An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages:

– Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”)
– Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”)
– Irish: gardaí (síochána) (“guards of peace”); póilíní
– Manx: meoiryn shee (“peace keepers/stewards”); poleenyn
– Scottish Gaelic: poileas

The English word police comes from the French police (public order, administration, government), from the Latin polītīa (state, government), from the Greek πολιτεία (politeia – citizenship, government, administration, constitution). It is shares the same root as policy, politics, politician and various other words [source].

Many languages use variants on the word police, e.g. Politsei (Estonian), პოლიცია (polits’ia – Georgian), Polizei (German), पुलिस (pulis – Hindi), پلیس (pulis – Persian), Booliis (Somalia), Policía (Spanish), Pulis (Tagalog), but some do their own thing:

– Bavarian: Kibara
– Chinese: 警察 (jǐngchá); 公安 (gōng’ān)
– Faroese: Løgregla
– Greek: Αστυνομία (Astynomía)
– Hungarian: Rendőrség
– Icelandic: Lögregla
– Japanese: 警察 (keisatsu)
– Korean: 警察 (gyeongchal)
– Thai: ตำรวจ (tảrwc)

Are there other examples of languages with a word unrelated to police for police?

12 thoughts on “Archerien

  1. France has a Police nationale, but also gendarmes, literally men-at-arms.

  2. The Breton word is also a borrowing from French. It is < Middle Breton archer with an additional suffix; the Middle Breton word is borrowed from Middle French arch(i)er, the Norman equivalent being the source of the English word 'archer' (all ultimately < Latin arcārium or refomulations using an agent suffix).
    In Old and Middle French, the word had the meaning 'archer, bowman', but also the sense 'constable, keeper of the peace' ("officier subalterne de justice et de police", as TLF defines the sense), perhaps because a lot of these officers carried bows in the period.

  3. I forgot to mention that there’s also ‘turaganiovisa’ (turaga – man, ni – of/for, ovisa – police) which is more polite/formal.

  4. The Russian police force was, until recently, called милиция (militsiya), but this has now been replaced by полиция (politsiya).

    The Irish police force (gardaí ) is commonly referred to in English as ‘The Guards’.

    German uses ‘die Polizei’ for the police force as a whole, but the French loan word, ‘der Gendarm’, for ‘policeman’.

  5. In Arabic it is Shurta [شرطة] and the policeman is Shurtiy [شرطي].

    It is said this name comes from the old times when the guards (mainly public markets and bazaars guards) used to wear “badges” or some band of cloth on their shoulders or chest – and this band is called Shareet [شريط]. The word Shareet is also used for “cassette” or “tape”.

  6. Spain has the Guardia civil — though I have no idea whether they are also called Policía; in Catalonia, policing is done by Europe’s oldest police force (originally a militia), the Mossos d’Esquadra (squad boys).

    In Canada, except for Ontario and Quebec, general policing is done by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and their officers are usually colloquially called Mounties, or RCMP officers more formally. And they only wear red jackets and stetsons for ceremonial purposes. 🙂 In Quebec, the provincial police force is officially the Sûreté du Québec.

  7. In Chile (at least in Santiago) they are called Carabineros, clearly influenced by the Italian Carabinieri.

  8. The Chinese word “警察” probably came from Japanese. However, this word appeared in older texts, not as a noun, but a verb, meaning something like “vigilant, at guard.” “公安” is only used in China. The word literally means “public security.”

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