Mind and Memory

In Russian the word for memory is память [ˈpamʲɪtʲ], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *pamętь (memory), from the prefix *pōˀ and *mintis (though, mind), from the Proto-Indo-European *méntis (thought) [source].

Related words include:

  • памятник [ˈpamʲɪtʲnʲɪk] = memorial, monument
  • памятный [ˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = commemorative, memorable, memorial
  • памятливый [ˈpamʲɪtlʲɪvɨj] = having a retentive memory, retentive
  • памятка [ˈpamʲɪtkə] = memo, memorandum
  • запамятовать [zɐˈpamʲɪtəvətʲ] = to forget (dated / colloquial)
  • злопамятный [zlɐˈpamʲɪtnɨj] = vindictive, rancorous, unforgiving, likely to hold a grudge
  • помнить [ˈpomnʲɪtʲ] = to remember

*méntis is also the root of such English words as dementia, mendacious, mental, mind, monitor and premonition.

Memory

Life Writing

In Russian, a painting or picture is a живопись [ʐɨvəpʲɪsʲ]. This comes from живой [ʐɨˈvoj] (alive, living, live, lively) and писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] (to write). So you could say that a Russian painter is “writing life” and that their paintings are “life writing” [source].

An English word with a similar literal meaning, but a different actual meaning, is biography.

Another Russian word for picture, and also image or scene, is a картина [kɐrˈtʲinə], which comes from the Italian cartina (fine paper, map), from carta (paper, map, menu, card), from the Latin charta (papyrus, paper, poem), from the Ancient Greek χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus, paper), from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

If languages were logical and consistant, you might expect that Russian words for art, artist, painter, picture and to paint might be related to живопись. Most of them aren’t:

Art is искусство [ɪˈskustvə], which also means skill, craftsmanship, craft. It comes from the Old Church Slavonic искусьство (iskusĭstvo), from искоусъ (iskusŭ – test, experiment), probably from the Proto-Germanic *kustiz (choice, trail), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵews- (to taste, try), which is also the root of the English words choice, cost and gusto [source].

An artist or painter is a художник [xʊˈdoʐnʲɪk]. It comes from the Old East Slavic художьникъ (xudožĭnikŭ – artist, painter, master), from худогъ (xudogŭ – skillful, experienced, lucky), from the Proto-Slavic *xǫdogъ, from the Proto-Germanic *handugaz (handy, skilful, dextrous), which is also the root of the English word handy [source].

There are several Russian words for to paint:

  • рисовать [rʲɪsɐˈvatʲ] means to draw, paint, depict, and comes from the Polish rysować (to draw, sketch), from the Middle High German rīzen, from the Old High German rīzan (to scratch) [source].
  • красить [ˈkrasʲɪtʲ] means to paint, dye or adorn. It is related to the word краска (paint, dye, ink, colours), which comes from the Old Church Slavoic краса (krasa – decoration) [source].
  • писать [pʲɪˈsatʲ] means to write or paint (a painting). It comes from the Old East Slavic писати (pisati – to write, paint), from the Proto-Slavic *pisati (to draw depict, write), from the Proto-Indo-European *peyḱ- (to hew, cut out; stitch, embroider, sting; paint, mark, colour), which is also the root of the English words paint and picture [source].

mouse cat

An example of calligraphic art by Margaret Shepherd. More examples

Gardens and Castles

The word for garden in Russian, and also in Belarusian, Ukrainian and Serbian, is сад [sat], which also means orchard. It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *sadъ (plant, garden).

The word for garden in most other Slavic languages is the same: sad in Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, Slovak and Sorbian. There are also similar words in Latvian (sads) and Lithuanian (sõdas) [source].

The word sad also exists in Czech, but just means orchard. The Czech word for garden is zahrada [ˈzaɦrada], which comes from za (for, in, behind), and hrad (castle), from the Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ* (settlement, enclosed place). So zahrada could be translated as “in/behind the castle” [source].

*The Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ comes ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰórtos (enclosure), which is also the root of the Irish gort (wheatfield), the Welsh garth (hill, enclosure), the Latin hortus (garden), and the English horticulture, yard and garden, and related words in other languages.

