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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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What is the etymology of “Tarim” as in “Tarim Basin” and does it relate to Tocharian?

I was trying to obtain a proper etymology for the name "Tarim" and found it rather difficult. The Wiktionary page only lists the modern Turkish word tarım meaning agriculture, so was the Wikipedia ...
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“program” Equivalent in Arabic [on hold]

Program and programming language don't have a known translation in Arabic. برمجة and برنامج are used, even though they aren't Arabic. Is there a native word that can be used instead?
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Which came first in Greek: λήθη, or Λήθη the proper noun?

i.e. λήθη: a noun meaning oblivion or concealment, and Λήθη: a proper noun referring to a river in Greek myth. My question is this: is this noun a reference to the mythological river, or was the name ...
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Etymology of Latin infinitive verb endings

I was wondering, what the etymology of Latin infinitive verb endings -are, -ere and -ire was. I assume they are Indo-European, but I haven't found any information about it.
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Arabic word for door from root d-l-t or d-l-th

I know that the Hebrew letter 'daleth' originates from the word for 'door', indeed the Modern Hebrew word for door is 'dalet'. Is there an Arabic word for door from this same root - d-l-t or d-l-th? ...
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Which word came first: 'cabbage' or 'cherub' in hebrew?

In modern Hebrew, כרוב means "cabbage", besides the biblical meaning "cherub". Are these meanings related in any way?
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Why is “index” as a noun pluralized as “indices” while the present tense verb is “indexes”? [closed]

What is the reason behind this? Do the noun and the verb have different derivations?
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Hand gesture - Patting

I apologize if the following question is off-topic on this site. Some time ago, I was sitting at a table in a cafeteria/canteen. A few tables away, I saw someone I knew. This person also saw me and ...
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PIE Etymology of Ger *heute* “today” vs Lt *hodie*, Sanskr *adja* etc

This question about Top of the morning got me thinking. Most west european words for today are akin, said to be influenced by Latin hodie1. But Sanskrit adja, from * PIE *h₁e-dy-és, *h₁é (“this”, and ...
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Why do some (usually, first ones) ordinal numbers seem completely different from corresponding cardinals?

I've noticed that in some (all? most?) languages, ordinal for 1 and 2 are completely different (i.e., not derived) from corresponding cardinals: English One/Two/Three vs First/Second/Third is a bad ...
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Could someone illuminate for me how PGmc *suma and *sama(n) were derived?

Ie, I am assuming that they are both ultimately deriviative of PIE *sem-/*som-. So, how are they derived from this, in terms of morphemes, and their meanings? I have skimmed through both Ringe and ...
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Latin “niger” from *negʷ-?

Could Latin niger "black", of uncertain origin, come from *negʷ- "bare, naked"? For an analogy, compare black, blank, Spanish blanco "white, argent", and their roots PGem *blakaz "burnt", PGem *...
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Why is the English name for Bruges the same as the French despite that it's a Flemish city?

My question is about the name of Bruges, Belgium. In Flemish, Bruges is called "Brugge", and in French, it's called "Bruges". Despite the city being part of the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, we ...
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Is it possible to trace the origin of words 'স্বাধীনতা' in Bengali and 'स्वाधीनता' in Hindi?

Both the words sound similar and have similar meanings so my presumption is that they are derived from one or other or have a similar origin. There is a slight difference in meaning as per my ...
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Why are there words meaning both “breath” and “life/spirit” in so many languages?

In Ancient Greek, πνεῦμα (pneuma) can mean "breath" as in "a breath of air" (literal) or "divine breath of inspiration" (figurative); it can also mean "life", "spirit", and "vitality" as demonstrated ...
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Why does Sankr. नक्ति (nákti) not show Satemization

Did Sanskrit नक्ति (nákti) "night", PIE *nókʷts, not participate in the kentum-satem split? Why? Is it a loan? There are at least two synonyms, if that makes any difference. I have no actual reason ...
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Why “were” for subjunctive?

