Eve

As today is the day before Christmas, I thought I’d look into the origins of the word eve.

Decorations

Eve means the day or night before, and is usually used for holidays and other significant events, such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It can also mean the period of time when something is just about to happen or to be introduced, such as the eve of a scientific breakthrough, and it used to mean evening or night.

It comes from the Middle English word even (eve, evening), from the Old English ǣfen (evening, eve), from the Proto-Germanic *ēbanþs (evening) [source]. Evening comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, via the Middle English evenyng (evening), and the Old English ǣfnung (evening) [source].

Related words in English including eventide, a poetic / archaic word for evening, and yestereve (yesterday evening).

Related words in other languages include avond (evening, night) in Dutch, Abend (evening, night) in German, aften (evening, night) in Danish and aften (night, evening, eve, dinner, supper) in Norwegian [source].

A Multilingual Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it.

Short Shrift

The other day I heard the expression short shrift being used, and started wondering what a shrift might be, and why it’s a short one that’s usually given or received.

The expression to give short shrift means to ignore, disregard or exclude (sb/sth); to give (sb/sth) very little time or attention. For example “Despite its urgency, ministers are giving the issue short shrift in parliament.” [source].

The word shrift means the act of going to or hearing a religious confession; a confession to a priest, or forgiveness given by a priest after confession. It comes from the Middle English shrift (confession, penitence, repentance), from the Old English sċrift (penance, penalty, a judge), from sċrīfan (to prescribe absolution or penance; to pass judgment), from the Proto-Germanic *skrībaną (to write), from the Latin scrībō (I write), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kreybʰ- (to scratch, tear) [source].

confessions

Short shrift is a rushed sacrament of confession given to a prisoner who is to be executed very soon; a speedy execution, usually without any proper determination of guilt; a short interval of relief or time, or something dealt with or overcome quickly and without difficulty [source].

The word shrive (to hear or receive a confession; to prescribe penance or absolution) comes from the same roots [source]. So does shrove, an old word that means to join the fesitivities of Shrovetide or to make merry. It appears in the name Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent, also known as Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday [source] or Jif Lemon Day [source]. Other names are probably available.

So now we know.

Before the Deluge

The word antediluvian means:

  • Ancient or antiquated
  • Extremely dated
  • Pertaining or belonging to the time period prior to a great or destructive flood or deluge.
  • (biblical) Pertaining or belonging to the time prior to Noah’s Flood.

It comes from the Latin ante- (before) and dīluvium (flood), which comes from dīluō (I wash away) and -ium (a suffix used to form abstract nouns), from dis- (apart, reversal) and‎ lavō (I wash) [source].

Afon Dyfrdwy / River Dee

The English word deluge (a great flood or rain), comes from the same Latin roots, via the Old French deluge (a large flood), as does the word diluvium (an inundation of flood, deluge; a deposit of sand, gravel, etc made by oceanic flooding) [source].

Other words from the same Latin roots include déluge (The Flood, deluge) in French, diluvio (deluge, downpour) in Spanish, díle (flood, deluge, torrent) in Irish, and dilyw (flood, deluge, destruction, ruin) in Welsh [source].

In Scottish Gaelic dìle [dʲiːlə] can refer to a deluge or flood. The phrase an dìle bhàite means heavy downpour or pouring rain, and the equivalent of it’s raining cats and dogs is tha an dìle ‘s an deàrrsach ann or tha an dìle bhàite ann an ceartair. As an adjective it means endless, for example gu dìlinn means “until the end of time” [source].

Another word for flood is inundation, which comes from the Old from inundacion (flood), from the Latin inundātiō (inuncation, overflowing, flood, crowd of people), from inundō (I overflow, inundate, flood) from in- (in, within, inside) and undō (I surge, flow), from unda (wave, billow) [source].

Undulate and undulation come from the same root, as does und, an obsolete word meaning wave, or in heraldry, a billow- or wave-like marking [source].

The word flood comes from the Middle English flod (river, lake, ocean, flood, rising tide), from the Old English flōd (flowing of the tide, river, stream, water, flood, deluge), from the Proto-Germanic *flōduz (river, flood), from the PIE *pléh₃tus (overflow, deluge), from *pleh₃(w)- (to flow, run) [source].

Cognates in other languages include flod (river, flood, high tide) in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, Flut (flow, flood, hight tide) in German, and vloed (flood, current) in Dutch [source].

Kenning

If something is beyond your ken, it is beyond your knowledge or understanding. The word ken only really appears in this phrase, but in some dialects of English in northern England, and in Scots and Scottish English, ken is more commonly used.

