Britland

The word Britain is used to refer to the island of Great Britain, and is also to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or UK. As it’s the place I’ve lived most of my live, I thought I’d look into the origins of this word.

SS Great Britain

Britain comes from the Middle English Breteyn (Britain, Brittany), from the Old English Bryten/Breoton (Britain), from the Latin Britannia (the British Isles, Great Britain, the Roman province of Britain) – the land of the Britanni (Britons), from the Proto-Brythonic *Prɨdėn (Britain), from *Pritanī, which is possibly related to *Prɨdɨn (Picts), and the Ancient Greek Πρεττανική (Prettanikḗ – British Isles). The name Brittany comes from the same root [source].

Until the 1st century BC Britain was known as Albion in Latin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *Albiū (luminous world, upper world, high mountain, alp, alpine pasture, Britain), from the Proto-Indo-European *albʰós (white) – possibly refering to the white chalk cliffs along the south coast of Britian [source].

After the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, the name Britannia was used to refer to the Roman province of Britain, which consisted of what is now England and Wales and part of southern Scotland [source].

In Welsh Britian is referred to as Ynys Prydain (The Island of Britain) or Prydain Fawr (Great Britian). These words, along with Prydyn (Scotland, (land of the) Picts), come from the same Proto-Brythonic root as Britain [source].

The Irish name for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag (“Little Britain”), whlie Great Britain is An Bhreatain Mhór, and Brittany is An Bhriotáin [source].

In Scottish Gaelic A’ Bhreatainn Bheag is Brittany, Wales is a’ Chuimrigh, which comes from the Welsh name for Wales, Cymru and Great Britain is A’ Bhreatainn Mhór [source].

Oak Knowers

To me the word druid makes me think of Getafix, the druid in the Asterix comics – an old man with a long white beard who brews magic potions in a big cauldron. He has other names, such as Panoramix in many other European languages, and Kensawthetrix (“knows all the tricks”) in Scots [More details].

IMGR6414-ed

According to TheFreeDictionary, a druid is:

  1. a member of an ancient order of priests in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland in the pre-Christian era
  2. a member of any of several modern movements attempting to revive druidism

It comes from the French druide (druid), from the Old French druide (druid), from the Latin Druidae (the Druids), from the Gaulish *druwits (druid), from the Proto-Celtic *druwits (druid), from *daru (oak) amd *wid/*windeti (to know, to see), so a druid is an “oak knower/seer”, from the Proto-Indo-European *dóru (tree) and *weyd- (to see) [Source].

In Proto-Brythonic a druid or seer was a *drüw, which became dryw [drɨu̯/drɪu̯] (druid, seer) and derwydd (prophet, wise man, druid) in Welsh, drewydh (druid) in Cornish and drouiz (druid) in Breton [source]. It was also borrowed into Old English as drȳ (sorcerer, magician), which became drī(mann)/driʒ(mann) (sorcerer, magician) in Middle English [source]. A few modern druids use the word drymann, or something similiar, to refer to themselves.

Here’s a traditional Welsh folk tune called Y Derwydd (The Druid):

There is sheet music for several versions of this tune on The Session.

Sea Swine

A porpoise is a small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, and is related to dolphins and whales.

Eye Contact !

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
  • marsvin = guinea pig in Swedish
  • meerzwijn = porpoise in Dutch

Source: Wiktionary

Hairy Cats and Little Dogs

When you see a caterpillar, does it make you think of a cat or a dog?

Caterpillar

Why do I ask? Well, the word caterpillar comes from the Late Latin words catta (cat) and pilōsa, a form of pilōsus (hairy, shaggy), via the Old Northern French word catepeluse (caterpillar). So a caterpillar is a “hairy cat” [source].

In French the word for caterpillar is chenille [ʃə.nij], which comes from the Latin canīcula (little dog) because apparently the head of a caterpillar looks like a dog [source].

In Welsh a caterpillar is a deilbryf (“insect/lava/maggot of leaves”), ymlusgyn (“little creeper”), teiliwr (blewog) (“(hairy) tailor”) or teiliwr cantroed (“tailor with hundred feet”) [source].

In Irish a caterpillar is a cruimh chabáiste (“cabbage maggot”) or a péist cháil (“cabbage/kale beast”) [source].

Are there interesting words for caterpillars in other languages?

Bark, Ruffles and Beehives

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].

ruffles

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].

ruches

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include:

  • rusk [rysk/ʁysk] = bark, zest, beehive, bread pan;
    ruskenn = (bee)hive, apiary, frill, ruche (Breton)
  • rusc [rusk] = (bee)hive (Catalan)
  • rusk [ɾyːsk] = bark, peel (Cornish)
  • Reuse [ˈʁɔʏ̯zə] = fish trap, cage, shrimping net (German)
  • rúsc [ɾˠuːsˠk] = bark (of a tree); vessel made of bark (Irish)
  • roost [ruːst] = peel, bark, rind (Manx)
  • ruse [ˈrʉːsə] = fish trap (Norwegian)
  • rùsg [r̪ˠuːsɡ] = (tree) bark, peel, rind, husk, crust, fleece (Scottish Gaelic)
  • ryssja [rʏɧːa] = fish trap (Swedish)
  • rhisgl [ˈr̥ɪsɡl/ˈr̥ɪsɡɪl] = bark, rind, peel, husk (Welsh)

Sources: Grand Terrier Edition Skol Vreizh, TERMOFIS, catalandictionary.org, gerlyver kernewek, ReversoDictionary, teanglann.ie, On-Line Manx Dictionary, Bokmålsordboka | Nynorskordboka, Am Faclair Beag, Svenska Akademiens Ordböcker, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

Concerts and Beer

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].

