A porpoise is a small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, and is related to dolphins and whales.
The word porpoise comes from the Middle English porpeys/purpeys, from the Anglo-Norman porpeis/purpeis, from the Old French po(u)rpois/pourpais (porpoise), from the Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (porpoise), from the Latin porcus (pig) and piscis (fish) [source].
Other (archaic / poetic) English words for porpoises, and dolphins, include: sea hogs, sea pigs, seaswine, or mereswine, from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise).
In French a porpoise is a cochon de mer (“sea pig”), or a marsouin [maʁ.swɛ̃], which comes from the Old English mereswīn (porpoise), or from another Germanic language, such as *mariswīn (porpoise, dolphin) in Old Frankish, meerswijn (dolphin, porpoise) in Middle Dutch, or marsvín (dolphin) in Old Norse. These all come from the Proto-Germanic *mariswīną (dolphin, porpoise) from *mari (sea, ocean, lake) and *swīną (swine, pig) [source].
Related words in modern Germanic languages include:
Mereswyne/Merswine = porpoise or dolphin in Scots
Meerscheinchen = guinea pig in German
marsvín = guinea pig in Icelandic and Faroese
marsvin = guinea pig or porpoise in Danish and Norwegian
The English word ruche [ɹuʃ] means a gathered ruffle or pleat of fabric used for trimming or decorating garments [source], or to flute, pleat or bunch up (fabric) [source].
It comes from the French word ruche [ʁyʃ], which means a (bee)hive, ruffle or flounce, and comes from the Middle French rusche (beehive), from the Medieval Latin rusca (bark), from the Gaulish *ruskā, from the Proto-Celtic *rūskos (bark, beehive) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European h₃rewk- (to dig (up), till) [source].
The Scots word fecht [fɛçt / feːçt / faeçt] means to fight, or to struggle in the battle of life against misfortune, poverty, etc. It comes from the Middle English fighten (to fight, battle, quarrel), from the Old English feohtan (to fight), from the Proto-West Germanic *fehtan (to fight), from the Proto-Germanic *fehtaną (to comb, detangle, struggle (with), fight, shear) from the Proto-Indo-European *peḱ- (to pluck, ruffle, tousle, shear) [source].
Related words include:
fecht, feicht = a fight
fechtand, feghtand = fighting
fechtar, fechter = one who fights (in battle or in brawls)
I learnt about this word on a video on Tiktok by @misspunnypennie – part of her Scots word of the day series. This particular video is about the word ilka, which means each or every. The example she gives includes fecht and fechter:
Agin ilka sair fecht there’s a bonnie fechter
(Against every hard fight there’s a fearless fighter)
By the way, if you prefer to avoid Tiktok, you can find compilations of the Scots Word of Day videos, and Scots-related videos by Miss Punny Pennie (a.k.a. Len Pennie) on Twitter and YouTube. Here’s Len talking about Scots:
When I heard the words fecht and fechter, I thought they must be related to the Dutch words vechten [ˈvɛxtə(n] (to fight, fighting) and vechter (fighter, warrior), which I learnt recently – they are indeed related and come from the same Proto-West-Germanic root [source].
Other words from the same Proto-West-Germanic root (*fehtan) include: fight in English, fäkta (to fence, fight) in Swedish, fechten (to fence, fight) in German, and фехтовать [fʲɪxtɐˈvatʲ] (to fence) in Russian, which was borrowed from German. To fence here means to fight with swords rather than to make a fence [source]
There is also a Dutch word related to ilka – elk, which means each or every [source].
The Irish word ceolchoirm [ˈcʲolˠ.xorʲəmʲ] means concert. It is made up of ceol (music) and coirm [korʲəmʲ] (feast, banquet, ale, beer). There are similar words in Scottish Gaelic (cuirm-chiùil), and Manx (cuirrey kiaull) [source].
