Moon’s Ear

What do you call the symbol @?

at sign

I would call it at or at sign. Other names are available, and it’s used in various ways.

The oldest known appearence of @ in writing was in 1345 in a Bulgarian translation of a Greek chronicle by Constantinos Manasses. It was used as the first letter of the word Amen – @мин (@min) in the manuscript.

In Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese @ has long been used to refer to a unit of weight know as arroba, which is equal to 25 pounds. This name comes from the Arabic الربع (alrubue – quarter).

In Venitian @ was used to represent the word anfora (amphora), a unit of weight and volume equivalent to the standard amphora.

In accounting, @ means “at a rate of” or “at the price of”, for example, 5 widgets @ £5 = £25.

These days it most commonly appears in email addresses, a usage that dates back to 1971, when it was introduced by Ray Tomlinson of BBN Technologies. Online it may be omitted or replaced when listing email addresses to trip up spam programs trawling for email adresses. That’s why I give my email as feedback[at]omniglot[dot]com, or as an image. This practise is known as address munging. A better way to trip up the spam bots is apparently

Some names for @ in English include: ampersat, asperand, at, atmark, at symbol, commercial at, amphora and strudel.

Ampersat comes from the phrase “and per se at”, which means “and by itself @”, and was how it was originally referred to in English.

Some interesting names for @ in other languages include:

  • Afrikaans: aapstert (monkey tail)
  • Armenian: շնիկ (shnik – puppy)
  • Belarusian: сьлімак (sʹlimak – helix, snail)
  • Chinese: 小老鼠 (xiǎo lǎoshǔ – little mouse)
  • Danish & Swedish: snabel-a (elephant’s trunk A)
  • Finnish: kissanhäntä (cat’s tail), miuku mauku (miaow-meow)
  • Greek: παπάκι (papáki – duckling)
  • Kazakh: айқұлақ (aıqulaq – moon’s ear)
  • Korean: 골뱅이 (golbaeng-i – whelk)
  • Polish: małpa (monkey, ape)
  • Welsh: malwoden (snail)

Do you know any other interesting names for this symbol?

Sources and further information:

Chaise longues

When is a chaise longue not a chaise longue?


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].

Some other ways it’s written include:

  • Belarusian: шэзлонг (šezlonh)
  • Czech: šezlong
  • Georgian: შეზლონგი (šezlongi)
  • Japanese: シェーズ・ロング (shēzu-rongu)
  • Norwegian: sjeselong
  • Polish: szezlong
  • Romanian: șezlong
  • Russian: шезлонг (šezlong)
  • Swedish: schäslong
  • Yiddish: שעזלאָנג‎ (shezlong)

By the way, what is the plural of chaise longue?


As today is the first day of December, I thought I’d look into the origins of the names for this month in various languages.

December comes from the Middle English December/Decembre, from the Old French decembre, from the Latin december, from decem (ten) and the adjectival suffix -ber. December was the tenth month in the Roman calendar, which started in March [source]. The days between December and March were not included in the calendar as part of any month. Later they became January and February and were added to the beginning of the calendar [source].

hoar frost

In the Old English December was known as Ġēolamonaþ/Gēolmōnaþ/Iūlmōnaþ (“Yule month”) or ǣrra ġēola (“before Yule”). The word Yulemonth apparently exists in modern English, although is rarely used [source]. December is associated with Yuletide / Christmas in a few other languages: mí na Nollag (“month of Christmas”) in Irish, Mee ny Nollick (“month of Christmas”) in Manx, and joulukuu (“yule month”) in Finnish and Võro.

In many languages the name of this month is a version of December, but there are some exceptions.

In Aragonese December is abiento, in Asturian it’s avientu, in Basque it’s abendu and in Occitan it’s abén. These all come from the Latin adventus (arrival, approach, advent), from adveniō (arrive) and the suffix -tus [source].

In Belarusian December is снежань (sniežań) [ˈsʲnʲeʐanʲ], which comes from снег (snjeh – snow) [source]. The Cherokee name for December is also related to snow: ᎥᏍᎩᎦ (vsgiga) or “snow moon” [source].

In Proto-Slavic the month after the Winter solitice was known as *prosinьcь. There are a number of possible roots for this word: *siňь (gray), *sijati (to shine, glow – referring to the winter solstice) or *prositi (to pray – referring to Christmas). Descendents in modern Slavic languages include prosinec (December) in Czech, просинац (December) in Serbian, and prosinec (January) in Slovenian.

In Welsh December is Rhagfyr [ˈr̥aɡvɨ̞r / ˈr̥aɡvɪr] (“foreshortening”), because it’s a time when days get shorter [source].

December is “twelve month” or “month twelve” in Chinese: 十二月 (shí’èryuè), Japanese: 十二月 (jūnigatsu), Korean: 십이월 (12월/十二月/12月 – sipiweol), and Vietnamese: tháng mười hai (𣎃𨑮𠄩).

Are there other interesting names for December in other languages?

You can find the names of months in many languages here.

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

Elephants & Camels

Elephants and camels

What do elephants and camels have in common?

Well, words for camel in Slavic languages like Czech and Russian possibly come from an Ancient Greek word meaning elephant.

In Czech the word for camel is velbloud [ˈvɛlblou̯t], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *velьb(l)ǫdъ / vъlьb(l)ǫdъ (camel), from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus – camel), from the Latin elephantus (elephant), from the Ancient Greek ἐλέφας (eléphas – elephant) [source].

Words from camel in other Slavic languages come from the same root: верблюд (verbljúd) in Russian and Ukrainian, вярблюд (vjarbljúd) in Belarusian, wielbłąd in Polish, and so on [source].

These all come from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus), but from there the etmological trial gets a bit hazy, as they quite often do. Traditionally this word is thought to derive from the Greek ἐλέφας, via the Latin elephantus.

Another theory is that the Gothic word comes from the Proto-Germanic *elpanduz (elephant, camel), which possibly comes from the Hittite word hu(wa)lpant (humpback), or from another ancient language of Anatolian such as Luwian [source].

The word for elephant in Czech (and also in Slovak, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian) is slon [slon], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *slonъ (elephant) [source], which comes either from the Turkish aslan (lion), or from *sloniti (to lean against), relating to the medieval story of an elephant sleeping leaning on a tree [source].

So now we know where the name of the lion in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe probably comes from.

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?

Bread, loaves and circles

Language quiz image

In most Slavic languages the word for bread is chleb or something similar: Czech & Polish: chleb, Slovak: chlieb, Russian & Belarusian: хлеб, Ukrainian: хліб, Bulgarian: хляб, Macedonian: леб.

These words all comes from the Proto-Slavic *xlěbъ (bread), from the Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz (bread). [source]. *hlaibaz is also the root of the English word loaf, the German Laib (loaf), and words for loaf in other Germanic languages [source].

However, in Slovenian the word for bread is kruh, which means circle or ring in Czech, although the Czech word probably comes from a different root [source]. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *kruxъ (chunk, bread), which comes from *krews (crush, break) [source].

The bread in the photo is a type of Slovenian potato bread known as krompirjev kruh. You can find recipes here (in Slovenian) and here (in English).