Ánuna

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].

Beer samples

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:

A map of Europe showing words for beer

Source: https://ukdataexplorer.com/european-translator/?word=beer

Kvetching

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].

Ciarán, Caitlín & Cathal

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].

Iron Ferrets

What would you buy in a ferretería?

Trama

When I first saw this (Spanish) word, I thought it was a shop that sells ferrets. I was slightly disappointed to discover that it actually means hardware, or hardware store or ironmongers. Or in other words, a place selling things made of ferrous metal (iron).

ferreteria

It comes from ferrete (branding iron), from the Old French ferret (branding iron), a diminutive of fer (iron), from the Latin ferrum (iron); and -ería (a suffix that turns a noun into a store or restaurant that sells such an item; characteristic of) [source].

A shop selling ferrets (hurones) would be a huronería, and the Spanish word for ferret, hurón, comes from the Latin fūr (thief), which is also the root of the English word ferret [source]. More about ferrets.

Other words for hardware store in Spanish include:

  • quincallería – from quincalla (low-value hardware, junk)
  • tlapalería – from the Classical Nahuatl tlapalli (dye, ink, paint) – used in Mexico

Other words ending in -ería include [source]:

  • joyería = jewellers, jewelery store (not a shop selling joy)
  • ostrería = oyster bar
  • piratería = piracy, theft, booklegging (not a shop selling pirates)
  • sombrerería = hat shop
  • whiskería = whisky bar (not a seller of whiskers)

Skip to the Bin

Yesterday I discovered that a French word for skip is benne [bɛn], which also means cable car, cable way, dumpster, bucket, bin, barrow or dump truck [source].

Skip

It comes from the Latin word benna (a wagon of wicker or basket-work – see below), which comes from the Gaulish word bennā [benːaː] (carriage), from the Proto-Indo-European word *bʰendʰ- (to bind, bond), which is also the root of English words such as band, bandage, bend, bin, bind, bond and bundle, and also the Welsh word ben (cart, wagon, carriage), and the Italian word benna (bucket, grab) [source].

Benna
Similar wagons are still used in parts of Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. In Beligum they are known as banne, and they are benne in Switzerland. Sources: gutenberg.org and perseus.tufts.edu

Some related words in French include:

  • benne preneuse = grab bucket
  • benne basculante = dump bucket
  • benne à béton = concrete mixer
  • benne à boues = sludge skip
  • benne à papiers = paper recycling dumpster
  • benne à ordures = bin lorry, garbage truck
  • benne à déchets = rubbish bin, garbage bin
  • benne à cartons = cardboard bin

Incidentally, after I booked a skip the other day, my builder called to tell me that I didn’t need one after all. They will use a truck to take away all the detritus from the work in my garden. Fortunately I was able to cancel the booking and get a refund. Unfortuantely I can’t a refund on the skip permit, which the skip hire people applied for on my behalf.

Font Police

What do the words font and police have in common?

Well, a font or typeface as used in computers and other electronic devices is called a police [pɔ.lis] or police de caractères in French.

Words for font in various languages and fonts

As well as meaning font, police also means policy, branch or department. It comes from the Italian word polizza (policy, bill, voucher), from the Medieval Latin apodissa (receipt for money), from the Byzantine Greek *ἀπόδειξα (*apódeixa), from Ancient Greek ἀπόδειξις (apódeixis – proof, publication, demonstration). The English word policy comes from the same root [source].

The word police, as in the forces of law enforcement, comes from the Middle French police (governance; management), from Latin polītīa (state, government), from Ancient Greek πολιτεία (politeía – citizenship, government, adminstration), from πολῑ́της (polī́tēs – citizen) [source].

la police

Another French word for font, and also melting, smelting, thawing and
cast iron, is fonte [fɔ̃t]. This probably comes from fondre (to melt (down), smelt, dwindle), from the Old French fondre, from the Latin fundere (to melt), from fundō (I melt), from the Proto-Italic *hundō (pour out), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰewd- (to pour) [source].

The word font, as in “a receptacle in a church for holy water, especially one used in baptism”, comes from the Latin fōns/fontis (fountain), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰenh₂- (to flow) [source]. The name of the River Danube comes from the same root, via the Latin Dānubius, from the Proto-Celtic *Dānowyos, from *Dānu, from the Proto-Indo-European *déh₂nu (river goddess) [source].

Danube in Bratislava

What are your favourite fonts?