Etymological help needed

I’ve been asked for help in tracing the etymology of the Spanish word chedrón by Antonio from Canada.

The Spanish-speaking grandmothor of one of Antonio’s acquaintances used to use the word chedrón to refer to the colour of certain things. The problem is that she used the word quite inconsistently to refer to different shades of red, brown, pink, etc.

Antonino tried looking for chedrón, cheddrón, shedrón, chedron, cheddron, and shedron in the Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española (DRAE) and the closest spelling he found was cedrón, but that refers to a plant (not a colour) and the plant is green anyway.

On the PROZ website there was a discussion about how to translate the word into English and the answer was “cedar red”.

A Google search for the word and variant spellings revealed some pictures of objects which, for the most part, are darker shades of red or brown.

Antonio hasn’t found an authoritative spelling or definition for the word chedrón, but the Google searches seem to indicate that the word is actually used at least by some Spanish speakers, even if inconsistently.

The question is, do any Romance languages have a word that sounds anything like chedrón to signify a colour as described above? If no Romance languages have a similar word, do any other languages?

He’s not so much concerned about what chedrón looks like, but where the word comes from and how it is spelt in whichever language Spanish borrowed it from.

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This entry was posted in Language, Spanish.

11 Responses to Etymological help needed

  1. Rick says:

    From the DRAE:
    -ón: 1. Forma sustantivos y adjetivos, derivados de sustantivos, adjetivos y verbos, de valor aumentativo, intensivo o expresivo. (Noun and adjective form, derived from nouns, adjectives and verbs, having augmentative, intensive, or expressive value.)

    So cedrón would likely be cedro “cedar” + -ón either to turn it into an adjective or to distinguish the tree from the type of wood, or among various species of the tree.

    Cedro is derived from Latin cedrus, from Greek κέδρος. These roots were often used for various aromatic woods from species other than modern Cedrus, which could explain the varied denotation.

    That doesn’t explain the spelling and pronunciation change, but it’s easy to imagine local pronunciation [tʃe] as an Italian influence in northern Spain, and then regularization of spelling to fit the pronunciation. Italy would have been a likely route of importation from the Middle East to northern Spain.

  2. Zachary says:

    French has a very similar term to chedrón, and I’m guessing that the two words are related, “couleur chaudron.” Although literally translated as the ‘colour of a cauldron,’ it more accurately means the ‘colour of copper,’ thus regrouping warm colours such as brown, pink, and beige.

    Etymologically-wise, the word “chaudron” is derived from the word ‘chaudière’ (lat. cal(i)daria) suffixed with the diminutive ‘-eron’. It’s attested in 1329, and was most likely in use around the XII century, according to the CNRTL.

    And for reference, cedar is cèdre in French, although I doubt the relation with chedrón.

  3. prase says:

    Spanish ch doesn’t correspond to French ch. The former is a result of palatalisations of Vulgar Latin [jt] or similar clusters, while the latter comes from [k] before [a]. Compare
    fr. huit vs. sp. ocho
    fr. fait vs. sp. hecho
    fr. cheval vs. sp. caballo
    fr. chaleur vs. sp. calor

    I would guess that the Spanish etymological equivalent to Fr. chaudron should be something as calderón.

    The relation between cedro and chedro seems also doubtful, so I don’t believe the first two hypotheses. Unfortunately I can’t offer an alternative.

  4. LandTortoise says:

    I suggest an alternative hypothesis: that granny’s use of the said word was idiosyncratic. Her own invention, maybe based on mishearings, or just a liking for the warm sounding qualities of the word that corresponded to the warm hues to which she referred.

  5. In Italian, the citron fruit is called cedro. This word has also the following meaning: colore giallo tendente al verde simile a quello della scorza del cedro—“greenish yellow colour [literally, yellow leaning to green], similar to the one of a citron’s peel”.

    Source: Dizionario De Mauro Paravia.

  6. Adolfo says:

    As a native Spanish speaker (from Spain) I have never heard this word before. I would agree with LandTortoise that it could be a misleading.
    Where is the woman from?

  7. Antonio says:

    Interesting responses, all of them. The grandmother was from Mexico.

  8. James P says:

    maybe we should be looking at Nauhatl or something like that… ;) Or the idiolect answer ;)

  9. Zachary says:

    prase,
    Although I do agree with you that, that is what it should be, you have to consider that languages aren’t isolated, so borrowing could be an entirely plausible phenomenon if it didn’t develop alternatively alongside. Compare the borrowings ‘chef’, ‘chemise’, ‘chasís’, ‘ches long’, ‘chofer’… (Academia Mexicana de la Lengua). While I’m at it, I’ll also refute the other mentioned idiolect hypothesis by asking to google the terms ‘color chedron’ (unsurprisingly, a lot of the results happen to be Mexican).

    And I’ve also discovered that the word “chedron” is used in Canadian French as well, although it rather means something along the lines of a pot used to boil things (generally smaller than a cauldron). Although not in a dictionary, it’s seemingly related to ‘chaudron’, denoting a sound change of /O/ > /@/ (or /E/). This would help support my original argument.

  10. prase says:

    Zachary,
    of course borrowing is entirely possible (although I doubt borrowing of a word for colour from French directly to Mexican Spanish). I have reacted because the request in the original post was aimed at Romance languages especially. Since borrowings occur across language families, it seemed to me that the author of the post was interested in common Latin roots of that word.

  11. Zeeshan Hyder says:

    Why don’t you ask the grandmother what is the meaning of chedrón and in which sense it is used?

    My own experience: My grandmother also spoke the words which my parents does not speak, or not learnt by my parents. Also my children are learning the words from my mother which we (parents) are not speaking at all. (note: all the word are old, not spoken in the normal life)

    So, where these words are coming from? Well my theory is that, as women works separately from men (in many areas of the world) they speak the words which men do not speak. The old words are transferred to the daughters and granddaughters by centuries.

    As I watched my grandmothers they use the words in these manners:-

    1. The normal sense is altered.
    2. The words are strange (not heard by any one before).
    3. The words are altered (unknown suffix and prefixes are used).
    4. The sounds are changed (like ‘Shena’ to ‘Chena’).
    5. Single word used for different things.

    As for grand fathers never notice the things as above.

    There is also some thing else to mention that, women uses more names for colours than men.