Questions tagged [etymology]

The study of the history of words including their origins and the changes they've undergone through time.

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Why did the Latin word marmor became French marbre (which is in present day English marble)?

I would like to know what process suffered the Latin word marmor when it was borrowed in French and became marbre. I know that the process from French marbre to English marble is dissimilation, i.e. ...
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Why is feeling and hearing are the same in Italian?

Sentire means hearing, and at the same time feeling, in Italian and it's used passively in both senses. Mi sento male - I feel bad Ho sentito il tuo nome - I heard your name Why among all senses ...
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How did the usage of the word "type" to refer to a person come about?

In Spanish, you often use the word "tipo" not only to say literally the type of something, but to refer to a person (usually with some mildly negative connotations, e.g. "¡este tipo no ...
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Ncuti Gatwa is, according to Wikipedia, pronounced /ˈʃuːti ˈɡætwɑː/ - where is the NC orthography derived from?

On trying to find the pronunciation of the name of Mizero Ncuti Gatwa, a Rwandan-Scottish actor who will be playing the Fourteenth Doctor, I noticed the NC pairing and its pronunciation is listed on ...
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Is there a term for a word taken from another language, but then completely changing the meaning (such as peperoni, latte, chai)

In Italian, il peperone is what the English would call bell pepper, but the English word peperoni has come to mean a type of sausage, in particular when on a pizza. In Italian, latte is milk, but in ...
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Credible sources for Rho-Rotation?

A teacher of mine recently mentioned a phenomenon in linguistics called "rho-rotation". Across eons and languages if a r/rho sound was next to a vowel it tended to switch postitions and &...
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Are "brat" and "frater" cognates?

Both the Slavic brat (Брат) and the Latin frater mean brother. Are they cognates? Or is their phonetic "proximity" a red herring? Related: How were “bratrъ/bratъ” and “sestra” formed in ...
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About phonological history of Middle French

Schwa in hiatus dwindled in French a few centuries ago. Compare the example "saputum > sëu > su" at Wikipedia/History of French Does anyone know WHEN this sound change occurred? I ...
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What do "titles" and "Beijing" stand for?

I am looking at metonyms and I have two examples I am interested in, but I am not sure what they stand for. The bookshop holds over 1 million titles. Since Beijing, the Olympics have got even more ...
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Could lat. circus 'circle' (< gr. κίρκος) and κύκλος 'cycle' be related?

It is well established that the Latin word circus 'circle' is a loanword from Greek κίρκος kírkos 'circle, ring'. But it seems that κίρκος is of uncertain origin. One possibility is that κίρκος would ...
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When and by whom were the terms 'ergative case' and 'absolutive case' coined?

The terms 'ergative' and 'absolutive' indicate cases in ergative-absolutive languages. The terms themselves derive from Greek respectively Latin roots. Given that Greek and Latin are not themselves ...
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Why does Old Norse ‘Óláfr’ have á instead of ei?

The Proto-Germanic (PG) diphthong *ai generally becomes ei in Old Norse (ON), except regularly before an original *h and commonly before r (but only from PG *r, not from rhotacised PG *z). Examples ...
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Etymology of words in English translations

I posted this in English but they suggested this site. The question was about the English language because of roughly 50/50 Germanic/Latin roots. Anyhow here it is... I have often daydreamed about ...
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Why do Proto-germanic "-as" nouns have e-grade?

Why do Proto-germanic "-as" nouns have e-grade (don't have an ablaut like Ancient Greek τρέπ-ω τρόπ-ος, πέκ-ω πόκ-ος, λέχ-ομαι λόχ-ος, φέβ-ομαι φόβ-ος)?
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Why does purple mean red in some places?

The English word purple nowadays refers to the color that is a mixture of blue and red. This word ultimately derives from the Latin purpura which also referred to that color, so it is faithful to that ...
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German contraction "wara" - morphology or phonology?

