The Swedish word sönder means broken or asunder. It comes from the Old Swedish sundr (apart), from the Proto-Germanic *sundraz (separate, isolated, alone), from Proto-Indo-European *sn̥Hter-, from *senH- (apart, without, for oneself) [source].
The English words sunder (to break into pieces) and asunder (into separate parts or pieces, broken) comes from the same root, via the Old English sunder (apart, separate, private, aloof, by one’s self). Asunder is usually used with verbs like tear, break, split or rip [source].
Other words from the same root include:
Dutch: zonder = without; zonderling = eccentric, strange, weird; weirdo, eccentric; uitzondereren = to exclude, except; afzondereren = to isolate
German: sondern = to separate, sunder; sondbar = strange, odd; Sonderling = eccentric, nerd, solitary person
Today’s etymological adventure starts with the word ost, which means cheese in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. In Danish it’s pronounced [ɔsd̥], in Swedish and Norwegian it’s pronounced [ust] [source]. It also means east, but we’re focusing on the cheesy meaning today.
Ost comes from the Old Norse ostr (cheese), from Proto-Germanic *justaz (cheese), from Proto-Indo-European *yaus-/*yūs- (sap, juice, broth), from *yewH- (to blend, mix (food), knead).
The Old Norse ostr is also the root of words for cheese in Icelandic and Faroese (ostur), in the Sylt dialect of North Frisian (Aast), in Finnish (juusto), in Estonian (juust), in Northern Sami (vuostá), in Skolt Sami (vuâstt), and in other Finnic and Sami languages [source].
From the PIE root *yaus-/*yūs- we get the Latin: iūs (gravy, broth, soup, sauce, juice), from which we get the English word juice, which was borrowed into Faroese and Icelandic (djús), Swedish and Danish (juice), and other languages [source].
The Welsh word for porridge, uwd [ɨ̞u̯d/ɪu̯d], comes from the PIE root *yaus-/*yūs-, via the Proto-Celtic *yut-/*yot- [source]. The Russian word уха (ukha – a kind of fish soup) comes from the same PIE root [source].
From the Latin iūs, we also get (via French) the English word jus (the juices given off as meat is cooked). The Dutch word jus (gravy) comes from the same French root [source].
The English word cheese comes from the Middle English chese (cheese), from Old English ċīese (cheese), from the Proto-West Germanic *kāsī (cheese), from the Latin cāseus (cheese), from Proto-Indo-European *kwh₂et- (to ferment, become sour) [source].
Words for cheese in other West Germanic language come from the same Germanic root, including: kaas in Dutch and Afrikaans, Käse in German, Kjees in Low German and tsiis in West Frisian [source].
From the Latin cāseus we also get words for cheese in such languages as Spanish (queso), Galician (queixo), Portuguese (queijo), Irish (cáis), Welsh (caws) and Breton (keuz) [More on Celtic words for cheese]. The Swedish word keso (cottage cheese) was borrowed from Spanish [source].
Another word for cheese in Late/Vulgar Latin was fōrmāticum, an abbreviation of cāseus fōrmāticus (form cheese), from fōrma (form, mold) and cāseus (cheese). From this we get words for cheese in French (fromage), Italian (formaggio), Breton (formaj), and similarly cheesy words in various other languages [source].
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]
The Danish word frakke [ˈfʁɑgə] means coat or overcoat. It was borrowed from the German Frack [fʁak] (tails, tailcoat, dress coat), which came from the English frock, which generally means dress, but can also refer to a peasant’s smock, or a coarse wide-sleeved outer garment worn by members of some religious orders [source].
When the rights and authority are removed from a priest, government official or medical practioner, they are said to be defrocked, unfrocked or disfrocked [source]. Before being defrocked, you would have to be frocked (made into a cleric).
In a frock flick (costume drama), some of the characters might wear frock coats, while others might wear smock frocks, housefrocks or underfrocks or even go frockless, which might lead to them being defrocked [source].
Frock comes from the Middle English frok / frokke (habit, cope, cowl, coat), from Old French froc (frock, a monk’s gown or habit), perhaps from the Medieval Latin hrocus / roccus / rocus (a coat), from the Frankish *hroc / *hrok (skirt, dress, robe), from the Proto-Germanic *hrukkaz (robe, jacket, skirt, tunic), from the Proto-Indo-European *kreḱ- (to weave).
So these words have been weaving their way between the Germanic and Romance language families, and changing their meanings, pronunciations and spellings over time.
A similar Danish word – jakke [ˈjɑgə] (jacket) – comes from the German Jacke (jacket), from the Old French jaque (a gambison – a type of tight-fitting shirt), which was either named after someone called Jaques (James), or from jaque de mailles (coat of arms) from the Arabic شـَكّ (šakk – breastplate). The English word jacket comes fromt the same root, via the Middle French jacquet.
