Adventures in Etymology – Shambling Shambles

In this Adventure in Etymology we’re looking into the origins of the word shamble (and shambles).

Shambles
The Shambles in York

To shamble means to walk while shuffling or dragging the feet, and a shamble is one of a succession of niches or platforms, one above another, to hold ore which is thrown successively from platform to platform, and thus raised to a higher level in a mine.

It comes from Middle English schamel / schambyll [ˈʃaːməl] (footstool), from Old English sċamol [ˈʃɑ.mol] (stool), from Proto-West Germanic *skamil (stool, bench), from Latin scabellum (footstool, a kind of percussion instrument played with the foot), from scamnum (stool, step, bench, ridge), from PIE *skabʰ- (to hold up) [source].

Words from the same roots include scanno (seat, bench, stool) in Italian, escano (bench, footstool) in Portuguese, scaun (chair, seat, stool, throne, residence, butcher’s block) in Romanian, Schemel (footstool) in German, and iskemle (chair) in Turkish [source].

In the plural, shambles means a scene of great disorder or ruin, a great mess or clutter, a scene of bloodshed, carnage or devastation, or a slaughterhouse, and it used to mean a butcher’s shop. It comes from the same roots as the singular shamble [source].

There’s a street in York in the north of England called The Shambles (see the photo above), that was once home to many butchers. They originally displayed their wares on stalls or benches known as shamels or schambylls, which gave the street its name. There are several similarly-named streets in other parts of the UK and Ireland [source].

Incidentally, a German equivalent of shamble is schlurfen [ˈʃlʊɐ̯fn̩], which means to shuffle (walk without picking up one’s feet). It’s related to the English word slurp [source].

Now it’s time to shamble off. I made a bit of an omnishambles of this post – I wrote most of it, then accidentally deleted half of it and had to rewrite it as I couldn’t retrieve the lost bits. I hope it’s not too shambolic.

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I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur blog.

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Celtic Pathways – Needles and Scythes

In this episode we discover Romance scythes in a stack of Celtic pins and needles.

Pins and Needles

The Proto-Celtic word *delgos means pin or needle. It comes from Proto-Indo-European *dʰelg- (sting) [source].

Related words in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • dealg [ˈdʲal̪ˠəɡ] = thorn, prickle, spine, spike, pin, peg or brooch in Irish
  • dealg [dʲal̪ˠag] = pin, skewer or knitting needle in Scottish Gaelic
  • jialg = needle, prick, quill, thorn or pin in Manx
  • dala [ˈdala] = sting or bite in Welsh

Words from the same Proto-Celtic roots, via Gaulish *dalgis (scythe) and Latin *daculum (scythe) , possibly include dall (mowing, billhook) in Catalan, dalle (scythe) in Spanish, and dalha (scythe) in Occitan (Languedoc) [source].

The English word dagger, and related words in other languages, such as daga (dagger) in Spanish, and Degen (rapier, épée) in German, might come from the same Celtic roots [source].

Words from the same PIE root include dálkur (spine of a fish, knife, dagger, newspaper column) in Icelandic, dilgus (prickly) in Lithuanian, falce (scythe, sickle) in Italian, and falcate (shaped like a sickle) and falcifer (sickle-bearing, holding a scythe) in English [source].

More about words for Pins and Needles in Celtic languages.

You can find more connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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Celtic Pathways – Swampy Cauldrons

In this episode we discover Celtic roots of the name Paris.

Pont des Arts, île de la Cité

Paris is the capital of France and the centre of the Île-de-France or Paris Region. From about 250 BC, the area, particularly the Île de la Cité (see above), an island on the River Seine, was home to the Parisioi, part of the Gaulish Senones tribe.

After the Romans conquered the area in 52 BC, they set up a town on the Left Bank of the Seine which they called Lutetia Parisiorum (“Lutetia of the Parīsiī”). This later became Parisius, and eventually Paris [source].

The Gaulish name of the tribe, Parisioi, which was Latinized as Parīsiī, possibly comes from the Gaulish word *parios (cauldron), from Proto-Celtic *kʷaryos (cauldron) from the PIE *kʷer- (to do, make, build) [source].

