I have for years known that there was a Dutch bad word "stront" meaning "shit" but I expected it was spelled "stroent" until I looked it up just now.

I have also known the Italian bad word "stronzo" which has many uses but literally also means "shit".

Only in the last half hour or so did I consider the similarity and wonder if they could be related. I haven't been able to find any discussion of this or an etymology for the Dutch word, but apparently the Italian word comes from Lombard.

Do we know if and how these words from a pair of countries without a border might be related?

  • I, too, have always wondered about this. Could you elaborate on the Lombard word? What does it look like? What did you find? I'll look up the Dutch etymology if available in the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (available for free online, the world's largest dictionary).
    – Cerberus
    Oct 15 '13 at 16:19
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    Yes I tried to look up the Dutch too, took me a while to locate the dictionary, then Google Translate didn't work very well with it. As for *stronzo*/Lombard that was in Wiktionary: From Lombardic strunz (“dung”). Aha!! Italian Wiktionary is more helpful: dal (germanico) longobardo strunz, sterco Oct 15 '13 at 16:23
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    Apparently stront comes from a Proto-Germanic root *strentan-/*stranta(n)-/*strant(i)ō(n)-, which meant something like "something long and stiff", after what the WNT calls "the shape of solid excrement". It also notes that Latin borrowed it as strundius in the 9th century (which is just after the Lombards were defeated by Charlemagne). So the Italians and Latin in general borrowed it from the German! gtb.inl.nl/iWNTLINKS/DATADIR/paginazy.html?EWN+/iWDB/…
    – Cerberus
    Oct 15 '13 at 16:31
  • I was ignorant of who the Lombards were - I thought the word referred to a province of Italy or somesuch \-:. Write up an answer and I will accept it - good work! Oct 15 '13 at 16:36
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    Hey, we both did the same work, mostly! The Lombards were a Germanic tribe that invaded Italy in the 6th century and settled there, giving modern Lombardy its name.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 15 '13 at 16:47

Apparently stront comes from a Proto-Germanic root *strentan-/*stranta(n)-/*strant(i)ō(n)-, which meant "something long and stiff", after what the Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands calls "the shape of solid excrement".

The EWN also notes that Latin borrowed it as strundius, which is attested in the 9th century. As you say in your comment based on Italian Wiktionary, Italian got stronzo from Lombardic strunz. The Lombards were a Germanic tribe that invaded Italy in the 6th century and settled there, giving modern Lombardy its name; so it makes sense that they should use the Germanic word (Middle German strunze meant "stront").

But Wiktionary also mentions Italian/Lombard sterco, which must come from Latin stercus "dung", related to Greek skôr, stem skat- "dung", as in scatological. So perhaps the Italian word is a fusion of the Germanic word and the Latin word?

The EWN says stront is related to stronk "tree trunk" and Proto-Indo-European *stred- / *stredh-, which in turn may be an extension of *(s)ter(h1)- "be or become stiff". Which happens to resemble Latin stercus.

  • I wonder if there is as good an online Italian dictionary as we have for Dutch? Oct 15 '13 at 17:36
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    @hippietrail: Hmm I don't think so. I once downloaded a digital version of the largest Italian dictionary, but it was not normally available online, alas.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 16 '13 at 8:21
  • I would assume (though I haven't checked) that this is the same as Swedish strunt (n.), strunta (v.), which means ‘shit’ in the metaphorical ‘I don't give a shit’ way (ge strunt i = ‘give strunt in(to)’ = not give a toss; strunta i = not give a toss. Compare also skita i, which is literally ‘shit in’, but means the same thing). Apr 3 '15 at 12:22
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Ah, but this strunt is only used in those metaphorical expressions?
    – Cerberus
    Apr 3 '15 at 14:09
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    For what is worth, here's is the entry at the Vocabolario Treccani. It says that stronzo means "solid fecal mass of cylindical shape" (which conforms to my experience of the practical usage) and that it derives from a reconstructed Longobard's strunz. Jul 18 '18 at 15:42

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