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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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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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Origin of the negative connotation of “boy” [migrated]

Recently I stumbled on a discussion where the word "chico" in Spanish is translated to "boy". To my knowledge, using "chico" to refer to someone younger is considered normal. But in English, calling ...
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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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Fortition or Lenition as semantical markers

Is there a term for phonetic change relative to a change in meaning, for example a hard consonant becoming soft relative to a technical term that attains a diminutive sense? Curses for example sound ...
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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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Are there any words which have the meaning 'Hello' or 'Hi' with Turkic origin? [duplicate]

In Turkish we say Merhaba or Selam when we want to say Hi to someone but both of these words have Arabic origin. I know that the same goes on with the other Turkic languages like Azerbaijani, Kazakh, ...
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111 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- (...
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What are cognates of “fuck” in other Indo-European languages?

I am not asking for translations, but how the word itself is related to words in other languages and what those words have come to mean like how "shit" is related to "science". I would really ...
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What is the meaning of the number 2 in Proto-Indo European reconstructions? e.g. As in *tewtéh₂, meaning “people” or “tribe”

I am a writer doing some research into ancient languages for a story I am creating. Despite having done some formal and informal study on linguistics (I am familiar with a phonetic chart) and informal ...
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Do we have an Intonation “etymology”?

Recently I was thinking about a language I'm currently learning and its similarities with my own native language. While I assume grammar to change considerably depending on language it came to mind ...
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Can these new etymological pairs of PIE roots be true?

I find a paper containing new lists of cognates on PIE root level, and don't know such phenomena or rules are convincing or not, the list follows below: 1. The voiceless stop vs. voiced aspirated ...
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Origins of “Mark” as “symbol” [closed]

friends! How is it going? : ) I've been conducting a heavy research on the word "mark" for the past month, but unfortunately I'm far from being a linguist, so I lack decent resources... hahaha I ...
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How is chapter related to head?

In several languages, the word for "chapter" (a self-contained unitary text of a book) comes from the word for "head": In Latin, "capitulum" (literally "small head") comes from caput (head). This ...
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Is 'good bye" from an Asian origin?

The Thai ไป,-'Pị' as used in 'di pi' and the English 'good bye' sound the same and mean the same. Is there a known etymological link?
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Etymology of the unit “Marc” (German►English)

Friends! First of all, thanks for your time and help. I'm conducting a research on the word "Mark", and before I explain all I know so far, let me tell you: The goal is to trace the connection ...
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118 views

Etymology of the words ''Wave''

Do the words Wave(English) Welle(German) Vague(French) have the same Etymology as Val(Serbo-Croatian,Slovenian),Vlna(Czech,Slovakian),BолнаVolna. All these words mean the same thing-Wave. but I ...
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What's the difference between לזכור and להיזכר in Modern Hebrew? [closed]

In Modern Hebrew, the words לזכור and להיזכר both mean "to remember" and they both come from the root 'זכר'. As an English speaker, it's as if there were two words, "remember" and "remomber" and there ...
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'm' in the words meaning first person

I have read in a book about the theory that explains why in many languages pronouns meaning first person contain letter 'm' (e.g. me, moi, меня, mich) and pronouns describing second person contain ...
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Are the English words “essence” and “essential” related to the Spanish word “ser”?

I always think of the Spanish verb "ser" being related to "essence", which can be contrasted with the verb "estar", which is related to "state". "Ser" is also a noun with various meanings including "...
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276 views

Does the French word for Friday, “vendredi”, come from the Latin “Veneris” or the old Norse “Vanadis”?

When looking up the etymology of the French vendredi online, I can only find the suggestion that it comes from the Latin Veneris (Venus). However, the English, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish and ...