Stellar Stars

Stars

Here’s an interesting question that I was sent to me by email:
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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:

Latin Italian French Spanish English
stēlla stella étoile estrella star
status stato état estado state
spero speranza espère esperanza hope
spōnsa sposa épouse esposa wife

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.
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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].

Do any of you have any thoughts on this question?

Lillilu

This week I wrote a new song – a lullaby inspired by learning that a Scots word for lullaby is lillilu. This is also written lilly-loo or lilli-lu, and an extended version is lillila-baloo [source].

baby sleep

Here’s a recording of the song:

This got me wondering about whether there are interesting words meaning lullaby in other languages. Here are some I found:

  • French: berceuse – from bercer (to craddle, rock), from the Old French bercier (to rock), from Vulgar Latin *bertiāre, from Gaulish, from Proto-Celtic *berta- (to shake)
  • Irish: suantraí – from suan (sleep) and -traí (type of music)
  • Italian: ninnananna (onomatopoetic)
  • Portuguese: canção de ninar (sleep song) – ninar = to sing to sleep, canção de embalar (rocking song)
  • Spanish: canción de cuna (cradle song), nana (lullaby, wet nurse, nursemaid), arrurrú – from arrullo (cooing, murmur, lullaby)
  • Welsh: hun-gân (sleep song), (si-)lwli (onomatopoetic), su(o)-gân (lulling song), hwian-gân (murmur song)

Do you know of any other interesting ones?

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.

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

Flaming Llamas!

In Spanish the word llama has several different meanings. As well as being a domesticated South American camelid of the genus Lama glama, it also a flame, and means “he/she/it calls”, or in other words the third person singular present tense form of the verb llamar (to summon, call, knock, ring). Each version of llama comes from a different root [source].

The animal llama [ˈʎama] comes from the the Quechua word llama. Other members of the genus lama include:

  • alpaca [alˈpaka] (Vicugna pacos) comes from the Aymara word allpaqa
  • guanaco [ɡwaˈnako] (Lama guanicoe) comes from the Quechua word wanaku
  • vicuña [biˈkuɲa] (Lama vicugna / Vicugna vicugna) comes from wik’uña

llama_1

The flaming version of llama, which is pronounced [ˈʝama/ˈɟ͡ʝa.ma], is an alternative version of flama (flame), and comes from the Latin flamma (flame, fire), from the Proto-Italic *flagmā, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlē- (to shimmer, gleam, shine) [source].

Junior Jarl squad

Some English words from the same root include flame, flambé and flagrant.

Llamar [ʝaˈmaɾ/ɟ͡ʝaˈmaɾ] (to summon, call, etc) comes from the Old Spanish lamar, from the Latin clāmāre, from clamō (cry out, clamer, yell, shout), from the Proto-Indo-European *kelh₁- (to shout) [source].

Words from the same root include acclaim, claim, clamour, council and haul [source].

When I see words beginning with a double l, which are quite common in Spanish, I have to stop myself giving them a Welsh pronounciation [ɬ]. There is in fact a Welsh word which resembles llamallamu, which means to jump, leap, bound, spring. It comes from the Proto-Celtic word *lanxsman (jump), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁lengʷʰ- (light; move lightly) [source]. The Welsh for llama is lama, by the way.

Idle blackberrying

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?

Blackberries

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].

Petty Things

In the French conversation group I take part in, the word petit, which means small or little, is often mispronunced [pɛti] rather than [pə.ti], which annoys the founder of group. This might seem a rather petty thing to worry about, but pronunciation is quite important – not so much within the group, but for when we talk to actual native speakers of French.

Petit fours

Petit means small, little, minor, slight, short, mean, child, little one, youngest, young (of an animal).