The word coirm comes from the Old Irish word coirm (ale, beer), from the Proto-Celtic *kurmi (beer). Words for beer in the Brythonic Celtic languages come from the same root: cwrw in Welsh, and korev in Cornish and Breton [source].
The Latin word cervēs(i)a [kerˈu̯eː.si.a], which means beer made of wheat, especially of higher quality, comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, as do words for beer in some Romance languages, including cervexa in Galician, cervesa in Catalan and Occitan, cerveza in Spanish and cerveja in Portuguese [source].
From the same Proto-Celtic root we get the French word cervoise [sɛʁ.vwaz], which was a kind of ale or beer made from barley or wheat and without hops during the Middle Ages [source]. The archaic Italian word cervogia [t͡ʃerˈvɔ.d͡ʒa] (beer, ale made from barley or oats) was borrowed from the Old French cervoise [source].
The usual French word for beer is bière [bjɛʁ], which was borrowed from the Middle Dutch bier/bēr (beer), from the Old Dutch *bier, from Frankish *bior (beer), from the Proto-Germanic *beuzą (beer) [source].
Words for beer is some Germanic languages come from the same root, including Bier in German, bier in Dutch, and beer in English [source].
The Italian word for beer, birra, was borrowed from the German Bier, and the Greek word μπίρα (bíra – beer, ale) was borrowed from Italian, as were words for beer in Arabic, بِيرَا (bīrā), Maltese, birra, and Turkish, bira [source].
The Irish word beoir (beer) comes from the Middle Irish beóir (beer), from Old Norse bjórr (beer), which also has descendents in Scottish Gaelic (beòir), Manx (beer), Icelandic (bjór) and Faroese (bjór) [source].
Another word for beer or ale in North Germanic languages is øl (in Danish, Faroese, Norwegian) / öl (in Swedish and Icelandic). This comes from the Old Norse word ǫl (ale, beer), possibly from the Proto-Norse ᚨᛚᚢ (alu – ale), from the Proto-Germanic *alu (beer, ale), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂elut- (beer) [source].
Words for beer in Finnic languages possibly come from the same Proto-Germanic root, including õlu in Estonian, olut in Finnish, Igrian, Karelian and Veps, and oluq in Võro [source].
In Slavic languages words for beer come from the Proto-Slavic *pȋvo (drink, beer, beverage), including пиво (pivo) in Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian, pivo in Slovenian, Czech and Slovak, and piwo in Polish and Sorbian [source].
Here’s a map of words for beer in European languages:
An interesting Dutch word I learnt recently is kwetsen [ˈkʋɛtsə(n)], which means to hurt (sb’s feelings) or to harm, and in some Dutch dialects it means to wound or injure.
Related words include:
kwetsbaar = vulnerable, fragile, vulnarability
kwetsend = hurtful, offensive, insulting
kwetsuur = injury, lesion, wound
It comes from the Middle Dutch word quetsen, from the Old Dutch quezzon (to damage, hurt), and was possibly influenced by or borrowed from the Old French quasser (to break, annul, quash), from the Latin quassāre (to shake, agitate), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷeh₁t- (to shake) [source].
The German word quetschen [ˈkvɛtʃən] (to squash, crush, squeeze, mash, strain) probably comes from the same root [source], as does the Yiddish word קוועטשן (kvetshn – to squeeze, pinch; bother, complain), from which we get the English word kvetch [kvɛtʃ] (to whine or complain, often needlessly and incessantly) [source].
Incidentally, the German equivalent of a squeezebox (an informal name for accordions, concertinas and related instruments) is a Quetschkommode, or literally a “squeeze commode / dresser / chest of drawers” [source].
The English word quash (to defeat decisively; to void or suppress) comes from the same Old French word (quasser), via the Middle English quaschen, quasshen, cwessen, quassen (to crush, smash, cancel, make void, shake) [source].