Ken

In English ken means to know, perceive, understand; knowledge, perception or sight. It comes from the Middle English kennen (to make known, tell, teach, proclaim, annouce, reveal), from the Old English cennan (to make known, declare, acknowledge), from cunnan (to become acquainted with, to know), from the Proto-West Germanic *kannijan (to know, to be aware of), from the Proto-Germanic *kannijaną (to make known), from *kunnaną (to be able), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵn̥néh₃ti (to know, recognize) from *ǵneh₃- (to know) [source].

Some related words include:

  • beken = to make known, reveal, deliver, commit
  • foreken = to perceive, realise ahead of time, foreknow, preconceive
  • kenning = sight, view, a distant view at sea; range r extent of vision (esp. at sea), a small portion, as little as one can discrimminate or recognize
  • misken = to mistake one for another, fail to know, misunderstand, ignore, disregard, neglect
  • outken = to surpass or exceed in knowledge

These are no longer used, rarely used, or only used in some dialects of English.

Kenning also means “A metaphorical compound or phrase, used especially in Germanic poetry (Old English or Old Norse) whereby a simple thing is described in an allusive way.” It was borrowed from Old Norse [source].

Some examples of kenning in Old Norse and Old English include:

  • báru fákr (wave’s horse) = ship
  • gjálfr-marr (sea-steed) = ship
  • heofon-candel (sky-candle) = sun
  • grennir gunn-más (feeder of ravens) = warrior
  • winter-ġewǣde (winter-raiment) = snow
  • hilde-leoma (battle light) = sword
  • seġl-rād (sail-road) = sea
  • hwæl-weġ (whale-way) = sea
  • heofon-candel (sky-candle) = sun
  • ban-hus (bone-house) = body

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kennings, https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cb45/kennings

There are cognates in other Germanic languages, including:

  • ken = to know (a person, a thing), be acquainted with in Afrikaans
  • kende = to know (be acquainted or familiar with) in Danish
  • kjenne = to know (be acquainted or familiar with), to feel or sense in Norwegian
  • känna = to feel or sense, or to know (a person) in Swedish
  • kennen = to know (a thing), be acquainted with in Dutch
  • kennen = to know, be acquainted with, be familiar with in German

In Scots ken means “To know, be aware of, apprehend, learn (a fact)”, and comes from the same roots as the English word [source]. Some related words include:

  • ken(n)ing = imparting, teaching, recognition, indentification, knowing
  • kenable = obvious, easily recognisable
  • kenmark = a distinguishing mark, mark of owenership on an animal, brand
  • kennage = knowledge, information
  • kenspeckle = easily recognisable, conspicuous, of familiar appearance

Together Living

A Dutch word I learnt recently is samenleving [‘samənlevɪŋ], which means society or community. It comes from samenleven (to live together, co-exist), from samen (together) and leven (to live), and could be literally translated as “together-living” [source].

Wonder All Around

Some related words include:

  • anderhalvemetersamenleving = ‘one and a half meter society’, in which (almost) everyone keeps a distance of one and a half meters where possible to prevent the spread of an infectious disease (especially Covid-19)’ [source]
  • wegwerpsamenleving = ‘throw away society’, in which using things once then throwing them away is normal [source]

The English word society comes from the Middle French societé (society), from the Old French societé (association, council, group, society, club), from the Latin societās (fellowship, association, alliance, union, community), from socius (associated, allied, partner, companion, ally), from the Proto-Indo-European *sokʷ-yo- (companion), from *sekʷ- (to follow) [source].

English words from the same PIE root include associate, consequence, obsequious, persue and sequel [source].

The English word community comes from the Old French comunité (community), from the Latin commūnitās (community; public spirit), from commūnis (common, ordinary, universal, public, democratic) [source].

In Old English a community was a gemænscipe [ˈjeˌmæːnˌʃi.pe], which is cognate with the Dutch word gemeenschap (community, society, fellowship) and the German word Gemeinschaft (community, group, company, sense of community). These come from the Proto-West Germanic *gamainiskapi (community), from *gamainī (common, shared, communal) and *-skapi (forms nouns denoting state) [source].

Dawning

A Dutch I learnt recently is uitdaging [ˈœy̯tˌdaː.ɣɪŋ], which means a challenge. It comes from uitdagen (to challenge), from uit (out, off, over), and dagen (to dawn, light, rise, start, call).

Dagen comes from the Middle Dutch dāgen (to dawn, rest (a horse), delay, summon), from the Old Dutch *dagon, from the Proto-Germanic *dagāną [ˈdɑ.ɣɑː.nɑ̃] (to dawn, to become day) [source].

dawn

The Scots word daw [dɑ:] (to dawn) comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, via the Middle English dawen and the Old English dagian (to dawn), as does the obselete English word daw [dɔː], which means to dawn, wake up, daunt or terrify [source].

