A way to say excuse me in Irish is gabh mo leithscéal, which is pronounced [ˌɡɔ mə ˈlʲɪʃceːl̪ˠ] or something like that. If you’re talking to two or more people, you would say gabhaigí mo leithscéal. There are similar phrases in Scottish Gaelic – gabh mo leisgeul, and Manx – gow my leshtal. These mean literally “take my excuse”.
The first word in these phrases comes from the Old Irish gaibid [ˈɡavʲiðʲ] (to grasp or receive), from the Proto-Celtic *gabyeti (to grab, seize, take or hold), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰeh₁bʰ- (to grab or take) [source].
Related words in other languages include gafael (to hold, grasp, grip) in Welsh, gavel (capacity, grasp) in Cornish, gable in English, and words for to have in Romance languages, such as avere in Italian and avoir in French [source].
The second word in these phrases means my, and the third one means excuse. The words for excuse come from the Old Irish leithscél / leithsgéal / leithsgéul (excuse), from leth (half, side, direction) and scél (story), so an excuse is a “half story” [source].
A related word in Irish is leithscéalach (fond of excuses, apologetic). There’s a similar word in Scottish Gaelic: leisgeulach (excusing, apologetic) and in Manx: leshtallagh (apologetic, apologist, excuser, extenuating).
Here’s an interesting question that I was sent to me by email:
I am curious as to why some of the languages that developed from Latin had to put an extra ‘e’ at the start of some of their words.
Here are some examples:
It looks as if the Gauls, and the people living in the Iberian peninsula, couldn’t cope with the st- and sp- beginnings, and had to stick an ‘e’ on the front. Is this because words in the Celtic languages they spoke didn’t have such beginnings? I can’t find any similar words in modern Welsh.
Incidentally, the words for hope have a cognate in English – esperance, which is a old word for hope or expectation [source], and the ones for wife have a cognate in spouse (husband, wife).
Let’s look at the origins of some of these words to see how they have changed over time.
The Latin word stēlla (star), comes from the Proto-Italic *stērolā (star), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂stḗr (star). This became estoile/esteile/estelle in Old French, and estoile in Middle French. It was (e)strela in Old Portuguese and estrella in Old Spanish So the extra e has been there for a while [source].
In Proto-Celtic the word for star was *sterā, from the same PIE root as the Latin stēlla. This became *ster in Proto-Brythonic, Old Breton and Old Cornish, and ster in modern Breton and Cornish. So at least some speakers of Celtic languages could cope with the initial st-. In Old Welsh it was *ser, in Middle Welsh it was ser / syr, and in modern Welsh it’s sêr. It was also borrowed into Old Irish as ser [source].
The Latin word status means state, status, condition, position, place or rank. It became estat in Old French, from which we get the English word estate. Meanwhile in Old Spanish it was (e)strela, and in Old Portuguese it was estado [source].
It was borrowed into Old Irish as stad (stop, stay, delay), which is the same in modern Irish [source]. Proto-Brythonic borrowed it as *ɨstad from the Vulgar Latin *istatus, this became (y)stad / (y)stât in Middle Welsh and ystad (state, condition, situation) in modern Welsh [source].
What do the words care and garrulous have in common?
Well, care comes from the Middle English care (grief, sorrow), from the Old English caru/ċearu (worry, anxiety, care, sorrow, grief), from the Proto-West-Germanic *karu (care, worry), from the Proto-Germanic *karō (complaint, lament, grievance, moan, worry, sorrow, care, concern), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵeh₂r- (to shout, call, cry; voice) [source].
Garrulous (excessively or tiresomely talkative) comes from the Latin garrulus (talkative), from garriō (I chatter, prattle), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵeh₂r- (to call, cry), which is apparently of imitative origin [source].
Pictured above is a Eurasian Jay, also known as Garrulus glandarius – the garrulus part means chattering/noisy and the glandarius part means “of acorns”.
