Skip to main content
37 votes
Accepted

Is there any evidence that the modern word for "bear" is an euphemism which replaced the original taboo word?

You are correct that whilst the argument that the original term was replaced is pretty strong, the arguments for taboo being the reason for its replacement is much less clear-cut. The first thing ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,871
20 votes
Accepted

Are there clear exceptions to the alleged universality of "alphabet" as a term used in all languages

This is rather a bizarre claim to make in a widely published book, since it’s so easily disproven. There are lots of words for ‘alphabet’ that are different from the English term.   Alphabet, abjad, ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
17 votes
Accepted

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

Europe, West Asia, and North Africa is where I'm most familiar with things, so I'll largely restrict myself to those regions, but there is no shortage of peoples or nationalities whose endonym is (...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,871
13 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

America has its name from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose first name is of Germanic origin. Việt Nam is Middle Chinese, meaning “Southern Yue”. Iraq is (probably) from Middle Persian ērag,...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.3k
12 votes
Accepted

Why does πεντάμορφη mean "beautiful"?

In Classical Greek, πεντάμορφος is a perfectly straightforward compound adjective made up of πεντά- ‘five-, penta-’ and μορφή ‘shape’. Its meaning is also transparent, ‘having five shapes’, and it is ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
11 votes

What is the name of the first known word from which the current word is derived?

I don't believe there is a single word. I would describe this as the "earliest attested antecedent". I might also use another word like "predecessor", "etymon", or "...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,871
10 votes

Is it reasonable to connect the Old Persian/Avestan word for "garden" with the Greek word?

It doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. Persian is not my speciality, but going by etymologies given on Wiktionary, their similarity is completely coincidental. Greek Greek βοτάνη contains the ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
8 votes

Spurious Fs' spawning

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no commonly attested general process by which /f/ spawns in the initial position of a word. Or differently stated, this is not a regular sound change. Rather, ...
pinnerup's user avatar
  • 1,013
8 votes
Accepted

Why is "knife" in Ukrainian different from other Slavic languages?

This is one of the most salient and well-known features of Ukrainian, and the first mentioned in Wikipedia’s description of the history of the Ukrainian language; it is not just this word. The ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

What is the name of the first known word from which the current word is derived?

Proto-form may also be used in chemistry, but in linguistics it refers to a reconstructed form from which other forms are derived (see proto-language and comparative method). An example of a proto-...
Keelan's user avatar
  • 4,221
7 votes

Etymological link between “govern” and “born”

No, they are not related. Bear has a very solid, established etymology going back from English to Proto-Germanic to Proto-Indo-European. The PIE root is *bʰer-, and it means ‘bear, carry’ all the way ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

Did the Phoenician letter 𐤄 have any meaning on its own or in earlier writing systems?

In Phoenician writing, the letters were named after words in the language, but didn't mean those words. ʔalp (or something like it) was the Phoenician word for "ox", but the glyph ʔalp didn'...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.2k
6 votes

Spurious Fs' spawning

I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘general’ way that initial f spawns, cross-linguistically, so a general answer is probably not possible, but answers for individual languages are, such as this ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of North Italian dialects' particle /g/ (cf. Italian "ci", "gli")?

First, the form is not gh (at least in the regional languages I am familiar with) but rather ghe (that sometimes can support elision, but not often). For example in the Venetian Ghe go dito 'I have ...
Denis Nardin's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Accuracy of Этимологический словарь иранских языков (Etymological Dictionary of Iranian Languages) by Rastorgueva and Edelman

In the third volume on page 176 where they mention Persian درنا (durnā) “crane”, they do so with a reference to [Аб. ИЭСОЯ IV, 304] which is an abbreviation for Историко-этимологический словарь ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.5k
5 votes
Accepted

Is it a coincidence that both Italian and German use third person feminine pronouns for formal second-person address?

Italian uses the third person feminine by following Spanish usage of usted. It simply never developed a special pronoun, which is reasonable as Italian very rarely uses the pronoun at all (e.g. Cosa ...
Denis Nardin's user avatar
4 votes
Accepted

Does the Arabic word for sheep come from booty or is it the other way round?

The root ġ-n-m occurs in Arabic, Ancient South Arabian (Sabaic), and Modern South Arabian (Harsusi); otherwise there are no Semitic cognates. In Sabaic it forms a noun “booty” and a verb “to plunder”; ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.3k
4 votes

Languages where the word for addict references submission

How about English? "Addict" is borrowed from Latin addictus, passive participle of addīcō, "deliver, surrender, enslave (a person to another person)".
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.2k
4 votes

Are there clear exceptions to the alleged universality of "alphabet" as a term used in all languages

Plenty of languages have other words for it. Most Slavic languages, for example, use a word along the lines of azbuky, named after the first two letters of the Glagolitic alphabet instead of the Greek ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.2k
4 votes

Is morphology of English mostly done by its etymology?

The short answer is that English just doesn't really like using its own derivational morphology. In, say, German, when a new term is needed, it's often created within German using a combination of ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.2k
3 votes
Accepted

Similar and cognate words between Swedish and Iranian are related to which historical era?

For instance the word "Daughter" which is the same in most Germanic languages, shows a completely similar pronunciation between Swedish and Persian,( dotter= dokhtar ) as if they have ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
3 votes

Is it reasonable to connect the Old Persian/Avestan word for "garden" with the Greek word?

Merely "making sense" isn't good enough, we strive for a a well-enough supported line of logic and observations. Ancient Greek βοτάνη [botanɛ:] derives from the verb typically cited as βόσκω ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
3 votes

Was the word 'vehicle' first used as a concrete noun or as an abstract noun?

The first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from the 1530s, from a translation of Galen, where it refers to the honey that a medicine can be mixed with to make it go down more easily. ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.2k
3 votes

Why is "knife" in Ukrainian different from other Slavic languages?

Is this part of a more general trend ("i" instead of "o"), or just this word? The former, and the phenomena of this has a name in Ukrainian liguistic terminology: ikavism. If it ...
Sǫ́tjnôstj's user avatar
3 votes
Accepted

Mechanism(s) as to how the pronunciations of「也」and its Old Chinese "homophones"/phonetically-derivative glyphs drifted to the modern range of sounds?

Ultimately, this question boils down to "How are these Old Chinese syllables reconstructed to be so similar when even their Middle Chinese reflexes are quite different?" One thing to state ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,516
3 votes

Does "and" come from the PIE word for "and"?

Is "and" a recent word?: No; it's been used for at least 2,000 years. The same word occurs in other Germanic languages such as German 'und'. It is a variant of teh word 'end' which has a ...
Ned's user avatar
  • 606
3 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

I don’t know that they qualify as nations or ethnic groups, but a number of US states have names that are derived from local Native American languages, and thus their associated demonyms are ...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar
3 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

Origin of the name "Canada" The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.” In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer ...
Aubreal's user avatar
  • 131
3 votes

When were the Greek names for these countries first used?

It is all egregiously anachronistic, beyond some stock ecclesiastical turns of phrase in the end, inevitable for somebody schooled in religion. It is in (clumsy!) late 19th century journalese Greek (...
Cosmas Zachos's user avatar
3 votes

Are there Romance parallel descendants to Italian "cicalare" and Romanian "cicăli(re)"?

Spanish and Portuguese have the word cigarra, which also refers to the insect and ultimately comes from Latin (there is debate whether the Portuguese word is native or replaced its native word with ...
Quaestor's user avatar
  • 139

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible