Curing, cleaning and caring

Yesterday I discovered that there are quite a few different French translations of the verb to cure, depending on what kind of cure you’re talking about.

If you’re curing food by salting, the French equivalent is saler (to salt); curing by smoking is fumer (to smoke), and curing by drying is sécher (to dry). Curing leather is traiter (to treat), and curing illnesses, problems or habits is guérir (to cure, heal, recover).

The equivalents of these words in Welsh are:

- halltu = to cure (by salting)
- cochi (“to redden”); sychu mewn mwg; sychu trwy fwg = to cure (by smoking)
- sychu = to cure (by drying)
- cyweirio; barcio; cwrio = to cure (leather)
- gwella; iach’au; mendio = to cure (illness, problem, habit)

Do other languages have separate words for these?

The English word cure comes from the French curer, which means ‘to clean out’ in Modern French, and meant ‘to take care of, to clean’ in Old French, and comes from the Latin cūrāre (to care for, take care of, cure), from cūra (care, concern, trouble), from the Old Latin coira-, from the Proto-Indo-European root *kʷeis- (to heed).

Sources: Reverso, OED, Online Etymology Dictionary, Wiktionary

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

3 Responses to Curing, cleaning and caring

  1. Rauli says:

    Finnish is a lot like French when it comes to these words.
    - suolata < suola ‘salt’
    - savustaa < savu ‘smoke’
    - kuivata < kuiva ‘dry’
    - parkita, related to parkkihappo ‘tannic acid’. A Germanic loan, so cognate also with the English word bark. I’m assuming curing leather means the same as tanning.
    - parantaa, related to parempi ‘better’ and paras ‘best’.

  2. luke says:

    To your knowledge is there any relation between the french sec/seche and the welsh sychu? With no other info on hand at the moment, it sounds like it could be borrowed, but I think Italian also has “secco”…so maybe etymologically related? Or just a coincidence?

  3. Kevin says:

    Yes, Italian secco, French sec, and Welsh sych are all descendants of Latin siccus. There is, incidentally, another Welsh word for “dry” which predates the loan from Latin, and that is hysb (fem. hesb) – with the specialized meaning of “dried-up” or “barren” (as of animals that no longer give milk).

    Hysb and siccus both stem from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root *sisqo-s. As so often, PIE *s- becomes Welsh h-. Compare, for example, Latin senex and Welsh hen (PIE *sen-), Latin sol and Welsh haul (PIE *saewel-) , Latin sal and Welsh halen (PIE *sal-).

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