From the same PIE root (*kʷeh₁t-) we get the English words pasta, paste, pastiche and pastry [source]. Pasta, for example, comes from the Italian pasta (paste, pasta), from the Late Latin pasta (dough, pastry cake, paste), from the Ancient Greek πάστα (pásta – barley porridge), from παστός (pastós – sprinkled with salt), from πάσσω (pássō – to sprinkle) [source].
The other day I came across an interesting Dutch word – klimop [‘klɪ.mɔp], which means ivy (Hedera helix).
It comes from opklimmen (to climb up, become greater, become larger), and literally means “climb-up”, which seems like a good name for a plant the climbs up walls and other things [source].
Klimop also features in Afrikaans, and similar words are used in Low German (Klimmop) and Papiamentu (klemòk) [source].
Klimmen (to climb, go up) comes from the Middle Dutch climmen (to climb, rise, to go up, increase), from the Old Dutch *climban (to climb), from the Proto-Germanic *klimbaną (to climb) [source].
The English word climb comes from the same root, via the Middle English climben [ˈkliːmbən/ˈklimbən] (to climb, scale, ascend, soar), and the Old English climban [ˈklim.bɑn] (to climb). In Late Middle English the b was no longer pronounced, so climben became [ˈkliːmən/ˈklimən]. Then the i became a diphthong and the -en ending fell off, resulting in the pronunciation [klaɪm] [source].
The English word ivy comes from the Middle English ivi (ivy), from the Old English īfiġ [ˈiː.vij] (ivy), from the Proto-Germanic *ibahs (ivy), from the Proto-Indo-European *(h₁)ebʰ- [source].
From the same root we get words for ivy in Danish (efeu), German (Efeu) and Norwegian (eføy) [source], and words for yew (trees) in Celtic languages, including iúr in Irish and iubhar in Scottish Gaelic [more details]
One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is grappig [ˈɣrɑ.pəx], which means funny or amusing. It comes from grap [ɣrɑp] (a joke or prank), and is related to grijpen [ˈɣrɛi̯pə(n)] (to grap, seize, intervene), which comes from the Middle Dutch gripen (to grab, attack, overwhelm, understand), from the Old Dutch grīpan (to seize, grasp), from the Proto-West Germanic *grīpan (to grab, to grasp), from the Proto-Germanic *grīpaną (to grab, grasp), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰreyb- (to grab, grasp) [source].
The English words grip and gripe come from the same Proto-Germanic root, as do words such as the German greifen (to grab, grasp, grip, seize, snatch, reach), the Danish gribe (to catch, seize, grab, grasp, grip), the Swedish gripa (to catch hold of, seize, detain), and the French griffer (to scratch) and gripper (to grab, grasp) [source].
If someone told you they were feeling a bit nesh, would you know what they meant?
Nesh [nɛʃ] means “sensitive to the cold” and “timid or cowardly”, according to Dictionary.com, and is apparently used in in northern and Midlands English dialects. Although I grew up in the northwest of England, I’d never heard it before a friend mentioned it yesterday.
Delicate, weak, poor-spirited, susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc
Soft, friable, crumbly
As a verb it means “to make soft, tender or weak”, or “to act timidly”.
It comes from the Middle English nesh/nesch/nesche, from the Old English hnesċe/ hnysċe/hnæsċe (soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton), from the Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī (soft), from the Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (soft, tender), from the Proto-Indo-European *knēs-/*kenes- (to scratch, scrape, rub).
Related words include:
neshen = to make tender or soft, to mollify
neshness = the condition of being nesh
From the same roots we get the German word naschen (to nibble, to eat sweets on the sly), and the English word nosh (food, a light meal or snack, to eat), via the Yiddish word נאַשן (nashn – to snack, eat) [source].
While putting together a post on the Celtiadur this week, I came across the Welsh word mwyara [mʊɨ̯ˈara/mʊi̯ˈaːra], which means to gather/pick blackberries, to go blackberrying, and also to be idle. I wouldn’t associate picking blackberries with being idle, but someone must have done in the past. Is picking blackberries or other fruit associated with idleness in other languages?
