Archive for the Category: Etymology

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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Stockungen

While listening to Deutschlandradio this morning one word that kept on coming up and that I didn’t understand was Stockung. It appears mainly in traffic reports, so I assume it meant something like delays or traffic jams. According to Reverso, Stockung means: – interruption, hold-up; congestion, traffic jam, hold-up – breakdown (in negotiations) – slackening […]

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Knock Cnoc

The element Knock is quite common in place names in Ireland, e.g. Ballyknock, Castleknock, Gortknock, Kilknock and Knockaderry [source]. There’s also quite a few places called simply Knock, the best known of which is the Knock in County Mayo in the west of Ireland , which is known as An Cnoc (the hill) or Cnoc […]

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Logoburroo and other place names

If an Australian visitor to the UK asked you for directions to somewhere they called Logoburroo [lɔgɜʉbəˈrʊː] would you know what place they were referring to? A friend of mine heard an Australian pronouncing Loughborough, a town in Leicestershire in central England, in this way and thought it was an interesting attempt at the name. […]

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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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Schurrbart

I came across the wonderful German word Schnurrbart [ˈʃnʊrba:ɐ̯t] recently and just liked the sound of it. The Bart part means beard – you can see the connection – and the Schnurr part comes from schnurren (to purr). According to Wikipedia: “Ein Schnurrbart ist ein über der Oberlippe wachsender Bart.” or “A moustache is an […]

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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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Voices and calls

After writing yesterday’s post I was thinking about the Czech word hlas [ɦɫas] (voice, vote) and realised that it is quite similar to the Welsh word for voice, llais [ɬais]. I wondered it they share the same root. Hlas comes from the Proto-Slavic *golsъ (voice), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *galsas (voice), from the Proto-Indo-European *golHsos, from […]

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Souhlasím

I learnt a useful Czech expression today – souhlasím – which means ‘I agree; all right; ok(ay)’. The element hlas (voice; sound; vote) I recognise, and I guessed that the prefix sou- might mean together, or something similar. According to Wiktionary, sou- is akin to the English prefix co- (together, mutually, jointly), so souhlasím might […]

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