So, they come from the same PIE root, via different paths. Other words from the same root include [source]:
Italian: garrire [ɡarˈrire] = to chirp (of birds); to flutter, flap, wave (of flag)
Portuguese: garrir [ɡɐˈʁiɾ] = to resound, gossip, shine
Irish: gair [ɡaɾʲ] = to call, summon, invoke, name, proclaim, inaugurate, acclaim; and gáir [ɡɑːɾʲ/ɡæːɾʲ] = cry, shout, report, fame, notoriety; to shout, laugh
Welsh: gair [ɡai̯r] = word, speech, phrase, greeting, salutation
Cornish: ger = word
Breton: ger = word, speech, question
The English word slogan also comes from the same root, or at least part of it does. It comes from sloggorne/slughorn(e) (battle cry), from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm [ˈsl̪ˠuəɣərəm] (slogan, war cry), from the Old Irish slúag/slóg (army, assembly, crowd) and gairm (call, cry).
In the UK there are many different regional words for types of bread, particularly for bread rolls, and people tend to be quite attached to their version, believing it to be the one true name for such things. Not all of them refer to exactly the same type of bread product though.
Whatever you call them, they are small, usually round loaves of bread, and were apparently invented in the south east of England in 1581 [source], although similar small loaves were probably made in other places long before that.
Here are some of the words for bread rolls used in the UK:
The word roll comes from the Middle English rolle (role), from the Old French rolle / role / roule (roll, scroll), from the Medieval Latin rotulus (a roll, list, catalogue, schedule, record, a paper or parchment rolled up) [source].
The word bun (a small bread roll, often sweetened or spiced), comes from the Middle English bunne (wheat cake, bun), from the Anglo-Norman bugne (bump on the head; fritter), from the Old French bugne, from Frankish *bungjo (little clump), a diminutive of *bungu (lump, clump) [source].
The origins of the word bap, as in a soft bread roll, originally from Scotland, are unknown [source].
A cob is a round, often crusty, roll or loaf of bread, especially in the Midlands of England, is of uncertain origin [source].
A barm (cake) is a small, flat, round individual loaf or roll of bread, and possibly comes from the Irish bairín breac (“speckled loaf” or barmbrack – yeasted bread with sultanas and raisins) [source]. The cake in barm cake was historically used to refer to small types of bread to distinguish them from larger loaves [source].
A batch, or bread roll, comes from the Middle English ba(c)che, from the Old English bæċ(ċ)e (baking; something baked), from the Proto-Germanic *bakiz (baking), [source].
A stottie (cake) / stotty is a round flat loaf of bread, traditionally pan-fried and popular in Tyneside in the north east of England. The word comes from stot(t) (to bounce), from the Middle Dutch stoten (to push), from the Proto-Germanic *stautaną (to push, jolt, bump) [source].
They are known as oven bottoms or oven bottom bread, as they used to be baked on the bottom of ovens, and typically eaten filled with ham, pease pudding, bacon, eggs and/or sausage. A smaller version, known as a tufty bun, can be found in bakeries in the North East of England [source]
A scuffler is a triangular bread cake originating in the Castleford region of Yorkshire, and the name is thought to come from a local dialect word [source].
A nudger is a long soft bread roll common in Liverpool [source].
A buttery is a type of bread roll from Aberdeen in Scotland, also known as a roll, rowie, rollie, cookie or Aberdeen roll [source].
A teacake is a type of round bread roll found mainly in parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria. Elsewhere a teacake is a light, sweet, yeast-based bun containing dried fruits, often eaten toasted [source].
In Welsh, bread rolls are known as rholyn bara, rhôl fara, rôl / rol / rowl, bab, wicsan, cwgen, cnap or cnepyn [source]. There may be other regional words as well.
Rhôl/rôl/rol were borrowed from English, and rholyn is a diminutive. Bara (bread) comes from the Proto-Celtic *bargos / *barginā (cake, bread) [source]. Cnap was borrowed from the Old Norse knappr (knob, lump) and cnepyn is a diminutive [source]. Cwgen is a diminutive of cwc, cŵc, cwg (cook), which was borrowed from English.
In Cornish, bread rolls are bara byghan (“small bread”) [source].