Related words in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • coire [ˈkɛɾʲə] = large pot, cauldron, boiler in Irish
  • coire [kɔrʲə] = kettle, corrie, cauldron in Scottish Gaelic
  • coirrey = cauldron, boiler, maelstrom in Manx
  • pair [ˈpai̯r] = cauldron, large pot, boiler in Welsh
  • per [ˈpeːr] = cauldron in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic roots, via Gaulish and Latin, include paiolo (copper cooking pot, cauldron) in Italian, perol (cauldron) in Catalan, perol (cauldron) in Spanish, and pairòl [pai̯ˈɾɔl] (kettle) in Occitan (Languedocien) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include Britain, Brittany and karma in English, cruth [kɾˠʊ(h)] (shape, appearance, state) in Irish, pryd [prɨːd] (sight, appearance, aspect) in Welsh, and काम [kɑːm] (work, task, job, function) in Hindi [source].

Britain and Brittany come from Middle English Britayne/Breteyn (Britain, Brittany), from Anglo-Norman Bretai(g)ne (Britain, Brittany), from Latin Brit(t)ānnia ([Great] Britain, [Roman province of] Britannia), from Βρεττανία (Brettaníā – Brittania, Great Britain), ultimately from Proto-Brythonic *Pritanī (Briton(s)), from Proto-Celtic *Kʷritanī/*Kʷritenī, from the PIE *kʷer- (to do, make, build) [source].

So the name Paris has Celtic roots. How about Lutetia? That comes from Gaulish *lutos (swamp), from Proto-Celtic *lutā (dirt, mud), from PIE *lew- (dirt, mud), which is also the root of lutulent (pertaining to mud, muddy) in English, and lodo (mud, muck, mire) in Spanish [source].

More about words for Cauldrons and Kettles and related things in Celtic languages.

You can find more connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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Adventures in Etymology – Storm

In this Adventure in Etymology we’re stirring up the origins of the word storm, as it’s been quite stormful (abounding in storms, stormy) here in the UK recently.

lightning-storm

A storm [stɔːm/stɔɹm] is:

  • an extreme weather condition with very strong wind, heavy rain, and often thunder and lightning
  • A heavy expulsion or fall of things
  • A violent agitation of human society [source]

It comes from Middle English storm (storm, dispute, brawl, fight), from Old English storm (storm), from Proto-West-Germanic *sturm (storm), from Proto-Germanic *sturmaz (storm), from PIE *(s)twerH- (to stir up, agitate, urge on, propel) [source]

Words from the same roots include steer, stir, turbine, turbulence and turbo in English, turba (mob) in Spanish, torma (crowd, throng) in Italian, and twrf (disturbance, tumult) in Welsh [source].

Incidentally, stormful means abounding with storms or stormy, and when the weather is stormful, you might be bestormed (overtaken with a storm, assailed with storms), stormbound (caught in a storm) or stormtossed (tossed by the wind in a storm), so make sure everything is stormworthy (fit for weathering a storm) and stormproof (capable of resisting a storm).

Here’s a stormy little song called Thunder Vengeance by Lovebites, one of my favourite Japanese bands:

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur blog.

Celtic Pathways – Holding On

In this episode we’re getting to grips with words for holding and and related things.

Paimpol - Breton Dance Display

A Proto-Celtic word for to grab, seize, take or hold is *gabyeti, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰeh₁bʰ- (to grab, take) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • gabh [ɡavʲ/ɡo(ː)] = to take, arrest, go, come in Irish
  • gabh [gav] = take, go, recite, break (in) in Scottish Gaelic
  • gow = to take in Manx
  • gafael [ˈɡavaɨ̯l/ˈɡaːvai̯l] = to hold, grasp, grip in Welsh
  • gavel = capacity, grasp in Cornish

There doesn’t appear to be a related word in Breton.

The Spanish word gavilla (sheaf, gang, band) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Late Latin gabella and the Gaulish *gabali (taking, seizure) [source].

