Words for fish and other seafood seem to pop up quite often in the Japanese lessons on Duolingo. One such word is 鮭 (sake), which means salmon, specifically chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), a species of salmon that lives in the North Pacific and the Beringian Arctic. It is also known as the dog salmon, Siberian salmon, keta salmon, or silverbrite salmon in North America [source].
The word 鮭 (sake), which is also written 鮏, サケ or さけ, comes from the Ainu word サㇰイベ (sak ibe – salmon), which literally means “summer eat”, as salmon as usually caught and eaten in the summer [source].
The chum of chum salmon comes from the Chinook Jargon word tzum (spotted, marked). The keta of keta salmon / Oncorhynchus keta comes from the Russian word кета (keta – chum/Siberian salmon), from the Nanai word кета (keta – fish) [source].
鮭 [sáꜜkè] should not be confused with 酒 [sàké] (alcohol, sake). In the former the first syllable has a high pitch and the second a low pitch, while in the latter, the first syllable has low pitch and the second a high pitch [source].
Other Japanese words borrowed from Ainu include [source]:
コタン / 古潭 (kotan) = village
トナカイ / 馴鹿 (tonakai) = reindeer
ラッコ / 海獺 (rakko) = sea otter
ルイベ (ruibe) = salmon, saffron cod, etc. cut into thin slices while frozen
A Wanderwort is term used in linguistics to refer to a word that has spread to many different languages, often via trade. It was borrowed from German and comes from wandern (to wander) and Wort (word), so it’s a “wandering word”. The plural is Wanderwörter, Wanderworte or Wanderworts [source]. The origins of some such words goes back to ancient trade routes from the Bronze Age, and it can be difficult to trace which language they ultimately came from. Examples include copper, silver, mint and wine [source].
Another example of a Wanderwort is:
tea, which comes from the Dutch thee (tea), from 茶 (tê – tea) in the Amoy dialect of Southern Min (Min Nan), from the Old Chinese *l’aː (bitter plant), from the Proto-Sino-Tibetan *s-la (leaf, tea) [source].
There are similar words for tea in many other languages, including ᑎᕀ (tiy) in Cree, tae in Irish, tī in Maori and టీ (ṭī) in Telugu. These words arrived in Europe and elsewhere thanks to the Dutch East India Company, who brought tea by sea from Amoy [source].
The word chai which in English is short for masala chai, refers to a beverage made with black teas, steamed milk and sweet spices, based loosely on Indian recipes. It comes from from the Hindi-Urdu चाय / چائے (cāy – tea), from the Persian چای (čây – tea), from the Chinese 茶 (chá – tea) [source].
Languages that got their tea overland generally have a word for tea like chai or cha, including цай / ᠴᠠᠢ (tsay – tea) in Mongolian, चाय (cāy – tea) in Hindi, чай (čaj – tea) in Russian, ชา (chaa – tea) in Thai, and ca (tea) in Malay [source].
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].
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].
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:
Well, in English the word chaise longue [ˌʃeɪz ˈlɒŋ(ɡ)/ˌʃeɪz ˈlɔŋ] refers to a long kind of seat, like the one pictured above, designed for reclining on. The word chaise longue was borrowed from French and literally means “long chair” [source].
In French the word chaise longue [ʃɛz lɔ̃ɡ] refers to deckchair, sunlounger, lounge chair or chaise longue (in the English sense) [source].
Other kinds of chaise include:
chaise haute / chaise de bébé = highchair
chaise pliante = folding chair
chaise berçante = rocking chair
chaise roulante = wheelchair
chaise à porteurs = sedan chair
The word chaise longue appears in quite a few other languages, such as Italian and Portuguese, with the same spelling and the same meaning as in English and French. Another word for this type of chair in Italian is agrippina, named after Agrippina the Elder, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa [source].
Yesterday I added details of a language called Akawaio (Ka’pon) to Omniglot. It’s a Cariban language spoken mainly in northern Guyana, and also in northern Brazil and eastern Venezuela, by about 6,380 people.
You may be wondering why I mention this. What’s so special about this language? Well, it just happens to be the 1,500th language I’ve written about on Omniglot, and it feels like a significant milestone to me. There are many more languages out there: 7,139, according to Ethnologue – so only another 5,639 to go! That should keep me busy for a while.
It’s becoming increasingly challenging to find information about languages that don’t yet appear on Omniglot. About 4,065 of the world’s languages have a written form, although many are rarely written, and the remaining 3,074 are probably unwritten [source]. There is little or no documentation for many languages, and what documentation there is can be difficult to find. Inspite of this, I will continue to add new language profiles to Omniglot, and appreciate any help you can offer.
