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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27
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7answers
13k views

Why do so many core Romanian words with Latin roots come from different roots than in the other Romance languages?

Romanian is a romance language like Catalan, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish so much of its core vocabulary is derived from Latin. Why then even in core vocabulary does Romanian so often ...
24
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4answers
24k views

What are the historical origins of terms for north, south, east and west?

In the course of researching the etymology of the word "Australia", I was trying to find the Latin words for north and south (the cardinal directions). I found some websites that translate north as "...
23
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9answers
9k views

The relationship between “orange” the colour and “orange” the fruit

This is something that bugged me before I studied linguists, and it still does - why is the word "orange" so often used for both the colour and the fruit cross-linguistically? Every language I've ...
23
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5answers
2k views

Animals’ names change when we eat them: is that universal?

I rebound off a question asked on French Language & Usage: in many languages, some designations for animal meats (in its raw, uncooked and uncured form) differ from the live animal's name itself. ...
22
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2answers
15k views

What's the difference between a “false cognate” and a “false friend”?

There are two terms used for pairs of words (in the same or different languages) that look similar but are actually unrelated: false friend and false cognate. Are these terms synonymous? If not, what'...
20
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3answers
2k views

Is there a single origin for the connection between time and weather?

There are several families of languages where the same word can mean either a concept closely related to time or a concept closely related to weather: Romance root: French temps, Italian tempo, ...
18
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3answers
2k views

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 ...
18
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3answers
571 views

r in Romance names of London

Most Romance languages have an "r" in their renditions of the British capital's name: Londres, Londra etc. Outside the Romance family, I only found it in Turkish Londra and Breton Londrez, but those ...
18
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6answers
2k views

Are the Japanese and Korean subject particles known to be related in any way, including by Sprachbund?

Japanese and Korean have strikingly similar grammars but whether they are related or not is an open question. Both languages have a particle to mark the grammatical subject of a sentence and in fact ...
17
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3answers
4k views

Do any languages use {woman} as the root for human?

In English, along with some other Latinate languages, the word for our species as a whole is related specifically to that of the male sex: 'Latin humanus "of man, human," – Etymoline' This, ...
17
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3answers
2k views

Is Slavic [zima] (“winter”) derived from “snow”?

I was wondering why Thai word for "snow" was sounding similar to Slavic word for "winter": Thai: หิมะ [hì-má] "snow" Ukrainian: зима [ˈzɪ-mə] "winter" Polish: zima [ˈʑi-ma] "winter" Also, "...
16
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4answers
2k views

Are there languages in which “coffee” is not a cognate of a root containing k/q and f/h/w?

Is there a language, in which the word for "coffee" does not contain the sounds k/q and f/h/v, i.e. the word has a different root?
16
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3answers
1k views

Connection between right (opposite of left) and right (legal term)?

Does anyone know of a connection, or some sort of established historical/etymological explanation why in a few languages, "the opposite of left" and "legal term" are the same or seemingly related ...
15
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2answers
62k views

The Origin of the Word 'God'

I originally posted this a while ago on my blog, but someone recently suggested that I pose it as a question here. A brief Wikipedia search on the origin of the word ‘god’ reveals the following: ...
15
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1answer
2k views

Why is 1/12 called an “uncia” in Latin?

The Latin word uncia (which is the origin of the English word ounce) denotes 1/12 of a pound. Does anybody know the etymology of this word? Shouldn’t it be something more like *docia, or anything ...
15
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3answers
11k views

Is there any link between the word 'eight' and the word 'night'?

When writing a text message with my phone, I often write "good n8" to say good night. Yet, I notice that this could also work in many other languages, or if not, it's pretty close. For instance : ...
15
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2answers
851 views

Did Georgian ever have a native word for “dolphin”?

During my time in Georgia one word came to puzzle me and I'm still thinking about it: დელფინი (delp'ini) "dolphin" Wiktionary says this comes from Greek via Russian. The thing is Georgia is on ...
14
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1answer
2k views

Why does Greek “ναι” mean “yes” while it comes from a PIE root meaning “no”?

According to Wiktionary, the Greek word ναι comes from Ancient Greek ναί, which is a variation of νή, which comes from Proto-Indo-European ne, which means no. Why can a word have the opposite ...
13
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5answers
11k views

What is the relation between the words “Cossack” and “Kazakh”?