The word gwall (large amount), and which is apparently used in the English of Cork in Ireland comes from same Celtic roots via the Irish word gabháil (catch, seizure, assumption) [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include able, debt, debit, doubt and habit in English, avere (to have) in Italian, avoir (to have) in French, and haber (to hold, possess) in Spanish [source].

You can find more details of words for Taking Hold and related things on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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Celtic Pathways – Great Big

In this episode we’re looking at Celtic words for great and big and related things.

Wood of Chestnut trees

A Proto-Celtic word for big and great is *māros, which comes from Proto-Indo-European *moh₁ros (great), or mērós (great, considerable, sizeable, impressive), both of which come from *meh₁- (to measure) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • mór [mˠoːɾˠ] = big, great, large in Irish.
  • mòr [moːr] = big, great, large, grand in Scottish Gaelic
  • mooar [muːr] = big, great, grand, heavy, tall in Manx
  • mawr [mau̯r] = large, big; fully grown in Welsh
  • meur [mø:r] = great, grand, large, substantial in Cornish
  • meur [møʁ] = big, many in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root, via Byzantine Greek μάραον (máraon – sweet chestnut), possibly include marrone (brown, chestnut) in Italian, marron (chestnut, brown) in French, and Morone (sweet chestnut) in German [source].

How did a word meaning big in Proto-Celtic come to refer to chestnuts in other languages? Possibly because the edible seeds (chestnuts) of the sweet chestnut tree (Castanea sativa) are relatively large.

Words from the same PIE roots include immense, meal, measure, meter / metre, metronome and probably moon and month in English, vermaren (to make famous) and maal (meal, time, turn) in Dutch, and mærð (flattery, praise) in Icelandic [source].

You can find more details of words for Big, Large & Great and related things on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

By the way, you can find a longer version of the new theme tune, Dancing on Custard, on: SoundCloud.

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Celtic Pathways – Hands

In this episode we’re getting to grips with Celtic words for hand and related things.

gemeinsam

A Proto-Celtic word for hand (and palm) is *ɸlāmā, which comes from Proto-Indo-European *pl̥h₂meh₂ (palm, hand), from *pleh₂- (flat) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • lámh [l̪ˠɑːvˠ/l̪ˠæːw] = hand, arm, handle or signature in Irish.
  • làmh [l̪ˠaːv] = hand, arm or handle in Scottish Gaelic
  • laue [læu] = hand, handful, foreleg or arm in Manx
  • llaw [ɬaːu̯] = hand; authority, possession, etc in Welsh
  • leuv [lœ:v / le:v] = hand in Cornish
  • lav [lav] = feathered hand in Breton

The usual word for hand in Breton is dorn, which is related to words for fist in the other Celtic languages. Another Breton word for hand is brec’h, which is related to words for arm in the other languages [source].

The Faroese word lámur ((seal’s) flipper, (cat’s) paw, left hand, (big) hand, left-handed person) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Old Norse lámr (hand, arm) [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include floor, palm, piano, plain and plan in English, piazza (square, plaza, market) in Italian, llano (flat, level, plain) in Spanish, παλάμη (palámi – palm, hand) in Greek, and words for floor and ground in Celtic languages [source]

You can find more details of words for fists, palms, hands and arms and related things on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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Celtic Pathways – Phoney Rings

In this episode we look into the possibly Celtic roots of the word phoney, and find out how it is connected to words for ring and related things.

Irish Claddagh Ring

The Proto-Celtic word *ānniyos means ring, and comes from Proto-Indo-European *h₁eh₂no- (ring). [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • fáinne [ˈfˠɑːɲə/ˈfˠæːn̠ʲə] = ring, circle, ringlet, curl or halo in Irish.
  • fàinne [faːn̪ʲə] = ring, ringlet or circle in Scottish Gaelic
  • fainney = circle, puck, wreathe or ring in Manx

The English word phon(e)y (fraudulent, fake) possibly comes from the old slang word fawney (a finger ring, a gilt brass ring used by swindlers), from the Irish fáinne (ring) [source].

