Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European

Súilíní

I discovered an interesting word in Irish yesterday – súilíní [ˈsˠuːl̪ʲiːn̪ʲiː] – which is a diminutive form of súil [sˠuːl̪ʲ] (eye) and means literally “small eyes”, and actually means eyelets, an aperture-sight, or bubbles. For example, uisce gan súilíní is still water (“water without bubbles”) [source]. More common Irish words for bubbles are bolgán and […]

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Coasts and competitors

Sometimes when I see new words in English or other languages I can immediately break them down into their component parts and work out their roots, but other times I just accept words as whole entities without trying to work out their derivation. One such word in Welsh is arfordir, which I hadn’t tried to […]

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Fosses and Sextons

At the French Conversation Group last night one of the people had an old French language textbook from the 1950s which contains lots of stories in French. One of them contains the word “Le Fossoyeur” in the title, which is translated as “The Sexton”. As this wasn’t a word I’d come across before, I thought […]

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Hedgehogs and Urchins

I discovered today that sea urchins (echinoidea) are known as zee-egels (sea hedgehogs) in Dutch, and that they used to be known as sea hedgehogs in English as well. They have similar names in other languages, for example, in German they are Seeigel (sea hedgehogs), in French they are oursins or hérissons de mer (sea […]

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Haps and Mishaps

A mishap is “an unlucky accident”, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, and is often accompanied by the word minor – e.g. we had a few minor mishaps in the kitchen, but at least we didn’t burn the chicken. I happened upon the word mishap today and it got me wondering whether the word hap also […]

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Neo-eisimeileachd / Unthirldom / Independence

As there’s an independence referendum in Scotland today I thought I’d look at a few relevant words in Scottish Gaelic and Scots: Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) Scots English reifreann [rʲɛfərʲɛn̪ˠ] referendum referendum rneo-eisimeileachd [n̪ˠʲɔ eʃɪmələxg] unthirldom independence neo-eisimeileach [n̪ˠʲɔ eʃɪmələx] unthirlit independent bhòt [voʰt̪] vote vote Etymologies – neo-eisimeileachd: from neo- (un-), from Irish neamh-/neimh-, from […]

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Mochi

Yesterday I came across an interesting Welsh word in one of my Welsh dictionaries (Y Geiriadur Mawr) – mochi [‘mɔxɪ] – which means “ymdrybaeddu fel moch / to wallow as swine”. It comes from moch (pigs), the singular of which is mochyn, from the Proto-Celtic *mokkus (pig), which probably comes from a non-Indo-European root [source]. […]

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Churches and Cells

Today I discovered that the Welsh word llan (church, parish), which is used mainly in place names, such as Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, has cognates in the other Celtic languages: lann in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and Manx, and lan in Breton. These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *lendʰ- (land, heath) [source]. Another word church-related word […]

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High Stones

I spent yesterday in Harlech [ˈharlɛx] with a friend looking round the castle, exploring the village and wandering along the beach. We wondered where the name Harlech comes from, so I thought I’d find out. According to Wikipedia, there are two possible sources: from the Welsh ardd (high; hill) llech (stone) or from hardd (beautiful) […]

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Blackberries and Walls

The French words mur (wall) mûr (ripe; mature) and mûre (blackberry; mulberry) are written differently but pronounced the same – [myʁ], so are only distinguished by context in speech. The word mur (wall) comes from the Latin mūrus (wall), from the Old Latin *moerus/*moiros, from the Proto-Indo-European *mei (to fix, to build fortifications or fences) […]

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