The Danish word skjort [ˈsɡ̊joɐ̯d̥ə] sounds similar to skirt in English, but means shirt. It comes from the Old Norse skyrta (shirt), from the Proto-Germanic *skurtijǭ (skirt, apron). The English word skirt comes from the same root [source].
The English word shirt also comes from the same root, but via the Middle English sherte / shurte / schirte, from Old English sċyrte (a short garment; skirt; kirtle) [source].
The Danish word skørt [ˈsɡ̊ɶɐ̯d̥] (skirt, kilt) comes from the same root, via the Middle Low German schorte (armour) [source].
Another Danish word for skirt is nederdel (“lower part”).
I learnt today, via the podcast Something Rhymes with Purple, that in Scots the word clap [klɑp] doesn’t mean quite the same as in English. The example they give is “Can A clap your dug?”, which isn’t asking if you applaud the pooch, but in fact means “Can I stroke/pet your dog?”.
As a noun, clap means a heavy blow or stroke, or an affectionate pat (more caressing than the English clap). For example, “My mither wad gie his bit headie a clap” (My mother would give his little head a pat/stroke). Then there’s in a clap, which means in a moment.
As a verb, clap means to pat affectionately, caressingly, approvingly; to press down, flatten; to flop, couch, lie down (of a hare); to adhere, cling, press (against).
Here are some examples of how it’s used:
And [he] clappit her on the shooder = And he patted her on the shoulder
He was sair clappit doun = He was very depressed
Wearying for a resting place, Doun on the steeple stairs I clappit = Tiring for a resting place, down the steep stairs I flopped
clap comes from the Old Norse klapp (to pat, stroke gently, chisel, hew).
The English words clap comes from the Middle English clappen (to make a loud noise; to pound, slap, strike, slam), from the Old English clæppan (to throb), from the Proto-Germanic *klappōną (to strike, pound, make loud noises, chatter), which is thought to be of onomatopoeic origin.
From the same root we get such words as:
German: klappen = to clap, fold, flip, bend, work out
Chaire comes from the Middle French chaire (chair (item of furniture)), from the Old French chaiere, chaere, from the Latin cathedra (armchair, ceremonial chair, the office or rank of teacher or bishop), from Ancient Greek καθέδρα (kathédra – seat; chair; rower’s seat; posterior, bottom; base of a column; sitting posture; teacher’s / professor’s chair; imperial throne), from κατά (katá – down) and ἕδρα (hédra – seat) [source].
The English words chair and chaise come from the same root, via the Old French chaiere, chaere [source].
Cathedral comes from the the Late Latin ecclesia cathedralis (church of a bishop’s seat), from the Latin cathedra [source].
Sit comes from the Old English sittan (to sit), from the Proto-Germanic *sitjaną (to sit), from the Proto-Indo-European *sed- (to sit), which is also the root of the Ancient Greek word ἕδρα (seat) [source].
An interesting French word I learnt yesterday was enchère [ɑ̃.ʃɛʁ], which means a bid in an auction or sale, or in bridge (the card game) [source].
Enchère comes from enchérir, which means to make more expensive, to bid; to outbid, to make a bid (at auction); to go up (in price), to become more expensive.
Enchérir comes from cher (dear, dearly) plus a couple of affixes [source].
Cher means dear both in the sense of expensive, and in the sense of beloved, and dearly, as in payer cher (to pay dearly). It is also used to start letters.
Related words and expressions include:
faire une enchère = to (make a) bid
mettre aux enchères = to put up for auction
vente aux enchères = auction
enchère publique = public auction
renchérir sur = to add something to, to become more expensive
surenchéir = to outbid, to bid higher, to raise one’s bid, to try and outbid each other
enchérisseur, enchérisseuse = bidder
enchérissement = rise in cost, price surcharge
If you translate enchérir literally into English, you get to endear, which means to attach, attract, bind, captivate, charm, engage, win. Back in the 16th century, however, it meant to make (something) more precious or valuable, and then it came to mean to make (something) more expensive; to increase the cost of, or to stress (something) as important; to exaggerate [source].
The English word bid comes from the Middle English bidden (to ask, beseech, demand, comand), from the Old English biddan (to ask, demand), from the Proto-Germanic *bidjaną (to ask), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷʰedʰ- (to request, pray, ask for) [source], which is also the root of the Welsh words gwaedd (to shout, cry), gweiddi (prayer) and gweiddïo (to pray).
Auction comes from the Latin auctiō (an increase, auction), from augere (to increase) [source]
I learnt today that an elephant’s trunk in Dutch is a slurf [slʏrf], not to be confused with a smurf. As I like the sound of it, I thought I’d write about it.
Slurf also means proboscis, or jetbridge – the long, flexible tube thing through which you board a plane – also known as a vliegtuigslurf (“aeroplane trunk”). It has another slangy meaning, but I won’t go into that here [source].