Is the subjunctive (what I learned in school as "Konjunktiv 2") Ger. "wäre" ("Ich wäre gern ..." - I'd like to be ...) cognate to "were" even for singular person ("*als ob ich sicher wäre " - as if I ...
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What is the etimology of the ancient greek word “εὑρίσκω”

I can't seem to find and Indo European root for this word. I'm not even sure if it has indo european origins.
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Why we use altepetl in Nahuatl, not atepetl?

In the Nahuatl language, the word "altepetl", which means a city-state, comes from the combination of "atl" and "tepetl". But according to the word combination rule in the Nahuatl grammar, the suffix -...
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How did /hw/ become spelled <wh>?

Why Do Languages Change? (2010) by R. L. Trask. p. 13.     Changes in pronunciation can happen with considerable speed. Consider /hw/. Historically, English had a number of words ...
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Statistical Methods in Etymology

Etymologists tend to categorize the probability of theories under formulaic labels. These range from "uncertain" over "tentative" or "not convincing" to "established", "accepted" or "nonsense". P ...
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What is the history of ‘history’?

The meaning of history is clear. That which is in the past. Is the cultural use of the word ‘history’ a corrupted ‘yesterday/gisteren/gestern’ descriptive for ‘the day before the stars (compare Dutch ...
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Are the English word “charm” and Russian word “чары” etymologically related?

Do "charm" and "чары" share a common etymological root? (NB: "чары" is a Russian plural noun meaning "magic" or "charm." Also note that the English noun "charms" has historically meant magic or ...
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Algorithm for identifying “secondary roots”

In machine learning on text data (aka natural language processing), it's common to apply a stemming or lemmatization algorithm to the text. However, sometimes you want to go a step further. For ...
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Do animal names correspond with verbs that have to do with their use to humans or their observed behaviour? [closed]

In an earlier question here I used an example of animal names versus words (often verbs) that have rather similar spelling and can be linked by observations of behaviour or the functional use to ...
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What linguistic impact, if any, has the the Roman three name naming system left on modern Romance and European languages?

The ancient Romans had a three name system (tria nomina): praenomen, the birth/given name; the nomen, like a family name but marking the person as belonging to a specific gens; and the cognomen, of ...
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Are Hindi: muskān and Russian: usméška cognates? (Noun smile)

This is what I've found so far: Noun Hindi: मुस्कान f (muskān) Russian: усме́шка (ru) f (usméška) Verb Indo-Iranian: *smáyati Proto-Slavic: smьjati (*smijàti) PIE: *(s)meyh₂- English: Smile
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Etymology of a word “Egg” in different languages [closed]

I would like to know translations, transcription and etymology of the translations of a word "Egg" in different languages. I prefer to have answers given in the following form: Translation ...
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Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)?

Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)? BACKGROUND: I suggested to a forum of linguists that a certain Semitic word (...
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Axioms in English: If we try to find the root meaning of every English word in the dictionary,which word will we land on the most [duplicate]

Assume an alien has landed on Earth and wants to learn English with the help of an English Dictionary. He looks up the meaning of "the". Meaning of "the": "denoting one or more people or things ...
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The letter V in German, its sounds and visual symbolism [closed]

The word Fotze (cunt) has the irregular spelling Votze, which is usually explained as a reference to the denotated part. But comparing Vater (father), I don't know any reason why hat wouldn't be Fater....
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PIE *kom 'with, side by side' or PIE *ḱóm?

wiktionary: Proto-Indo-European/ḱóm - Etymology Perhaps from *ḱe. Adverb *ḱóm beside, near, by, with AHD-IER: kom Beside, near, by, with Is the initial consonant a plain k ...
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What is the etiology of the word for ‘pyramid’

Etiology as the origins study in linguistics is meant here to find the origin for the European words for the Egyptian pyramids. It seems there is no acceptable answer to this question, leaving a lot ...
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How did Gk. ταινία “band, ribbon” come from PIE *tn̥-yā- < *ten- “to stretch”?

