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) [source].

The word mûr (ripe; mature) comes from the Latin mātūrus (mature; ripe; early), from the Proto-Indo-European root *meh₂- (to ripen, to mature) [source].

The word mûre (blackberry; mulberry) comes from the Vulgar Latin mora (mulberry), from the Latin mōrum (mulberry) from the Ancient Greek μόρον (móron – mulberry; blackberry) from the Proto-Indo-European *moro (mulberry; blackberry). [source].

One Welsh word for wall, mur [mɨ̞r/mɪr], comes from the same root as the French word mur, probably via Norman or Latin. Another word for wall in Welsh is wal, which was probably borrowed from English. The word pared is used for interior walls, though only in literary Welsh. This probably comes from the Latin pariēs (wall) from the Proto-Indo-European *sparri (wall), which is also the root of the Spanish word pared (wall), the Portuguese parede (wall), and similar words in other Romance languages [source].

The word wall comes from the Old English weall (wall, dike, earthwork, rampart, dam, rocky shore, cliff), from the Proto-Germanic *wallaz/*wallą (wall, rampart, entrenchment), from the Latin vallum (wall, rampart, entrenchment, palisade), from the Proto-Indo-European *wel- (to turn, wind, roll) [source].

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases.

3 Responses to Blackberries and Walls

  1. Chris Miller says:

    I regularly pick mulberries from a mulberry tree in a park in the “north” end of Montreal, one of the few mulberry trees that grow in this region. Few people know what it is (Italian, Algerian, Lebanese and other Mediterranean immigrants excepted). When people come past and ask/talk about it, I find three kinds of reactions. The immigrants generally tell me how much better they are back home (no surprise, given the differences in climate!) The English- Canadians react with pleased surprise when I tell them the fruits are mulberries: though they may never have seen or eaten any before, they know the word and now have the pleasure of seeing (and tasting) actual mulberries for the first time. For the French Canadians, though, the first reaction when I tell them they are “mûres” is “But I thought they grew in bushes…” I have to go through a long process of explaining that these are the original “mûres”, delving into the botanical relationships of blackberry “mûres” (raspberry relatives in the Rosaceae) versus mulberry “mûres” (relatives of figs in the Moraceae). But everyone goes away delighted, especially after the surprise of tasting a plump, fresh mulberry…

  2. Macsen says:

    I guess that the Welsh ‘mwyar duon’ (blackberries) and mwyar in general is from this Latin root?

  3. Simon says:

    Macsen – mwyar (duon) comes from the same root as the Latin word: the PIE word *mor(o), as do words for blackberry in other Celtic languages: mouar (Breton); moreen-dhu (Cornish); sméar dubh (Irish); smeyr (ghoo) (Manx); smeur-dhubh (Scottish Gaelic).

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