leaning more on the semantic side of it. Hittite also reflects *bʰreyH- but that doesn't change anything.

It only means that the root of Britain might go back a long way, and that a semantic interpretation is as good as irrecoverable without timely material evidence, because a loose semantic interpretation can always be given.

Point in case: a) To incorporate the Tattoo interpretation that wikipedia offers, suppose that roots meaning to write often come from "to cut", and tattoos are a form of writing. b) consider "Balto-Slavic: *kēr-, *ker-[4] Lithuanian: kẽras (“charm, magic”), kerė́ti (“to enchant, charm, bewitch”), kùrti (“to do, make, build”) Slavic: *čarъ (“magic, sorcery”), *čara (“magic, sorcery”)[4]" [wiktionary] to compare karma and charm, Latin carmen, Old Latin casmen "song", ety uncertain (*kenh2?); if the s seems to contradict the attempt, assume *carsmen and move on to Celtic. c) How many Sanskrit words in bhr- do you know? I know Brahmin, assume "scribe"(?), actually "high, lofty". That's *bʰerǵʰ-, which lists PCelt *brixtu, that is in Matasovich as "magical formula, incantation", indeed, Breton brith, PIE *bʰerǵʰ- "enlighten ?". But wait, it get's better. Your link lists PCelt Celtic *kʷritus "Old Irish: cruth (“form”) Welsh: pryd (“form, time”), prydaf (“compose poetry, versify”)". Matasovich has Celtic: *kʷritus "magical incantation, form".

There's further "word", "judgement", under *b- *br-, but also "robber" (German Einbrecher?), a word "drinking cup", pela-[gasi?], Ger. gebrauchen "use", prepare, ...

It seems the cognate under Celtic: *kʷritus do not quite allow the given interpretation, but I will take it for the time being. What a fantastic journey. Thanks for the invitation.

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