AHD-IER (Watkin, 2011) P93 gives PIE *tn̥-yā- for Gk. ταινία: Suffixed zero-grade form *tn̥-yā‑. taenia; polytene, from Greek tainiā, band, ribbon. while EDG (Robert Beekes, 2010) P1444: ...
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Can we use etymology to determine the nature of synchronic semantic and morphosyntactic differences between (near-)synonyms?

I've recently joined a discussion in which some of the participants insist that if one doesn't understand the nature of the difference between two or more words (the ones discussed by us are synonyms ...
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Is there truly no semantic notion that underlies the prefix 'for-'?

McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). What Language Is (2011), pp. 87-88. Both McWhorter overhead and Etymonline avouch no single semantic notion that can underlie all of for-'s meanings. ...
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How did 'man's time on earth' semantically shift to mean the 'earth' itself?

John McWhorter PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Words on the Move (2016). p. 190 Bottom. World began as wer-eld, where wer p. 191 Top was that "man" word and eld meant "old," as in age. Wer-eld ...
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How did 'narrow' semantically shift to mean 'strong'? [closed]

John McWhorter PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Words on the Move (2016). p. 101.   So, one answer to the observation "But wasn't it nice to have a way to express that concept?" is: not really, and ...
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How often are dictionary etymologies wrong?

How often are the etymologies in dictionaries incorect? Sometimes when reading a dictionary I see a derivation of a word which contradicts my intuition. For example I read that "ball" comes from ...
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119 views

Genocide vs. genticide [closed]

I was interested in understanding the origin and meaning of the word "genocide" and went to the Online Etymology Dictionary where it says that "The proper formation would be genticide." Why would the ...
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How did « admettre » semantically generalize to signify 'confess'?

McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). The Power of Babel (2003). p. 32 Bottom.   Semantic drift has an especially visible effect on combinations of roots and prefixes or suffixes, and this ...
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Gold in French, light in Hebrew

I am fascinated by questions of linguistic relation between Hebrew and the Romance Languages, but I feel here I may have stumbled on a false connection and would like to be properly put in my place. ...
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Why aren't linguists formally trained in etymology?

McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue (2009). p. x Bottom.   Yet my impatience with the word fetish of typical popular treatments of The History of English is ...
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Is it possible for two Semitic (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew) words with the same triliteral root to have different origins?

Learning Arabic, I see some examples of triliteral roots from which words with apparently different meanings are derived. Example: ف ط ر (f-ṭ-r) "to break apart or tear": فَطَرَ • (faṭara) (maybe ...
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Did modern Farsi lose its casual word for yes?

Hobby linguistic learner here. Farsi naturally shares a lot of simple words with other Indo-European languages: German for [daughter]: "Tochter" / "doxtar" (دختر) English for [bad]: "bad"/"bad" (بد) ...
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Does Sanskrit निस् • (nis) “out, forth, away” come from PIE *ni- “in; down?” with meaning shift from “in” to “out”?

निस्·nis "out, forth, away" > nirvana "to blow out, extinguish; out of breath?" नि·ni "down, back, in, into" < PIE *h₁én "in; down?" My question is whether these words are from the same PIE root? ...
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Phenomenon or phrase describing the understanding of words out of context

E.g. The phrase 'I love you' is common. If the word 'love' was replaced by an unrelated word (i.e. 'radiator') then the sentence 'I radiator you' would be meaningless. But if the word radiator was ...
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Why say “PC vs Macs” [closed]

What's the origin of the pharsing since Macs are personal computers and PC stands for Personal Computers but is used to refer to windows-powered computers? I apologise if I used the wrong tag.
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The origins of PIE *-nt- and *-to-

I have learned that English present participle suffix -ing and past participle suffix -ed came from PIE *-nt- and *-to- respectively. I have two questions about them. (1)Were these also used to form ...
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Why are the reconstructed forms of PIE root in Etymonline and Wiktionary different?

I found PIE roots described in Etymonline (or American Heritage Dictionary) and Wiktionary are quite different. For examples: agō: *ag- (Etymonline), *h₂eǵ- (Wiktionary) laxō: *sleg- (...