Archive for the Category: Greek

Pandora’s banjo

Last night a friend asked me about the origins of the word banjo. I wasn’t sure, so I did some investigating and discovered that banjo comes from the word bandore as pronounced by African slaves – ban’jōre, ban’jō. A bandore (/bænˈdɔə(r)/ /ˈbændɔə(r)/) is “a musical instrument resembling a guitar or lute, with three, four, or […]

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Flame of the woods

Lasair choille or ‘flame of the woods’ is the Irish name for the goldfinch (carduelis carduelis), two of which I saw on my apple tree this morning. I like to know the names of birds and other creatures in the my languages, and particularly liked the Irish version when I discovered it. The Irish word […]

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Rheithgor

I heard the word rheithgor (/ˈr̩əiθgɔr/) on Radio Cymru this morning in the context of a report on a trial, and guessed that it meant ‘jury’. The second element, gor, comes from côr (/koːr/) (choir, circle), and the first element, rheith, appears in such words as rheithfawr (greatly just), rheithiad (regulation), rheithio (to fix a […]

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Honey apples and quince cheese

A recent discussion with a friend got me wondering about the differences between jam, jelly, conserve and marmalade and the origins of these words. I discovered that in some varieties of English and in other languages some or all of these words can be used interchangeably, for example in American English jelly can refer to […]

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Colds, streams and rivers

It’s rather cold here at the moment with daytime temperatures not much above freezing, and nighttime dropping to -10°C (14°F) or even -20°C (-4°F) in places. As a result, some of the snow that fell last week has frozen solid and been trampled down on pavements and ungritted back streets making them decidedly icey and […]

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Word of the day – Petrichor

Petrichor, noun, /ˈpɛtrɨkər/ – the scent of rain on dry earth. It comes from the Greek πέτρος (petros – stone) and ἰχώρ (ichor – the fluid that flows in the veins of the Greek gods), and was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas. The smell isn’t of the rain […]

Also posted in English, Language, Words and phrases 22 Comments

Carpets and harvests

I moved into my new house yesterday and am currently having new carpets fitted, which got me wondering about the origins of the word carpet. Carpet has been traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root *kerp- (to pluck, gather, harvest) via the Old French carpite (heavy decorated cloth), the Middle Latin carpita (thick woolen cloth) the […]

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Word of the day – ἀρετή (arete)

Today we have a guest post from Stephen Dunne. ἀρετή (arete), noun = meaning virtue, goodness, excellence, purity. This Classical Greek word is difficult to encapsulate precisely in English but expresses a state of almost distinguished self enlightenment. It can however mean many other things besides virtues attached to the self; the Greeks did use […]

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Votes and elections

With the UK general election coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d look at the origins of a few election-related words. Vote comes from the Latin votum (a vow, wish, promise, dedication), which can be traced back to the PIE root *ewegwh- (to speak solemnly, vow). It first appeared in writing during the 15th century. Election, […]

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Cennin Pedr

Yesterday was St David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi), a day when many Welsh people wear daffodils (cennin Pedr) in honour of their patron saint. The daffodil (cenhinen Bedr) is one of the national symbols of Wales, along with the leek (cenhinen), and the Welsh name for daffodil means “Peter’s leek”. The leek has been a […]

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