Powis Castle

Hopes and Dreams

I learnt this week that there are two words in Russian for dream – сон [son] and мечта (mɛtʃˈt̪a). The former refers to the dreams you have when asleep, while the latter refers to dreams as in hopes, wishes or visions.

If you’re asleep and dreaming, in Russian you ‘see dreams’, or видеть сны [ˈvʲidʲɪtʲ snɨ]. If you’re dreaming of becoming rich or famous, then you use the verb мечтать [mʲɪt͡ɕˈtatʲ]. If you have a bad dream or nightmare though, it’s a кошмар [koʃˈmar], from the French cauchemar (nightmare)

Сон means sleep or dream, and comes from the Proto-Slavic *sъnъ (sleep, dream), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *supnas (sleep), from Proto-Indo-European *súpnos (dream). This is also the root of words for sleep in North Germanic languages such as Danish (søvn), Icelandic (svefn) and Swedish (sömn), and the archaic English word sweven (a dream, vision) [source].

Мечта comes from the Proto-Slavic *mьčьta (dream), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meyk- (to shimmer), [source].

Some examples of how they’re used:

  • День и ночь меня преследует один и тот же сон = The same dream haunts me day and night
  • С тех пор, как ты уехал, мне снится один и тот же сон = I keep having this dream since you left
  • У меня есть мечта = I have a dream
  • Быть художником – это последняя мечта, которая у Джимми осталась = Being an artist is the last dream Jimmy has
  • Даже находиться в этом офисе – это та мечта, ставшая реальностью = Just being in this office is a dream come true

Source: Reverso

Do other languages make this distinction between different kinds of dreams?

Soft mitigation

The Russian word милый means dear, sweet (having a pleasing disposition); beloved, dear or darling. I learnt this while putting together a page of terms of endearment in Russian today.

It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *milъ (sweet, dear), from the Proto-Indo-European word *meh₁y- (mild, soft).

The Czech word milý (nice, kind, good, dear, pleasant, sweet; boyfriend) comes from the same root, as do similar words in other Slavic languages, such as the Belarusian мілы (sweet, nice), the Bulgarian мил (dear), and the Polish miły (nice, pleasant).

The Latin mītis (gentle, mild, ripe) comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root, as does the Italian word mite (mild, moderate, balmy), the Portuguese word mitigar (to mitigate), the Spanish word mitigar (to mitigate, alleviate, allay, assuage, quench, soothe), and the English word mitigate.

I’m would like to put together pages of terms of endearment / affection in other languages. Can you help with this?

Cheeky faces

Face

In my Czech lessons this week I learnt two words that can mean face – obličej [ˈoblɪt͡ʃɛj] and tvář [tvaːr̝̊], which also means cheek. I couldn’t work out why one was used to mean face in some contexts, and the other in other contexts. Can any of you enlighten me?

Obličej comes from the Proto-Slavic ob + lice (face, cheek), which is also the root of the Czech líc (front, face, right side, face side) and líce (cheeks).

Cognates in other Slavic languages include: Polish oblicze (face, character), Russian обличье (image, character, look), and Ukrainian обли́ччя (face, character) [source].

Tvář comes from the Proto-Slavic *tvarь (creation, creature) [source]. Cognates in other Slavic languages include: Polish twarz (face), Russian тварь (creature, being, animal, beast, monster; mean, vile, worthless), and Croatian tvar (substance, material) [source].

Another Czech word for face is ksicht, from the German Gesicht (face).

Books, books, books

Book-related words in Czech

One of the Czech words I learnt this week is knihkupectví [ˈkɲɪxkupɛt͡stviː], which means bookstore / bookshop.

It’s one of a number of words that come from kniha (book), including :

  • knihkupec – book seller
  • knihovna – library, bookcase
  • knihovník – librarian
  • knihomol – bibliophile, book lover, bookworm
  • knížka / knížečka – diminutives of book
  • knižní záložka – bookmark

The word kniha comes from the Proto-Slavic *kъniga (book), but beyond that its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. More details.

In Czech it’s easy to see the connection between these words, which makes learning them easier. In English there are book-related words derived from Old English (book), Latin (library) and Greek (bibliophile).