In Scottish Gaelic, a bread roll is a bonnach arain – bonnach is a bannock or (savoury) cake, and comes from the French beignet (a fritter filled with fruit), from the Frankish *bungjo (lump, bump, swelling), from the Proto-Germanic *bungô / *bunkô (lump, heap, crowd), from the Proto-Indo-European bʰenǵʰ- (thick, dense, fat) [source], which is also the root of the English words bunch and bunion.
Aran (bread, loaf, livelihood, sustenance), comes from the Old Irish arán (bread, loaf), from Proto-Celtic *ar(-akno)- (bread) [source].
Yesterday while looking into Celtic words bear, I found some interesting ones in the Goidelic languages: mathúin [ˈmˠahuːnʲ] in Irish, mathan [ˈmahan] in Scottish Gaelic and maghouin in Manx. These come from the Old Irish mathgamain [ˈmaθɣəṽənʲ], from math (good) and gamuin (calf).
So bears were called “good calves” – this is possibly an example of taboo naming, that is using an alternative name for a dangerous animal rather than naming it directly, in the belief that this might it less likely to attack you.
In the Brythonic languages words for bear are arth (Welsh & Cornish) and arzh (Breton), which come from the Proto-Celtic *artos (bear), from the Proto-Indo-European h₂ŕ̥tḱos (bear). This is also the root of English word Arctic, and words for bear in Romance and other European languages.
There are no bears in the Anglo-Celtic Isles these days, except in zoos, but there were bears in Britain and Ireland until about 3,000 years ago. The Celtic languages were spoken back then.
The main theme of the Language Event I went to last weekend in Edinburgh was the languages of the Isles. The Isles in question include the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and about 6,000 other islands. The Isles are also known as the British Isles, but at the event the term ‘The Isles’ was used to be more inclusive.
The term “British Isles” is controversial in Ireland, where some object to its usage. The Government of Ireland does not officially recognise the term, and its embassy in London discourages its use. Britain and Ireland is used as an alternative description, and Atlantic Archipelago is also used to some extent by academics [source].
Other suggested names for these isles include the Anglo-Celtic Isles, the British-Irish Isles, the Islands of the North Atlantic, the West European Isles, the Pretanic Isles, or these islands [source].
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is one of the countries on these isles. The Republic of Ireland takes up most of the island of Ireland and some small offshore islands. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are self-governing British Crown dependencies, and not part of the UK.
The earliest mentions of the isles are found the writings of Diodorus Siculus (c.90-30 BC), a Greek historian living in Sicily. He referred to the isles as Prettanikē nēsos (the British Island), and to the inhabitants as Prettanoi (the Britons). Strabo (c.64 BC-24 AD), a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor, referred to the isles as Βρεττανική (Brettanike), and Marcian of Heraclea called them αἱ Πρεττανικαί νῆσοι (the Prettanic Isles).
It is thought that the names used by Greek and Latin writers for these isles were based on the Celtic names for them
In Welsh these isles are known as Ynysoedd Prydain, or yr Ynysoedd Prydeinig (the British Isles). The name Prydain [ˈprədai̯n] (Britain) comes from the Middle Welsh Prydein, from early Proto-Brythonic *Pritanī, from the Old Irish Cruthin (Picts), perhaps from the Proto-Celtic *Kʷritanī / *Kʷritenī, from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷer- (to do).
The Welsh word Prydyn / Pryden, meaning (people of) Scotland, or (land of the) Picts, is related [source].
In Cornish these isles are knowns an Enesow Bretennek (the British Isles). In Scottish Gaelic they’re known as Eileanan Bhreatainn (British Isles). In Scots they’re known as Breetish Isles, and in Manx they’re known as Ellanyn Goaldagh (British Isles) [source].
In Irish these isles are known as Éire agus an Bhreatain Mhór (Ireland and Great Britain), Oileáin Iarthair na hEorpa (Islands of Western Europe) or Oileáin Bhriotanacha (British Isles), although the latter is not much used (see above) [source].