The regular form War er ... 'was he ...' would, in certain positions of sentence in my idiomatic sociolect, sound approximately as * wara /vaːʁɐ/. I can not imagine at the moment how this came ...
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ʕattiq, antiquus

When I first heard the Hebrew name for the Old City of Jerusalem, haʕir haʕattiqa, lit. "the old city", I thought I heard an echo in the term. I thought of Attic Greece but more plausibly of ...
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Why is PGmc *hanhaną cogante with *hōkaz, variant of *hakô (“hook”) and not with *hanhuz?

Why is PGmc *hanhaną cogante with *hōkaz, variant of *hakô (“hook”) and not with *hanhuz?
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Do the Turkic languages have "-ia" suffix/ending to denote countries or abstract notions?

Both the Indo-European and Semitic languages have a combination of suffix+ending -i-a, which can be applied to form country names. It also conducts the feminine gender. The IE and Semitic suffixes are ...
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origin of the word "de" in the name of Tycho de Brahe, Danish astronomer

I am conducting a little research about the origin of the word "de" in a version of a name of the Danish astronomer "Tycho Brahe", namely: "Tycho de Brahe". Here is what ...
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Etymology of the Turkish word "rüzgâr"

In Turkish rüzgâr means "wind". From the looks of it (especially the long â vowel which is not native to Turkish) it seems to be of Persian origin: "روزگار". Some sources verify ...
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What does Axel Schuessler mean by "area word"?

My son's studying Chinese. His teacher asked how 念 semantically appertains to its components 今心. I don't speak Chinese, and he had no idea. Then we resorted to Wiktionary that refers to Axel ...
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How do new function words develop in a language?

It's very understandable how new content words emerge in a language, since we can see it happening constantly in the modern day. On the other hand, I have trouble imagining the process by which a word ...
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etymology of "a" being used as a prefix to mean "not" [closed]

Was merely curious about the origination of "a" being use as a prefix to mean "not", as in atypical or asymptomatic. I have only done a cursory search for an answer, but I figured ...
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What is the origin of a Hungarian word cápa (shark) [closed]

The word for shark in Hungarian is cápa. Quick search for its origin didn't bring me anything. Probably there are some Hungarian sources, but I don't know the language, unluckily. As Hungary is a ...
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Etymology of "kipos", the greek for garden

Consider the following ancient greek word: κήπος This means "garden". 'Horto' is the latin. 'Jardin' in french is obviously the root for garden, but the links between Latin, Greek and ...
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Why is the Croatian word "pjena" (foam) spelt with "je" as if it were from Slavic yat, rather than "i", as it is from Slavic "y"?

Why is the Croatian word "pjena" (foam) spelt with "je" as if it were from Slavic yat, rather than "i", as it is from Slavic "y"? We know it is from Slavic &...
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What is the etymology of the Maghrebi interjection "شاه" (chah or cheh)?

At least in the Maghreb, there is a word to say "serves [somebody] right!", i.e. "!شاه" or "ccah!" in Berber form. I'm struggling to find its etymology. Although it might ...
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Is there a common ancestor between the Hebrew לבן ("lavan", white) and the English "albino"?

I noticed these two words share the same central consonants, and wouldn't it be fascinating if the l-b-n semitic root has a common source to the English "albin-" as in albino and albinism? I ...
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Relationship between "גולגולת" (skull) and "גלגל" (wheel)

Both "גולגולת" (skull) and "גלגל" (wheel) are listed, on Wiktionary, as coming from the shared root ג־ל־ג־ל. All of the other words except for גולגולת have clear relationships to ...
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Middle English: y or ȝ

Lately I've been looking up the Middle English of many Modern English words via Wiktionary. It was my understanding that by this point in the history of English ȝ was in heavy use. Yet these ...
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How did wið shift to denote association rather than opposition?

Millar doesn't expound the semantic shift at all, but Wiktionary tries to. But wið is a functional morpheme, that at large change with less probability. So why did it shift "to denote association ...
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What is the name of the phenomenon of the subsequent semantic convergence of a borrowed cognate? [closed]

What is the name of the phenomenon of the subsequent semantic convergence of a borrowed cognate? For example, similar occurs in for the borrowed Latin 'video', which, however, of course, is original p....
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Are PIE *yóh₁r̥ "spring, summer" and Proto-Turkic *yāŕ "spring, summer" cognates?