In Welsh most book-related words share a common root:

  • llyfr [ɬɨ̞vr / ɬɪvr̩] – book
  • llyfygell – library
  • llyfygellydd – librarian
  • siop llyfrau – bookshop / bookstore
  • llyfraf / llyfro / llyfru – to book, record, register, enrol
  • llyfran – small book, booklet, pamphlet
  • llyfreugar – fond of books
  • llyfrgarwr – bibliophile, bookworm
  • llyfrbryf – bookworm
  • llyfrgaes – bookcase
  • llyfrgaer – bookkish, studious
  • llyfrnod – bookmark
  • cyfriflyfr – ledger
  • dyddlyfr – diary, daybook
  • gwerslyfr – textbook
  • llawlyfr – handbook, manual

The word llyfr was borrowed from the Latin liber (book; the inner bark of a tree), which is also the root of the English word library, and words for book in many other European languages [source].

Where? Whence? Whither?

Where, Whence, Whither?

In Russian, there are several different words meaning where. Each one means something slightly different, although in English they can all be translated as where.

где [ɡdʲe] means where, as in what location, and can also mean anywhere or somewhere. For example:

  • Где Вы живёте? = Where do you live?
  • Подумайте, не забыли ли где = Try and think whether you left it anywhere / somewhere

Related words include:

  • где-нибудь = somewhere, anywhere
  • где-то = somewhere
  • негде = nowhere
  • кое-где = here and there

где comes the from Old East Slavic къде (kŭde – where), from the Proto-Slavic kъde (where), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷú-dʰe (where).

куда [kʊˈda] means where (to), and also what, why or much. It is the equivalent of whither in English, although that is rarely used these days. For example:

  • Куда ты идёшь? = Where are you going?
  • Куда мне столько денег? Why would I want so much money?
  • Мой дом куда больше = My house is much bigger
  • Он прекрасно знал, куда бежать = This kid knew exactly what he was doing

Related words include:

  • кое-куда = this place and that
  • куда-нибудь = anywhere, somewhere
  • куда-то = somewhere

куда comes from the Proto-Slavic *kǫda ( where, whither), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷom-dʰ- (where).

откуда [ɐtˈkudə] means where from, from where, from which or whence (another rarely-used word). For example:

  • Откуда ты? = Where are you from?
  • Откуда ты это знаешь? = How do you know about that?
  • Откуда я знаю? = How do I know?

Related words include:

  • откуда-нибудь = from somewhere (or other)
  • откуда-то = from somewhere

откуда comes from the same root as куда.

Sources: Reverso, Wiktionary

Glass eyes

Glasögon

Recently I learnt an interesting word in Swedish – glasögon, which means glasses or spectacles, and literally means “glass eyes”.

Glas means glass, and comes from the Proto-Germanic *glasą (glass), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰel- (to shine, shimmer, glow) [source].

Ögon is the plural of öga (eye), and comes from the Old Swedish ø̄gha (eye), from Old Norse auga (eye), from Proto-Germanic *augô (eye), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃ekʷ- (eye; to see) [source].

The Swedish word glas reminds me of the Russian word for eye, глаз (glaz), which I remember by thinking of a glass eye. Глаз comes from the Old East Slavic глазъ (glazŭ – ball, eye), from the Proto-Slavic *glazъ (ball), from Proto-Indo-European *g(ʰ)el- (round, spherical, stone) [source].

The Russian word for glasses is очки (ochki), which comes from очи (ochi), the plural of око (oko), the old Russian word for eye, which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as öga and eye [source].

In Danish and Norwegian, the word for glasses is briller, which means ‘a person wearing glasses’ in Dutch, and to shine or sparkle in French [source]. The German word for glasses is simliar – Brille, and the Dutch is bril [source].

Briller, Brille and bril come from the Middle High German berillus (beryl), from the Latin beryllus (beryl), probably from the Ancient Greek βήρυλλος (bḗrullos – beryl), from Sanskrit वैडूर्य (vaidurya – a cat’s eye gem; a jewel), from Dravidian. Probably named after the city Velur (modern day Belur / ಬೇಲೂರು) in Karnataka in southern India. The first glasses, made in about 1300 in Italy, were made from beryl [source].

Beryl is a mineral which comes from three forms: morganite (orange), aquamarine (blue-green – pictured top right) and heliodor (green-yellow).

The French word for glass, lunettes, means “little moons” [source].

Are there interesting words for glasses, spectacles, specs, or eyes in other languages?