It comes from slurven, a variant of slurpen (to slurp) from the Middle Dutch slorpen/slurpen (to slurp), from the Old Dutch *slurpen, from the Proto-Germanic *slarpaną (to sip, slurp), from the Proto-Indo-European *srebʰ-/*srobʰ- (to sip, slurp, gulp). The English word slurp comes from the same root, via the Middle Dutch [source], as does the word absorb, via the Latin absorbeō (swallow up) [source].
Elephants are good swimmers and use their trunks as snorkels, a word that comes from the German Schnorchel, which is related to schnarchen (to snore). It refers both to snorkels used by swimmers to breath under water, and exhaust tubes on diesel submarines. The Dutch word for snorkel is snorkel, and was borrowed from English [source].
The English words snort and snark come from the same root as the German schnarchen: the Proto-Germanic *snarkōną (to snore, snort), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)nerg- (to sound, murmur, growl) [source].
However, snore comes from the Middle English snoren/fnoren (to snore loudly; snort), from snore/*fnore (snore; snort), from the Old English fnora (snort; sneezing), from the Proto-Germanic *fnuzô, from the Proto-Indo-European *pnew- (to breathe; snort; sneeze) [source]. Sneeze comes from the same root, as do pneumatic, pneumonia and related words [source].
One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is stofzuiger [stɔfsœyɣər], or literally “dustsucker”. In English you might call it a vacuum, vacuum cleaner, hoover or even a dyson.
Stofzuiger comes from stof (dust) and zuigen (to suck, hoover, be bad at).
When I first learnt this word, I thought that stof might be related to stuff in English, so a Dutch vacuum cleaner would be a “stuffsucker”. However, stof is in fact two words in Dutch that have different meanings and come from different roots.
Stof as in dust comes from the Proto-Germanic *stubą, *stubjuz (dust), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (to whisk, smoke, obscure), from *dʰew- (to whirl, waft, stink, shake; steam, haze, smoke) [source].
The other stof means matter, material, substance, fabric or curriculum. It comes from the Middle Dutch stoffe, from the Old French estophe / estoffe, from estoffer (to decorate, garnish), from Old High German stoffōn (to stop, halt, stuff, insert), from the Proto-West Germanic *stuppōn (to cram, plug, stuff). The English word stuff comes from the same root.
Related words include:
afvalstof = waste product (“waste-stuff”)
brandstof = fuel (“burning-stuff”)
delfstof = mineral (“excavated-stuff”)
kleurstof = dye, colourant (“colour-stuff”)
koolstof = coal (“coal stuff”)
stikstof = nitrogen (“suffocating-stuff”)
voedingstof = nutrient (“food-stuff”)
waterstof = hydrogen (“water-stuff”)
zuurstof = oxygen (“sour-stuff”)
Are there interesting names for vacuum cleaners in other languages?
In Devon, and other parts of the UK, visitors, holidaymakers and recent migrants are sometimes referred to as grockles, and in Cornwall they’re known as emmets. These words tend to be mildly derogatory, and partly affectionate.
A friend asked me about the origins of these words, and whether there are equivalents in French, so I thought I’d look into it.
Grockle apparently comes from a cartoon strip about a boy called Jimmy and his pet grockle (a dragon-like creature), which first appeared as Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle in The Rover comic in the 1932, then as Jimmy and his Grockle in the The Dandy in 1937 then as My Grockle and Me in Sparky in 1966.
One story is that Arthur Rivers, who ran the boating-lake at Goodrington in the 1950s, started using the term, which he got from The Dandy. His assistant, Freddie Fly, told Peter Draper, the scriptwriter for The System about it while working at a bar in Torquay.
Another story is that a local man started using grockle to refer to an elderly lady who regularly swan at the swimming pool where he was working one summer. Then other summer workers began to refer to visitors as grockles.
It was popularised by its use in the 1964 film The System, which is set in Torquay in Devon. This is an example of how the word is used in the film:
Most holidaymakers are grockles. But the real ones you can spot a mile off. Usually they wear shorts, woollen socks and black leather shoes, with their shirt undone all the way down the front so you can see the full extent of their manly chests.
Related words include:
grockle art = pictures for selling to grockles
grockle bait = cheap arcades or souvenirs
grockle box / grockle shell = caravan
grockle coop = hotel
grockle can = a tourist bus
grockle catcher = an easy to reach beach or beauty spot which acts to stop tourists finding other local spots
grockle fodder = fish and chips
grockle nest = a holiday home, second home or campsite
grockle-ridden = full of grockles
In Cornwall the equivalent is emmet (tourist, ant), from the Middle English emete / ampte (ant), from the Old English word æmette (ant), from the Proto-Germanic ēmaitijǭ (ant), from *maitijǭ (cutter, slicer, biter) [source].
A favourite destination in Cornwall for emmets is apparently Porthemmet (which may or may not exist).