Mwyara comes from mwyar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Brythonic *muɨar (blackberries, berries), from the Proto-Celtic *smiyoros (berries) [source].
Idle means to pass time doing nothing, to move, loiter or saunter aimlessy, or (of a machine or engine) to operate at a low speed [source]. It comes from the Middle English idel/ydel, from the Old English īdel (empty, void, bereft, worthless, useless, vain), from the Proto-Germanic *īdalaz (idle, void, unused), from the Proto-Indo-European *yeh₁- [source].
Words from the same root include the Dutch ijdel (vain, idle, petty) and iel (thin, slender), the German eitel (vain), and the Welsh iâl (clearing, glade) [source].
Yesterday I added details of a language called Akawaio (Ka’pon) to Omniglot. It’s a Cariban language spoken mainly in northern Guyana, and also in northern Brazil and eastern Venezuela, by about 6,380 people.
You may be wondering why I mention this. What’s so special about this language? Well, it just happens to be the 1,500th language I’ve written about on Omniglot, and it feels like a significant milestone to me. There are many more languages out there: 7,139, according to Ethnologue – so only another 5,639 to go! That should keep me busy for a while.
It’s becoming increasingly challenging to find information about languages that don’t yet appear on Omniglot. About 4,065 of the world’s languages have a written form, although many are rarely written, and the remaining 3,074 are probably unwritten [source]. There is little or no documentation for many languages, and what documentation there is can be difficult to find. Inspite of this, I will continue to add new language profiles to Omniglot, and appreciate any help you can offer.
I’ve been working on Omniglot on my own since 1998 – there are no minions or other assistants to help me. However, many other people have contributed to Omniglot, by sending me corrections, new material, suggestions, donations and so on, and I am profoundly grateful to all of them.
This is the 3,414th post I’ve written on this blog since launching it in March 2006. At first I tried to write something every day, but soon realised that was too much. At the moment I aim to write two posts a week, plus the language quiz on Sundays.
In April 2007 I started uploading videos to YouTube. Some of the videos feature silly little conversations in languages I’m learning. Others involve music-related events I’ve taken part in, and tunes and songs I’ve written. In 2021 I started uploading videos more regularly, particularly videos about words and etymology, and some songs as well. As well as the Adventures in Etymology videos I upload on Sundays, I plan to make videos featuring alphabets, phrases, etc in a variety of languages. Here’s one I made of the Danish alphabet:
In September 2018 I launched the Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages. This is based the Celtic cognates part of Omniglot. So far I’ve written 227 posts, and add a new one every week.
Since 1998 I’ve become fluent in Welsh and Irish, regained my fluency in French, maintained my fluency in Mandarin Chinese, more or less, and have learned enough Esperanto, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch to have at least basic conversations. I’ve also learnt quite a bit of Russian and Czech, and some Romanian, Cantonese, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Icelandic, Faroese, British Sign Language, Breton and Cornish.
I’m currently concentrating on Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch, while trying to maintain my other languages, particularly French and Welsh. For the past 4 years or so I’ve studied languages every day on Duolingo – my current streak reached 1,369 today. I’ve also been using Mondly and Memrise. [More about my language learning adventures].
While not working on Omniglot or learning languages, I like to sing, play musical instruments and write songs and tunes. My musical adventures started long before Omniglot, but for many years after leaving school I only really listened to music. In 2005 I started going to Ireland every summer to learn Irish language, and also Irish songs, tunes and dances. This inspired me to take up music again. Since then I’ve learnt to play the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, cavaquinho and harp, and started playing the recorder, piano and tin whistle again. I’ve learnt songs in many different languages, and written quite a few songs and tunes.
Here’s a song I wrote in 33 different languages:
Enough of this shameless self-promotion. What about you? Have you reached any significant milestones recently?