When I learnt that the Breton word for television is skinwel, I wondered where it came from. Today I think I’ve found the answer (via TermOfis) – skin means ray, and appears in words such as:

skinek = radiant
skinad = radiation
skinañ = to radiate, shine, beam
skinforn = microwave oven (“ray oven”)
skin an Heol = sunbeam (“ray of the sun”)
skingomz = radio (“ray talk”)
skingaser = transmitter (“ray messenger”)
skindommerez = radiator (“ray heater”)
skinlun = x-ray (“ray picture”)

The wel part comes from gwel (view, sight, vision), I think, and appears in such words as:

gwelus = visible
gwelet = to see, look

I find it interesting when new words like this are invented for modern inventions, rather than just borrowing international terms like television, telephone and radio. Other examples in Breton include pellgomz = telephone (“far talk”) and urzhiataer = computer (“order-er”). Such words may not be used in everyday speech, but I think it’s nice to know that they exist.

Can you think of examples in other languages?

This entry was posted in Breton, English, Language, Words and phrases.

11 Responses to Skinwel

  1. Fred Thrung says:

    Computer in French is “ordinateur” – almost exactly the same derivation as your Breton word.
    TV in German is “Fernseher” or far seer

  2. bulbul says:

    In Finnish, computer = “tietokone”, lit. “data/information machine”. In Hungarian, it’s “számítógép”, lit. “counting machine”, same composition as in some Slavic languages – Czech/Slovak “počítač”, Serbian “računar”, Croatian “računalo”, Slovenian “računalnik”. As far as I can tell, all those are in actual use, albeit in higher registers. In everyday Slovak, for example, I use the word “komp” 🙂

  3. David Eger says:

    In Latvian:
    tālrunis – telephone (tāls = far; runāt = to speak [root: ‘run-‘; ‘-is’ is a generic masculine noun ending]).
    tālredzis – television (redzēt = to speak)
    ierakstīt – to record (sound) (rakstīt = to write)

    Such words (the second one in particular) tend, however, to be the reserve of linguistic purists and you are as likely to hear the loan words ‘telefons’ and ‘televizija’ (which, interestingly, preserves the feminine gender of French ‘-ion’ words).

    Welsh has (for the benefit of the non-Cambrophone readers):

    cyfrifiadur – computer (cyfrif = to count)
    cyfrifianell – calculator (don’t know the derivation of the ending)
    popty ping – microwave oven (popty = bakery, oven; second part is self explanatory)

    My Welsh vocabulary is very limited but, as far as I am aware, neologisms seem to be less abundant than loan words from (or via) English.

  4. Petréa Mitchell says:

    The Japanese for telephone is 電話 denwa, “electric talk”.

  5. Lev says:

    Calque is a popular method of creating words for new concepts. “order-er” is a calque from French, “far talk” from Greek, but it’s interesting that “ray-vision” seems original.

  6. Joe Mock says:

    Spanish has ‘ordenador’ on the grounds that a machine cannot compute, only order or organize. It’s actually used, at least in Spain.

  7. TJ says:

    One word here that really caught my attention: skinforn. This is because Oven in Arabic is also called forn or furn [فُـــرن].

    In Arabic we do have words for all these inventions but in everyday life (specially that standard Arabic is rather written not spoken in everyday life only in occasions), most of these terms are not used – but borrowed words for these inventions.

    Some words I could think of now are:
    1. Haatif [هاتف]: Telephone (~caller), from the verb hataf [هتف]: to call out loud.

    2. Hásúb [حاسوب]: Computer (~calculator, exaggerative form), from the verb Hasab [حسب]: to calculate, to count.

    3. Miðyá? [مذياع]: Radio (~announcer), from the verb ða? [ذاع]: to spread the news, to announce.

  8. Rauli says:

    In Finnish, the telephone is called “puhelin” (instrument for talking).

    In the early days of the television, it was called “näköradio” (visual radio). Nowadays it’s just “televisio” (no N in the end), although it’s usually abbreviated as “telkka” or “TV”.

    In Icelandic, the telephone is called “sími” (from síma, ‘cord’), and the television is “sjónvarp” (vision projection).

  9. Rauli says:

    Oh, meant to say this as well:
    The word “popty ping” (mentioned by David Eger) is hilarious!

  10. Kevin says:

    It’s also excruciatingly twee, and I for one refuse to use it!

    The real term is microdon — though I’ll let you have meicrodon too if you want to say it that way.

  11. Shimmin Beg says:

    Manx is a heavy mixture of both types, but I think tends more to calqueing than Irish seems to (they do more transliteration). Greek and Latinate words tend to get borrowed more, and Germanic or French ones replaced.

    Can’t really give an unbiased judgement though, since I create quite a bit of terminology and I tend quite heavily towards repurposing words or calqueing. Broadly speaking I think that a term made up of own-language elements used in specific ways is more transparent, and so easier to learn and for laymen to understand, than a Greek-root term transliterated via French and English. Of course some such terms are well-known from the English, but many others aren’t. So for “cnidocyte”, rather than something like “knidoseet” that just looks arbitrary, we have “killag ghuinney”, meaning “stinging cell”.

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