One of the Czech lessons I studied yesterday included the word nemocnice (hospital), and though I hadn’t seen or heard it before, I was familiar with the word nemocný (ill; sick) and guessed from the context that nemocnice was a hospital. It feels good to be able to work out the meanings of words from their form and context, and this is somewhat easier in Czech as most words seem to be built from native roots, rather than being borrowed from other languages.

Words related to nemocnice include:

– nemoc = illness; disease
– moc = power, potency, force, forcefulness; strength
– mocný = powerful; mighty
– mocnost = power (nation, state)
– bezmoc = helplessness, powerlessness
– bezmocný = powerless, helpless

Source: Wikitionary

Hospital in Czech is also špitál or lazaret, which is probably related to the Italian lazzaretto (a leper hospital; place of quarantine) or the French lazaret (an isolation hospital for patients with contagious diseases). The Italian word comes from Nazaretto, a quarantine station in Venice, which was named after Santa Maria di Nazareth, a church on the island where it was located [source].

6 thoughts on “Nemocnice

  1. Could moc be cognate with English might, German Macht etc.?

    I think Austrian German uses Spital in place of Standard German Krankenhaus.

  2. Where did you find that etymology of lazaretto? I have always assumed, and a quick search tends to confirm, that it was from lazar or lazaro = leper, from Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores mentioned in one of Jesus’ parables.

  3. Polish uses the word “szpital”. “Lazaret” functioned before as a military hospital (especially makeshift hospital by a battlefield), but it is not commonly used today. However, I thought that the name “lazaretto” had something to do with the Order of St. Lazarus (they were taking care of lepers a lot, as far as I recall).

  4. Swedish has sjukhus /ˈɧʉːkˌhʉːs/ (lit. “sick house”) – I dare you to try and pronounce it! – and lasarett. The word hospital used to mean “mental hospital” but is now considered archaic.

    @Simon, Knitter: The way I understand it the Italian word lazzaretto is a folk etymology, connected to the biblical Lazarus, of the word nazareto.

  5. Vincent – I found that etymology in

    David – according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word might comes from:

    Old English miht, earlier mæht “might, bodily strength, power, authority, ability,” from Proto-Germanic *makhti- (cognates: Old Norse mattr, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch macht, Old High German maht, German Macht, Gothic mahts), Germanic suffixed form of PIE root *magh- (1) “be able, have power” [… which is also the root of] Greek mekhos, makhos “means, instrument,” Old Church Slavonic mogo “to be able,” mosti “power, force,” Sanskrit mahan “great”)

    So it seems that moc, might and Macht are cognates.

  6. The Finnish word for hospital is sairaala, from sairas ‘sick, ill’ and the suffix -la which is used to make names of places. The word lasaretti was also in use before.

    Finnish has borrowed the Germanic word might/Macht/moc as mahti. It has a similar meaning to the English might. The more neutral word for power or strength is voima. There was also the word väki which denoted a supernatural power, but today it means ‘people, crowd’. It is also found in the compound word väkivalta ‘violence’ (valta means power, might, authority).

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