I’ve been working on Omniglot on my own since 1998 – there are no minions or other assistants to help me. However, many other people have contributed to Omniglot, by sending me corrections, new material, suggestions, donations and so on, and I am profoundly grateful to all of them.
This is the 3,414th post I’ve written on this blog since launching it in March 2006. At first I tried to write something every day, but soon realised that was too much. At the moment I aim to write two posts a week, plus the language quiz on Sundays.
In April 2007 I started uploading videos to YouTube. Some of the videos feature silly little conversations in languages I’m learning. Others involve music-related events I’ve taken part in, and tunes and songs I’ve written. In 2021 I started uploading videos more regularly, particularly videos about words and etymology, and some songs as well. As well as the Adventures in Etymology videos I upload on Sundays, I plan to make videos featuring alphabets, phrases, etc in a variety of languages. Here’s one I made of the Danish alphabet:
In September 2018 I launched the Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages. This is based the Celtic cognates part of Omniglot. So far I’ve written 227 posts, and add a new one every week.
Since 1998 I’ve become fluent in Welsh and Irish, regained my fluency in French, maintained my fluency in Mandarin Chinese, more or less, and have learned enough Esperanto, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch to have at least basic conversations. I’ve also learnt quite a bit of Russian and Czech, and some Romanian, Cantonese, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Icelandic, Faroese, British Sign Language, Breton and Cornish.
I’m currently concentrating on Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch, while trying to maintain my other languages, particularly French and Welsh. For the past 4 years or so I’ve studied languages every day on Duolingo – my current streak reached 1,369 today. I’ve also been using Mondly and Memrise. [More about my language learning adventures].
While not working on Omniglot or learning languages, I like to sing, play musical instruments and write songs and tunes. My musical adventures started long before Omniglot, but for many years after leaving school I only really listened to music. In 2005 I started going to Ireland every summer to learn Irish language, and also Irish songs, tunes and dances. This inspired me to take up music again. Since then I’ve learnt to play the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, cavaquinho and harp, and started playing the recorder, piano and tin whistle again. I’ve learnt songs in many different languages, and written quite a few songs and tunes.
Here’s a song I wrote in 33 different languages:
Enough of this shameless self-promotion. What about you? Have you reached any significant milestones recently?
The Dutch word dier [diːr / diər] means animal and is cognate with the English word deer, which originally meant animal, but the meaning narrowed over time. They are also cognate with words for animal in other Germanic languages, such as Tier in German, dyr in Danish and Norwegian, dýr in Faroese and Icelandic, and djur in Swedish [source].
Dier comes from the Middle Dutch dier (animal), from the Old Dutch dier (animal), from the Proto-West Germanic *deuʀ ((wild) animal, beast), from the Proto-Germanic *deuzą ((wild) animal, beast), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰewsóm [source], from *dʰews- (to breathe, breath, spirit, soul, creature) [source].
Deer comes from the same root, via the Middle English deere, dere, der, dier, deor (small animal, deer), from the Old English dēor (animal) [source].
From the PIE root *dʰews- we also get the Russian word душа [dʊˈʂa] (soul, spirit, darling), via the Old East Slavic доуша (duša – soul), and the Proto-Slavic *duša (soul, spirit), and related words in other slavic languages.
Another Dutch word for animal is beest [beːst] which is cognate with the English word beast. Both come from the same PIE root as dier/deer (*dʰews-): beest via the Middle Dutch beeste (animal), from the Old French beste (beast, animal), from the Latin bēstia (beast) [source], and beast via the Middle English beeste, beste (animal, creature, beast, merciless person) [source].
Some related words include:
feestbeest = party animal
knuffelbeest = stuffed toy animal (“cuddle-beast”)
podiumbeest = someone who enjoys being on stage and is often on stage
wildebeest = wildebeest, gnu
The English word animal is also related to souls and spirits as it comes via Middle English and Old French, from the Latin anima (soul, spirit, life, air, breeze, breath) [source].
The Dutch word for deer is hert [ɦɛrt], which comes from the Old Dutch hirot, from the Proto-Germanic *herutaz (deer, stag), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn). The English word hart comes from the same root via the Old English heorot (stag), and means a male deer, especially a male red deer after his fifth year [source].
In French if you don’t speak a langauge very well, you are said to speak it “like a Spanish cow”, or “comme une vache espagnole” [source]. For example:
Il parle anglais comme une vache espagnole He speaks English like a Spanish cow
Elle parle français comme une vache espagnole She speaks French like a Spanish cow
This expression was first used in writing in the 17th century, and possibly referred to vasces, that is Gascons or Basques, rather than vaches, or cows. At the time, Basque people from Spain probably didn’t speak French very well. Or it might come from basse (servant, maid), or from the use of comme une vache as an insult. Also, calling people and things espagnole (Spanish) was also an insult at the time [source].