In Turkic it seems to be related to the word for "half" (yarım in modern Turkish). The semantic development looks more likely into the direction half->spring rather than the opposite.
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Is there a name for the type of word that the word, “scarecrow,” is? (a transitive verb conjoined with its object)

The English word, “scarecrow,” spontaneously came to mind the other day, and I realized just how similar this word is to other words and phrases in other languages. For example, there are many ...
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Languages or Dialects Wherein Rain/Cloud and Tear/Cry are Cognates

Are there any languages or dialects wherein at least one of the words for rain, (rain)drop, or (rain)cloud is a cognate of at least one the terms for tear(drop) or cry(ing) ? or (rain)clouds are ...
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Why is the proto-italic reconstruction of "corpora" "*korpezā"?

I was studying rhotacism and I came across the word corpora (plural of corpus). I would reconstruct the proto-italic form as *korpoza, but I saw the entry on Wiktionary and it says that the actual ...
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Mechanism(s) as to how the pronunciations of「也」and its Old Chinese "homophones"/phonetically-derivative glyphs drifted to the modern range of sounds?

In my question https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/47777/meaning-of-early-written-versions-of-%E5%9C%B0-and-etymology, I learned that the modern character for "earth, ground"「地」(dì) ...
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In what sense are terms for "white/shining" and for "swamp/marsh" "semantically connected" in many languages?

Although a closed question, reading THIS we find a link to Wictionary with the text: From Proto-Albanian *baltā (“marsh”), hypothetically from a Proto-Indo-European *bʰolHto- (“white > marsh”), a ...
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Is the word for "brother-in-law" in Germanic languages related to the Aramaic/Syriac גיס?

Here is the word for "brother-in-law" in various modern Germanic languages: schwager (German), shvugger (Yiddish), swaer (Afrikaans), svoger (Norweigan/Danish), sogor (Croatian), zwager (...
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Compound English word with most etymologies

There are many English words with two different core etymologies, often Latin + Greek. For example: Claustrophobia – from the Latin claustrum meaning "confined space" and Greek φόβος (...
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Prefix a(n)- in Sanskrit and English

In learning about the three Buddhist marks of existence - referred to by the Sanskrit words anatman (lack of permanent self), anitya (impermanence) and dukkha (suffering) - I was interested to learn ...
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Is Medea not the root of media?

Google definitions states that media has it roots in: late 19th century: shortening of modern Latin tunica (or membrana ) media ‘middle sheath (or layer)’. This really did not make much sense to me, ...
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How were “bratrъ/bratъ” and “sestra” formed in PSl?

The PIE r-stem words seem to have lost the final -r in PSl: OCS mati, dъšti, and how some words which had -r (and -l) in final position preserve this consonant in the middle of words in slavic?
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Origin of Italian plurals

Some sources say that italian plurals come from the nominative case, so "italiano" has the plural "italiani", and "italiana" has the plural "italiane". However ...
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What is the etymology of Wanona (said to be the name of Kullervo's sister meaning "weeping")?

Tolkien coined the name Wanōna (also Welinōre, Wanōra, Oanōra) in his Story of Kullervo. It's totally possible they belong to Tolkien's constructed languages. But I think the etymology is still ...
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Why is the word "war" in Romance languages predominantly of Germanic origin instead of Latin?

I wonder why in all Romance languages the word "war" ("guerra", with their multiple intonations) is a term that comes from Germanic languages, and that no modern language resembles ...
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How did the romance languages' feminine/masculine genders develop?

How did French, Spanish, Italian, end up with gendered nouns? The Wikipedia page Proto-Indo-European nominals says Originally, there probably were only an animate (masculine/feminine) and an ...
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Distinction between Chemistry and Alchemy in Arabic and Farsi languages

According to Wikipedia, in Europe the semantic distinction between the rational science of chimia and the occult alchimia arose in the early 18th century. So it seems like there was a need to separate ...
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In Search of an Etymological Name Database

Do such things even exist? Attempts at searches turn up rather limited and uninformative sites dedicated to parental demographics, and that's not what I'm looking for. Specifically, I'm looking for a ...
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