Archive for the Category: Proto-Indo-European

Polyglot Conference, New York

This weekend I am in New York for the 2015 Polyglot Conference. I arrived yesterday afternoon after an uneventful flight from Manchester. It took a couple of hours to get out of the airport, and another hour or so to Manhattan. Last night I met up with some other polyglots near the Statan Island ferry […]

Also posted in Chinese, Conlangs, English, Esperanto, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Language, Manx, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Taiwanese, Toki Pona, Travel, Welsh 1 Comment

Awaken the Appetite

A ragout is a highly seasoned meat and vegetable stew, and comes from the French ragoût, which appears to be a general word for stew. Ragoût comes from the Middle French ragoûter (to awaken the appetite), which comes from the Old French re- (back), à (to) and goût (taste), from the Latin gustum (taste), from […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 1 Comment


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 […]

Also posted in Breton, Catalan, Cornish, Danish, English, Etymology, German, Irish, Language, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh, Words and phrases 7 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases Comments Off on Coasts and competitors

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 2 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, French, German, Language, Latin, Spanish, Words and phrases 3 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Old Norse, Russian, Words and phrases 2 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases Comments Off on Neo-eisimeileachd / Unthirldom / Independence


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]. […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 Comments

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 […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 7 Comments
%d bloggers like this: