Celtic Pathways – A Slew of Slogans

In this episode we’re looking into the Celtic roots of the words slogan and slew.

A Slew of Slogans

In English the word slogan means a distinctive phrase of a person or group of people, a motto, a catchphrase, and formerly, a battle cry used by the Irish or by Scottish highlanders [source].

In the past it was written sloggorne, slughorne or slughorn, and it comes from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm [ˈsɫ̪uəɣɤɾʲəm] (battle cry) from the Old Irish slóg/slúag (army, host, throng, crowd), and gairm (call, cry, crow, proclamation) [source].

The Old Irish word slóg/slúag comes from the Proto-Celtic *slougos (troop, army), from the Proto-Indo-European *slowg(ʰ)os (entourage) [source].

Celtic words from the same root include:

  • slua [sˠl̪ˠuə] = host, force, army; crowd, multitude, throng in Irish
  • sluagh [sl̪ˠuəɣ] = folk, people, populace; the fairy host; crowd in Scottish Gaelic
  • sleih = commonalty, crowd, family, inhabitants, people, populace, public, relations in Manx
  • llu [ɬɨː / ɬiː] = host, a large number (of people), a great many, multitude, throng, crowd in Welsh
  • lu [ly: / liˑʊ] = army, military, troop in Cornish
  • lu = army in Breton

Words for family and household in Celtic languages, such as teaghlach in Irish and teulu in Welsh, come from the same Proto-Celtic root, via *tegoslougom (“house army”) [source].

The English word slew (a large amount), as in “a slew of papers” was borrowed from the Irish slua [source].

Words from the same PIE root include слуга (servant) in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian; sługa (minion, servant) in Polish; sluha (servant) in Czech and Slovak, slugă (servant, domestic) in Romanian, and szolga (servant, attendant) in Hungarian [source].

The Old Irish word gairm (call, cry, crow, proclamation) comes from the Proto-Celtic *gar(r)man- (cry, shout), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵh₂r̥-smn̥, from *ǵeh₂r- (to shout, cry).

Celtic words from the same root include:

  • gairm [ˈɡaɾʲəmʲ/ˈɡɪɾʲəmʲ] = call, summons, calling, vocation in Irish
  • gairm [ɡɤrʲɤm] = calling, crying, call, cry, announcing, declaring, convenning, call of the cockerel in Scottish Gaelic
  • gerrym = crowing, outcry, shouting, whoop, whooping, (cock) crow), avocation, mission, profession, vocation in Manx
  • garm = shout, cry, outcry, clamour in Welsh
  • garm = shout, whoop, yell in Cornish
  • garm = cry, clamour, weeping in Breton

Words from the same roots include gáir (cry, shout, report) in Irish, goir (to call, cry, hoot) in Scottish Gaelic, gair (word, speech) in Welsh [more details].

The English words garrulous (excessively talkative), care and charm (sound of many voices (esp. of birds or children), a flock or group (esp. of finches)) as come from the same PIE roots [source].

More details about words for Troop, host, throng can be found on the Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages in more depth. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

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

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Adventures in Etymology – Daff

Today we’re playing with the word daff.

Daff

A Daff [dæf] is:

  • A fool, idiot or blockhead

It comes from the Middle English daf(fe) (fool, idiot), from the Old Norse daufr (deaf, stupid), from the Proto-Germanic *daubaz [ˈdɑu̯.βɑz] (stunned, deaf), from the PIE *dʰewbʰ- (hazy, unclear, dark, smoke, obscure) [source].

In northern dialects of English and in Scots, daff is a verb that means to be foolish, play, make sport or frolic. It comes from the same root as the noun daff, via the Middle English daffen (to render foolish) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include deaf and dumb in English; and words for black in Celtic languages, such as du [dɨː/diː] in Welsh, and dubh [d̪ˠʊvˠ/d̪ˠʊw/duh] in Irish and Scottish Gaelic [source].

Some words derived from daff include bedaff (to befool, make a fool of, confound), daffen (to make a daff, stun), daffish (stupid, silly), and daffy (somewhat mad or eccentric). Only the last one is much used these days. The others are obsolete or used only in some English dialects, and in Scots [source].

Daff is not related to daft (foolish, silly, stupid), which comes from the Middle English dafte/defte (gentle, humble, modest, awkward, dull), from the Old English dæfte (gentle, meek, mild), from the Proto-West Germanic *daftī (fitting, suitable), from the PIE *dʰh₂ebʰ- (fitting; to fit together) [source].

The English word deft comes from the same PIE root [source], as do words for good in Slavic languages, such as dobrý in Czech and Slovak, and добър [doˈbɤɾ] in Bulgarian [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

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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