Archive for the Category: Latin

Gabions and the importance of names

The other day I discovered that the name for those wire cages filled with rocks used in construction and to stabilise river banks, hillsides and shorelines are called gabions. The word comes from the Italian gabbione (big cage), which comes from the Latin cavea (cage). There are plenty of gabions around here, but I didn’t […]

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Novi Sad

As I’m going to the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad (Нови Сад) [nôʋiː sâːd] in October, I thought I should find out what Novi Sad actually means – it’s the kind of thing I like to know. I guessed that Novi probably means new, but had no idea what Sad might mean. According to this […]

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Curing, cleaning and caring

Yesterday I discovered that there are quite a few different French translations of the verb to cure, depending on what kind of cure you’re talking about. If you’re curing food by salting, the French equivalent is saler (to salt); curing by smoking is fumer (to smoke), and curing by drying is sécher (to dry). Curing […]

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Market places

Last week the origins of the word agora came up in conversation and I thought I’d find out more. An agora was a place of gathering or marketplace in Ancient Greece. It comes from the Ancient Greek ἀγείρω [ageirō] (I gather, collect), from the Proto-Indo-European *ger- (to assemble, gather together), which is the root of […]

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Taking the fly

I discovered an interesting French idiom today – prendre la mouche – which means literally ‘to take the fly’ and is the equivalent of ‘to go off in a huff’. Huff refers to ‘a passing mood of anger or pique’ A French equivalent of ‘to be in a huff’ is être vexé. Are there similar […]

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Knowledge and seeing

I discovered today that there is a connection between the Gaelic word for knowledge, information, news – fios in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, fys in Manx – and the English words video and wit. Their roots can all be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root woid-/wid- (to see/to know), which, according to the OED, is […]

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La gueule enfarinée

I discovered an interesting French expression yesterday while ferreting around in the dictionary – la gueule enfarinée, which literally means ‘the floured mouth’, but actually refers to someone who is ‘wet behind the ears’, i.e. new, untrained, inexperienced, immature, innocent, callow or naive (synonyms from The Chambers Thesaurus). The word gueule usually refers to the […]

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Docent

I came across an unfamiliar word today in a book I’m reading – docent. From the context I guessed it referred to someone who leads guided tours, but according to my English dictionary it means ‘(in the U.S.) a lecturer in some colleges and universities’, and it comes from the German word Dozent (associate professor, […]

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Orientating oneself

When visiting an unfamiliar place in order to find you way around it helps if you work out where you are in relation to particular landmarks and in which direction you’re facing. In order to use a map you need to know where north is so that you can hold the map the right way […]

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Archerien

An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages: – Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”) – Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”) – […]

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