These two words in English would appear to refer to foreign peoples / cultures known to the Rus within recorded history. The Russian wikipedia pages indicate a surface similarity in spelling: ...
13
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1answer
402 views

Relations between 'knee' and 'generation'

Recently, a question was asked about the possibility of the words knee and generation being cognates. Unfortunately, that question is rather unclear, so I'm asking this as a separate post. The words ...
13
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3answers
1k views

Is there a relationship between Arabic ka'b and Greek kybos?

This is a complete layman's question. Online etymology dictionary says about kaaba: 1734, Caaba, cube-shaped building in the Great Mosque of Mecca, containing the Black Stone, the most sacred site ...
12
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2answers
389 views

What is the reasoning behind the selection of the IPA symbols?

There are many weird characters in IPA, like Glottal Stop symbol ʔ for example. Why these characters? Is there any reason for selecting them, or was their selection just arbitrary?
12
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1answer
2k views

Do the words “angst” and “anxiety” share a common root?

The English word angst, taken from German Angst, seems to ultimately originate from Proto-Germanic *angustiz. This word has descendants in many Germanic languages, including, but not limited to, ...
12
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3answers
14k views

What are the origins of the word Hebrew?

I have read that this word may derive from an Egyptian decree issued by Pharoah Merueptah (1224 which referred to the hebrew word 'habitu' (type of slave) who carry stones for the great pylon of the ...
12
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1answer
604 views

French Numbering System - Eighty to Ninety-Nine

Why does French use the format "4 x 20 + n" (n = 0 to 19) for numbers from eighty to ninety-nine?
12
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2answers
664 views

How do linguists find the etymology?

I was wondering, what is the method (or the methods) that linguists adopt to understand and know the etymology of a word? Are these methods reliable and in what measure? The knowledge I have on the ...
12
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6answers
2k views

Is “Kent” in Tashkent of Turkic origin or Indo-European?

In Turkish there is this word Kent which means city. Some Turkic city names have this as suffix, like Başkent and Tashkent. In Azerbaijani the same word, with the spelling of Kənd (Kand) means village ...
12
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1answer
742 views

Why does “half” not follow the pattern of ordinal numbers across languages?

The cardinal "a half" is unrelated to "two", whereas "a third", "a quarter" (and certainly "a fourth"), etc. are related to "three", "four", etc. This seems to be true in other languages, too, in ...
12
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1answer
2k views

Are English 'butterfly', German 'Butterfliege' and Dutch 'botervlieg' cognates?

Yesterday the question was raised why many languages do not share a root for 'butterfly'. When we look at the etymology of the English word, parallels are drawn to Dutch and German forms (OED): OE ...
11
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2answers
1k views

Reconstructed PIE grammar? Could we be able to speak in Proto-European?

I'm interested in etymology, so I see often the root of a word shown as a reconstructed PIE root, but is it only a set of words, or could we speak this reconstructed language? (even if it's only a ...
11
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4answers
3k views

Using the word “dream” as hope for the future across languages

Many languages seem to use the same word for "dream" (psychological phenomenon) and "dream" (hope for the future). Quick scanning on Wiktionary gives the list: Germanic languages: Danish (drøm), ...
11
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1answer
341 views

How does L. “quartus” come from L. “quattuor”, which has “quat” but “quart”?

quartus From Latin quattuor ("four"), originally from Proto-Indo-European quattuor From Proto-Indo-European *kʷetwóres. Cognates include Sanskrit चतुर् (catur), Old Armenian չորք (čʿork'), ...
11
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2answers
557 views

Why do so many languages have a phase like “so-so”?

Many languages seem to have some sort of repeating and/or singsong equivalent of the phrase so-so: Arabic: نصف نصف (nisf nisf) Chinese: 馬馬虎虎 (mǎma hūhu) Greek: έτσι κι έτσι Hebrew: ככה ...
10
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2answers
3k views

Why can “autarchy” be spelled with an “k” while other words not? [closed]

English has a set of words with "ch", coming — more or less directly — from the Greek language. They all have a /k/ sound. character charisma psychology choreography archive Just to name a few. All ...
10
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3answers
1k views

The origin of the term 'verb'

References tell me that the term 'verb' originally means 'word'. This is easily understood by usages such as 'verbal abuse', 'verbal agreement', 'he's very verbal', etc. That said, of all the various ...
10
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3answers
30k views

Why is “Aurora Borealis” from Greek, but “Aurora Australis” from Latin?

In astronomy we have the Aurora Australis in the south and the Aurora Borealis in the north. According to Wikipedia, auster is in fact the Latin equivalent of the Greek νότος, or southern wind. ...
10
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3answers
2k views

What are the Proto-Germanic words for sea, lake and a couple of others?

In Dutch "zee" means "sea" and "meer" means "lake", but in German "das Meer" means "sea" and "der See" means "lake". Similarly, verbs like to want, to need, to have, to desire, etc. are all mixed up. ...
10
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2answers
889 views

No etymology for “dad”?

It seems that the word "mom" derives from "mamm-", Latin for breast. I have actually heard it told that the Latin root "mamm-" derives from the baby's first natural sounds, though I cannot attribute ...
10
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3answers
3k views

What is the function of “-ter” in words “laughter” and “daughter”?

Because there exists a word "laugh" but "*daugh", while the forms are alike to each other. I can't find the function of the morpheme "-ter" here, which is maybe irrelevant to the "-ter" in "enter" or ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Why does the name of the flower 'Forget-me-not' have the same meaning in other languages?

The flower forget-me-not is named "Vergissmeinnicht" in German and "Незабудка" in Russian. The meaning is the same in all three languages. Is this a coincidence?
10
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1answer
378 views

Did the PIE word for “copper” mean “imitation”?

Michiel de Vaan's Etymological Dictionary of Latin has for PIE: a̯ei̯os copper and a̯eimos imitation, substitute a̯imea̯ image, copy All three words seemingly have the same root a̯ei̯- Are these ...
9
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6answers
15k views

Online etymology dictionary for Latin

Is there an etymology dictionary for Latin that is available on the Internet? For example, I know of http://etymonline.com/, which is a great resource for English etymology, but I have not been able ...
9
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3answers
2k views

Is دشمن (“enemy” in Persian) borrowed from δυσμενής (“hostile” in ancient Greek)?

A couple of years ago I encountered the world δυσμενής, meaning hostile, in an ancient Greek text I translated. If I recall correctly, this can be pronounced as "dusmenè". This always intrigued me, ...
9
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2answers
740 views

Are “txt-speak” and “emoticons” examples of normal language evolution?

"txt-speak" appeared because of the need to fit a communication into 160 characters. "Emoticons" appeared due to the need to convey an emotional context with your message so that it is read correctly ...
9
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2answers
477 views

Before being borrowed by Europeans, was “hurricane” ever pronounced with an initial “f”?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Spanish works about the New World in the 1500s wrote the word we spell in modern English as "hurricane" alternatively as "huracan" or "furacan". A ...
9
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2answers
406 views

Do distantly related languages have a lower incidence of false friends?

Are false friends less common between distantly related languages compared to closely related languages? If so, is it merely because there's fewer words that sound similar, or is it also that when ...
9
votes
1answer
515 views

Does E. day really come from PIE *dʰegʷʰ- (“to burn”)?

day From Middle English day, from Old English dæġ (“day”), from Proto-Germanic *dagaz (“day”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰegʷʰ- (“to burn”). Cognate with West Frisian dei (“day”), Dutch dag (“day”)...
9
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2answers
662 views

Two questions about Sappho's name

The Greek poeter Ψάπφω/Ψάπφα beared an interesting name, probably not Greek. I have two questions, about the first and the last letter of her name : (1) what was the value of the initial Ψ ? This ...
9
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1answer
312 views

How does PIE *d- in *dlegh- change to PGmc. p- in plegō (E pledge)?

As shown in the Wiktionary: pledge From Middle English plege, from Anglo-Norman plege, from Old French plege (Modern French pleige) from Medieval Latin plevium, plebium, from Medieval Latin ...
9
votes
1answer
197 views

Diachronic sources of negators

What are some examples of negators that have a known (or even conjectured) etymology? What kinds of non-negative meanings can develop into negative meanings? The etymologizable negators I know of all ...