Some related words and expressions include:

  • mon petit = dear (used ironically), son
  • ma petite = dear, young lady, sweetheart
  • les petits (enfants) = small children
  • les tout-petits = the little ones, the tiny tots, the toddlers
  • pauvre petit = poor little thing
  • faire des petits = to have kittens / puppies
  • petit à petit = little by little, gradually
  • petit ami = boyfriend
  • petit déjeuner = breakfast
  • petit doigt = little finger, pinky
  • petit-fils = grandson
  • petite amie = girlfriend
  • petit caisse = petty cash
  • petite-fille = granddaughter
  • petite phrase = catch phrase
  • petite sortie = stroll

Petit comes from the Vulgar Latin *pitittus (small, little), from *pit- or *pittus/*piccus (small, little), possibly from the Proto-Celtic *pett- (part, bit, piece) or from *bikkos (small, little) [source]. When I noticed the possible Celtic connection I decided to write this post, as such connections interest me a lot. The Proto-Celtic word *bikkos is the root of words for small in all the modern Celtic languages, such as bach in Welsh and beag in Irish. [More details].

The word petit also exists in English and is pronounced [ˈpɛti] or [pəˈtiː] in the UK, and [ˈpɛdi], [pəˈti] or [pəˈtit] in the American English. It means small, petty or minor [source]. In it’s feminine form, petite, it usually refers to a woman who is short and small.

Both petit and petite come from the Old French word petit (small, little, worthless, poor (quality)). Petit was used in surnames from 1086, and as an adjective meaning small, little, minor, trifling or insignificant, from the 14th century. Petite was used from the 18th century, at first to mean little or small in size, usually when referring to a woman or girl, and from the early 20th century it came to refer to a size of women’s clothing.

Petit became petty in most cases, except in certain expressions, such as petit bourgeois (conventional middle-class), petit mal (a mild form of epilepsy), petit four (small, fancy cake – see above) [source].

Petty originally meant small, little or minor. By the early 16th century it was being used to mean “of small or minor importance, not serious” and by the 1580s it came to mean “small-minded” [source].

If you are a petty person, or one who is mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things, you might have petty grievances, which are of little importance or consequence, and maybe a petty mind, or narrow ideas and/or interests, and you might like to take petty revenge. Maybe you are in charge of the petty cash (a cash fund for paying small charges), and you might be a a petty officer (a minor officer on a merchant ship, or a noncommissioned officer in the US Navy) [source].

May Day

Beltane

Today is the first day of the month of May, or May Day, when spring festivals are traditionally held in many countries. It is also International Workers’ Day. Apparently the origins of the spring festivities go back at least to the Roman festival of Floralia, in honour of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers (and magarine*). This was held from 27 April – 3 May during the Roman Republic era [source].

*Flora is a brand of margarine found in the UK, other parts of Europe, and Australia and New Zealand.

The word May came from the Old French mai (May), from the Latin māius (May) which was named after Maia, a Roman earth goddess [source].

Incidentally, the emergency call mayday mayday mayday! has nothing to do with May or May Day, but was in fact thought up in the 1920s by Frederick Stanley Mockford, who was officer-in-charge of radio at Croydon Airport in London. It is based on the French phrase m’aidez (help me) [source].

May Day is known as Calan Mai (1st day of May) or Calan Haf (1st day of summer) in Welsh. Traditionally celebratations would begin on the eve of Calan Haf, or Nos Galan Haf with bonfires, and the gathering of hawthorn and flowers to decorate houses. Celebrations on May Day itself might include dancing and singing [source].

I can’t find any examples of May carols (carolau mai / carolau haf), but here’s the Welsh band Calan:

May Day is known as Lá Bealtaine in Irish, Là Bealltainn in Scottish Gaelic and Laa Boaldyn in Manx, and the month of May is known as Bealtaine or mí na Bealtaine in Irish and Boaldyn in Manx. These all refer to the old Celtic festival of Beltane/Beltain, which is held on the 1st May and marks the beginning of summer when cattle would be traditionally driven to their summer pastures. Celebrations include lighting large bonfires and leaping over them, and/or walking and driving cattle between them [source].

The word Beltane/Beltain possibly comes from the Proto-Celtic *belo-tanos / *belo-te(p)niâ (“bright fire”) [source].

Beltane