The word dawning, a poetic word for dawn or the first beginnings of something, comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, and from it we get the word dawn (to begin to brighten with daylight, to start to appear) [source].

Jackdaw

The unrelated word daw is an old name for the jackdaw (Coloeus monedula), and also means idiot, simpleton or fool. It comes from the Middle English dawe, from the Old English dāwe, from the Proto-Germanic *dēhǭ (jackdaw), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰākʷ- (jackdaw, starling, thrush) [source].

Daw is also found in Scots, and means a sluggard; a lazy, idle person; a slattern, a drab or an untidy woman, and comes from the jackdaw sense of daw [source].

Gadwaddicking Gads

If someone told you they were going to gadwaddick, what do you think they meant?

jaunting cars

Here are a few possible meanings of to gadwaddick:

  1. to drag or tail along, to walk draggingly
  2. to go on a pleasure trip, to jaunt, to gad about
  3. to saunter, to walk slowly and clumsily

It is in fact the second, and is used in Norfolk dialect in the east of England. The first definition is for the word to drail, which is used in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorest, Somerset in the the southwest of English, and the third definition is for the word to dadge, which comes from the dialects of Northumbria and Cumbria in the north of England.

These words all come from The English dialect dictionary by Joseph Wright, which was published in 1900.

A gadabout is someone who restlessly moves from place to place, seeking amusement or the companionship of others, or in other words, someone who gads about [source], or gadwaddick about in Norfolk.

The verb to gad means “to move from one location to another in an apparently random and frivolous manner”. It comes from the Middle English word gadden (to hurry, to rush about) [source].

A gad is a greedy and/or stupid person, at least in northern England and Scotland, and comes from the Middle English gade (a fool, simpleton, rascal, scoundrel), from the Old English gada (fellow, companion, comrade, associate), from the Proto-West Germanic *gadō, from the Proto-Germanic *gadô/*gagadô (companion, associate), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰedʰ- (to join, unite) [source].

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 life, 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].

In Cornish, Britain is Breten and Great Britain is Breten Veur [source].

In Breton, Great Britain is Breizh-Veur and Brittany is Breizh.

The Irish name for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag (“Little Britain”), while 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.

Old Long Since

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and if you’re celebrating it with others, you might just sing the song Auld Land Syne. So I thought I’d look into the history of the song and the meanings and origins of some of the words.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Land Syne was based on a Scottish folk song with parts of it written by Robert Burns. It acquired the traditional tune in 1799. Burns sent a copy the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 claiming that it had never been written down before, and that he got it from an old man. The first verse and chorus have a lot in common with the ballad “Old Long Syne”, which was published by James Watson in 1711.

Here is Burn’s version of the song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus
For auld lang syne, my jo, (For old times, my dear)
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, (And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet)
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! (And surely you’ll buy your pint-pot)
and surely I’ll be mine! (and surely I’ll buy mine)
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, (We two have run about the hills)
and pou’d the gowans fine; (and picked the daisies fine)
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, (But we’ve wandered many a weary foot)
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, (We two have paddled in the stream)
frae morning sun till dine; (from morning sun till dinner time)
But seas between us braid hae roar’d (But seas between us broad have roared)
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! (And there’s a hand my trusty friend)
and gie’s a hand o’ thine! (And give me a hand o’ thine)
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, (And we’ll take a right good-will draught)
for auld lang syne.

This is what it sounds like in the original Scots:

For auld lang syne [fər o̜ːld lɑŋ səin] means literally “for old long since”, and can be translated as “for old times”, “for days gone by” or “for the sake of old times”.

pint-stoup [pəint.stʌup] means pint-pot, that is a tankard or drinking vessel containing a Scots pint (3 imperial pints / 1.696 L) [source].

brae [breː] = the brow of a hill, a hill, hillside or the high ground adjoining a river bank. From the Middle English bro/bra (bank of a stream, raised edge of a ditch or pit), from the Old Norse brá (eyebrow, eyelash) [source].

pou [puː] (also pul and pow) = to pull, to pluck (fruit, flowers, etc), or to gather produce of any kind. From the Middle English pullen, from Old English pullian (to pull, draw, tug, pluck off) [source].

gowan [ɡʌu.ən] = common daisy (Bellis perennis). From the old northern English dialect word golland. Possibly from the Old Norse gull/goll (gold) [source].

fiere [fiːr] = a companion, comrade, spouse, contemporary or equal. From the (Northumbrian) Old English fǣra, for ġefēra (companion, comrade), from ġe- (co-) and fēra (traveller) [source].

waught [wɑːxt] = to quaff, drink deeply, take large draughts (of); a draught of liquid, a long pull, swig or gulp of any drink. Of unknown origin.

Sources: Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, DSL – Dictionaries of the Scots Language / Dictionars o the Scots Leid, Wiktionary