The Hiberno-English word fainne [ˈfɑnjə/ˈfɔnjə], which refers to a pin badge worn to show fluency in, or a willingness to speak Irish, also comes from the same Irish root [source]. More information about the fainne badge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fáinne

Other words from the same PIE root, via the Latin ānus (ring, anus) include annular (ring-shaped, banded/marked with circles) and anus in English, անուր (anur – collar, oppression, yoke) in Armenian, anneau (ring) in French, and anello (ring, link) in Italian [source].

You can find more details of words for circles, rings and related things on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

Radio Omniglot podcasts are brought to you in association with Blubrry Podcast Hosting, a great place to host your podcasts. Get your first month free with the promo code omniglot.

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Adventures in Etymology – Busk

In this Adventure we investigate the origins of the word busk.

Clanadonia

Busk [bʌsk] means:

  • To solicit money by entertaining the public in the street or in public transport.
  • To sell articles such as obscene books in public houses etc. (obsolete)
  • To tack, cruise about (nautical)

It possibly comes from French busquer (to seek, prowl, filch, busk), from Old Spanish buscar/boscar (to look for, to collect wood), from Vulgar Latin *buscum (wood), from Frankish *busk (wood), from Proto-Germanic *buskaz (bush, thicket) from PIE *bʰuH- (to be, become, grow) [source].

Words from the same roots include (to) be, bower, neighbour and future in English, boer (farmer, peasant) and buur (neighbour) in Dutch, and verbs meaning to be in most Indo-European languages [source]

There are several homophones/homographs of busk with different meanings. For example, there is busk that refers to to a strip of metal, whalebone, wood, or other material, worn in the front of a corset to stiffen it, and by extension, a corset. This comes from French busc (busk [of corset]), from Italian busco (splinter), probably from Frankish *busk (wood) [source].

Then there is busk that means to prepare, make ready, array, dress, or to go or direct one’s course. It’s used in northern England and Scotland and comes from Middle English busken (to prepare, get ready, arrange), from Old Norse būask, from būa (to prepare, make, live, dress, decorate), from Proto-Germanic *būaną (to dwell, reside), from PIE *bʰuH- (to be, become, grow) [source].

So it seems that even though these words have different meanings, they possibly all come from the same PIE root (*bʰuH-).

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Celtic Pathways – Berets

In this episode we’re uncovering the Celtic origins of the word beret.

Fête du Boeuf Gras à Bazas

A beret [ˈbɛɹ.eɪ/bəˈɹeɪ] is:

  • A type of round, brimless cap with a soft top and a headband to secure it to the head; usually culturally associated with France.

It comes from the French béret (beret), from the Occitan (Gascon) berret (cap), from the Medieval Latin birretum (a kind of hat), from the Late Latin birrus (a large hooded cloak, a cloak to keep off rain, made of silk or wool), from the Gaulish birrus (a coarse kind of thick woollen cloth; a woollen cap or hood worn over the shoulders or head), from the Proto-Celtic *birros (short), the origins of which are not known [source]

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • bearr [bˠɑːɾˠ] = to clip, cut, trim, shave, skim (milk), crop or pare (photos) in Irish.
  • beàrr [baːr̪ˠ] = to shave, cut (hair), clip, shear or prune in Scottish Gaelic
  • baarey = to bare, clip, cut, dress, poll, prune, shave or trimmed in Manx
  • byr [bɨ̞r/bɪr] = short, brief or concise in Welsh
  • berr [bɛɹ] = short or brief in Cornish
  • berr = short in Breton

Other words from the Proto-Celtic root *birros, via Latin and Gaulish, include biretta (a square cap worn by some Roman Catholic priests) and berretto (beanie, cap) in Italian, barrete (biretta, cap) in Portuguese, birrete (biretta) in French, and βίρρος [ˈβir.ros] (a type of cloak or mantle) in Ancient Greek [source].

Biretta

Incidentally, words from beret in Celtic languages include: bairéad (beret, biretta, cap, hat, bonnet) in Irish, beeray or bayrn Frangagh (“French cap/hat”) in Manx, bere(t)/bered in Welsh, and béret/bered/boned in Breton.

You can find more details of these words on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

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