I had a great time at the Language Event, meeting old friends and making news ones, listening to some interesting talks, practising my languages, and exploring bits of Edinburgh. Similar events will be held in Auckland and Melbourne soon, but the next polyglot / language-related event I’m planning to go to is the Polyglot Gathering in Tersin in Poland at the end of May.
Mulled beverages, such as wine, seem to be quite popular at this time of year, at least in the UK. To mull wine, or other beverages, you add spices and maybe fruit, and heat it up. Is this a thing in other countries?
According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, mull in the sense of mulled drinks was first used in writing in English in about 1600, and possibly comes from Dutch word mol – a kind of white, sweet beer, or from the Flemish molle – a kind of beer, and related to words for “to soften”.
The word mull, as is in to mull something over, is probably a version of mill (to grind), from the Old English mylen (a mill), from the Proto-Germanic *mulīnō / *mulīnaz (mill), from Late Latin molīnum / molīnus (mill), from molō (to grind, mill) [source].
A mull, as in the Mull of Kintyre, comes from the Scottish Gaelic word maol (bare, bald, rounded promontary), from the Old Irish máel (bald, hornless, blunt), from the Proto-Celtic *mailos (bald, bare) [source].
When putting together a post on my Celtiadur today, I discovered that the English word slew (a large amount) is related to words in Celtic languages for troop, army, host or throng, and to words for servant in Slavic languages.
Slew was in fact borrowed from Irish – from the word slua (host, force, army; crowd, multitude, throng), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army, host; throng, crowd, company, assembly), from Proto-Celtic *slougos (troop, army), from the Proto-Indo-European *slowgʰos / *slowgos (entourage).
There are similar words in the other Celtic languages, including llu in Welsh, which means host, multitude, throng, crowd, flock, army, or regiment, and appears in the Welsh word for police: heddlu (hedd = peace).
In Manx the equivalent is sleih, which is the general word for people, and also means public, family, relations, inhabitants, crowd or populace.
Words for servant in Slavic languages, such as sluha in Czech and Slovak, sługa in Polish, and слуга (sluga) in Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, all come from the same root, via the the Proto-Slavic word sluga (servant).
Another English word that comes from the same root is slogan, from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm (battle cry), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army) and gairm (a call, cry) [source].
Today’s word, library, comes from the Old French librairie, a ‘collection of books’, which is a nominal use of adjective librarius, ‘concerning books’, from Latin librarium, ‘chest for books’, from liber (genetive of libri), ‘book, paper, parchment’, originally the ‘inner bark of trees’, probably a derivative of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) base *leub(h) – ‘to strip, to peel’.
In French the word librarie means bookshop. A French library is a bibliothèque, which comes via the Latin bibliothēca, from the Greek βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothêkê), ‘a place to store books’, which breaks down into βίβλος (biblos), ‘book’, and θήκη (thêkê), ‘chest’.
Variations on the theme of bibliothèque are used in a number of other languages, including:
Dutch – bibliotheek
German – Bibliothek
Greek βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothiki)
Italian/Portuguese/Spanish – biblioteca
Russian – библиотека (biblioteka)
In Welsh, a library is a llyfrgell, from llyfr, ‘book’ and cell, ‘cell’, while in Irish it’s leabharlann, from leabhar, ‘book’ and lann (not sure of it’s meaning*). In Chinese, a library is 圖書館 [图书馆] (túshūguăn) = ‘map book house’.
It seems that the word library, or something like it, is not used in it’s English senses in many languages. The only ones I can find are Sesotho and Tswana (laeborari), Tsonga (layiburari) and Venda (laiburari), which appear to be loanwords from English. The Basque word for library, liburutegia, might possibly have Latin or Greek roots.
[Addendum] *lann in Irish is an archaic/obsolete word that means floor, enclosure or church. It comes from the Old Irish lann (building, house, land, plot, plate), from the Proto-Celtic *landā ((open) space, land), from the Proto-Indo-European *lendʰ- (land, heath). It is cognate with the Welsh word llan (church, parish, monastery, yard, enclosure, village), the Spanish landa (plain), and the English words land and lawn [source].