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].


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.


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


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

Distreetly Discrete

The words discrete and discreet are both pronounced in the same way – [dɪsˈkɹiːt] – but have different meanings, or in other words, are homophones. Until yesterday, I didn’t realise that they were discrete words.

Discretely Discreet

discrete means

1. apart or detached from others; separate; distinct
2. consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts; discontinuous. [source]

It also has specific meanings in mathematics that I won’t go into here.

discreet means

1. judicious in one’s conduct or speech, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
2. showing prudence and circumspection; decorous
3. modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious [source]

discrete comes from the Old French discret (different), from the Latin discrētus (separate, differentiated), from discernō (I separate, set apart, divide, part), from dis- (asunder, in pieces, apart, in two) and cernō (I distinguish, divide, separate), from the Proto-Italic *krinō, from the Proto-Indo-European *krey- (to sieve) [source].

discreet comes from the same source, via the Middle English word discrete, which meant wise, morally discerning, prudent, polite, and also separate or distinct [source]. The two words separated during the Middle English period and acquired discrete meanings [source].

The word discern (to detect with the senses, perceive, distinguish) comes from the same roots [source].

Indiscrete and indiscreet are also discrete words. The former means not divided into discrete parts, while the latter means lacking prudence, revealing secrets, or tactless [source].

They both come from the Latin indiscretus (unseparated, undivided, indistinguisable), from in- (un-, non-, not) and discrētus (see above) [source].

So let’s not be indiscreet about discreetly keeping these words discrete.


In Dutch the word podium [poː.di.(j)ʏm] means stage, and also podium or platform. It comes from Latin word podium (balcony, especially in an amphitheatre, parapet, podium), from the Ancient Greek πόδιον (pódion – base), a diminutive of πούς (poús – foot, leg), from the Proto-Indo-European pṓds (foot) [source].

AIAA NASA 60th Anniversary Reception (NHQ201809200009)

Some related words include:

  • hoofdpodium = main stage
  • podiumbeest = someone who enjoys being on stage and is often on stage (“stage beast”)
  • podiumkunsten = performing arts
  • poppodium = a venue where pop music is performed live

The English word podium (a platform on which to stand, as when conducting an orchestra or preaching at a pulpit; any low platform or dais) comes from the same root [source], as does the word pew, via the Middle English pewe, from the Middle French puie (balustrade), from the Latin podia, the plural of podium [source].

Other words from the same Latin root include poggio (hill) and podio (podium) in Italian, puig (hill, peak) in Catalan, and poyo (stone bench) in Spanish [source].

By the way, in English (and Dutch) the plural of podium can be either podiums or podia. Which do you prefer?

The diminutive of podium in Dutch is podiumpje, which means little or imaginary stage – I find Dutch diminutives like this very cute.

Good Pickaxes

In French when you make a good guess or choice, you are said to be making une bonne pioche or literally “a good pickaxe” [source].

Claes Oldenburg

The word pioche [pjɔʃ] means pickaxe, and also a stock or pile of undealt cards in a card game, and chance or luck. It comes from pic (woodpecker, pick), from the Vulgar Latin *piccus (sharp point, peak, spike, pike), from the Latin pīcus (woodpecker, griffin), from the Proto-Italic *pikos, from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)peyk- (woodpecker; magpie), or from the Vulgar Latin *pīcca (pickaxe, pike), possibly from the Frankish *pikkōn (to peck, strike), from the Proto-Germanic *pikkōną (to pick, peck) [source].

Here are some examples of how pioche and related words are used:

  • faire une mauvaise pioche = to pick the wrong card
  • manche de pioche = pickaxe handle
  • pioche de jardinage = garden hoe
  • piocher = to dig up, to take from the pile, to take a card
  • piocher dans = to dip into
  • piocher pour qch = to cram for sth

Are there any interesting equivalents of this phrase in other languages, or any pickaxe-related phrases?

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 [ˈjeˌmæːnˌʃ], 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].


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].


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].


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].

Enlisted Fathers

As today is St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d look into the origins of the name Patrick.

Happy St Patrick's Day / Lá ḟéile Pádraig sona ḋuit! / Dydd Gwyl Padrig Hapus

Patrick comes from the Latin name Patricius, which comes from the word patricius (patrician, noble), from patrēs cōnscrīptī (Roman senators, or literally “enlisted fathers”) [source].

patrēs is the plural of pater (father, head of household, parent, forefather, priest), which comes from the Proto-Italic *patēr (father), from the Proto-Indo-European *ph₂tḗr (father), from *peh₂- (to protect, shepherd) and‎ *-tḗr (agent suffix) [source].

Another word that comes from pater is patronus, which in the magical world of Harry Potter is a spirit guardian that can be summoned with the charm Expecto Patronum [source]. This is genunine Latin and means “I await my protector” [source].

cōnscrīptī is the plural of cōnscrīptus (senator, counsel(l)or; enrolled, enlisted, composed), which comes from conscrībō (I enroll, enlist, draw up, compose), from con- (with), and‎ scrībō (I write) [source].

The English word conscript (One who is compulsorily enrolled, often into a military service) comes from the same Latin root [source].

Stellar Stars


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:

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.

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?

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].