In English you might say that someone speaks broken English or bad English, or that they butcher or murder English. Although, as the American author H. Jackson Brown Jr. says “Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language” [source].
You could make up other ways to say you speak a language badly:
I speak Russian like a Pavlovian pig
I speak Czech like a Bohemian badger
I speak Romanian like a Ruritanian rabbit
Are there idioms in other languages to refer to people speaking them badly, or indeed well?
Over the past year, and before, we’ve often been told that we’re all “in the same boat”, at least in the UK. The intention is to suggest that we are all in a similar situation or predicament, and the expression is often used by those in positions of power, wealth and privilege.
The idea of being in the same boat meaning ‘having the same fate’ first appeared in writing in 1584 in Thomas Hudson’s translation of Du Bartas’ Historie of Judith:
haue ye paine ? so likewise paine haue we :
For in one bote we both imbarked be.
Vpon one tide, one tempest doeth vs tosse,
Your common ill, it is our common losse.
It appeared more or less in the current form in writing by Thomas Taylor, a British cleryman in 1629. He said:
He is in the same boate which is tossed and threatned with the tempest, and is someway interessed in the common cause, and quarrell.
In other languages, such as Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese, you can talk about being in the same boat. Are there any languages in which this idea is referred to without mentioning boats?
The word dapper means “neat and trim in appearance” or “very spruce and stylish”, or “alert and lively in movement and manners” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. According to Wiktionary it means “neat, trim, stylisly or neatly dressed, quick, or little and active”, and according to the Urban Dictionary it means “incredibly smart, sexy and stylish”.
Synonyms include: dashing, jaunty, natty, raffish, rakish, snappy, spiffy and spruce. Do you have any others?
Dapper comes from the Middle English daper (pretty, neat), from the Middle Dutch dapper (stalwart, nimble), from the Old Dutch *dapar, from the Proto-Germanic *dapraz (stout; solid; heavy; bold), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰob-/*dʰeb- (thick, heavy) [source] – so it’s meaning has changed a bit over time.
In Dutch dapper [ˈdɑpər] means brave, bold, bravely, daring, fearless, gallant, valiant or courageous, and it’s also used in the same sense as the English word. The word goedgekleed is also used to mean dapper, well-dressed or sharp.
Here are some examples of how it’s used (from Reverso and bab.la):
Je bent zo’n dapper kleine jongen = You’re such a brave young man
Ze zijn net zo slim en dapper als u = They’re smart and courageous, just like you
We moeten dapper zijn en sterk = We need to be brave and strong
Maar ik weet ook dat ze dapper hebben gevochten = But I know that they fought courageously
Laten we dapper zijn! = Let’s be brave!
Related words include:
dapperheid = bravery, prowess, courage
verdapperen = to regain one’s strength, strengthen, become fiercer (used in Belgium)
Cognate words in other languages include:
Bulgarian: дебел [dɛˈbɛl] = thick, close-woven, heavy (material), fat, stout, podgy, deep (voice)
I’ve been studying various languages on Duolingo for nearly four years now. My current streak is at 1,238 days today, and I had a 96 day streak before then, so for the past 1,334 days I have been studying at least a little every single day. This year I’ve averaged about 1 hour a day, and at the moment I’m focusing on Dutch and Spanish. Last week I came top of the diamond league – the highest you can get.
So far I’ve completed courses in Swedish, Danish, Russian, Czech, Esperanto, Spanish and Romanian. The courses and the app have changed quite a bit – more for some languages than others. New lessons, tips and levels have been added, especially for Spanish, which has at least 3 or 4 times more lessons than the other languages I’ve studied. That makes sense, I suppose, as there are currently 28.6 million people learning Spanish on Duolingo – far more than any other language. Today I noticed that there are new grammar lessons in Spanish, which are useful, and there are also Spanish podcasts, which I haven’t listened to yet.
One aspect of Duolingo I’m not keen on is the hearts system. At the start of each day you have 5 hearts. Every time you make a mistake you loose one. If you run out of hearts, you can ‘buy’ more, refresh a topic you have already completed to gain more, or wait until the next day. Or you can subscribe and get unlimited hearts. Making mistakes is part of language learning, and not something you should have to worry about, as long as you learn from them. You sometimes get tips when you mistakes in Spanish, which are useful, but not in other languages.
If you’ve studied other languages on Duolingo, how do they compare to Spanish in terms of numbers and types of lessons?
I expect that there are more lessons, etc for French, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean and Chinese – the most popular languages after Spanish – than for less popular languages.