Adventures in Etymology – Spell

Today we’re telling tales about the origins of the word spell.

Spell

Spell [spɛl] means:

  • Words or a formula supposed to have magical powers.
  • A magical effect or influence induced by an incantation or formula
  • To put under the influence of a spell, to affect by a spell, to bewitch, fascinate, charm

Spell used to mean speech or discourse. It comes from the Middle English spel(l) (story, tale, narrative, report), from the Old English spell (news, story, prose), from the Proto-Germanic spellą (news, message, tale, story, legend),from the PIE *spel- (to tell) or from *bʰel- (to speak, sound) [source].

Words from the same roots include gospel and byspel (an example — rare) in English; spjall (talk, gossip) and spjalla (to chat, converse) in Icelandic; and fjalë (word) in Albanian [source].

The word spell (to be able to write or say the letters that form words), also comes from the same root, via the Middle English spellen (to mean, signify, interpret, to spell out letters), the Old French espeler (to call, cry out, shout, explain, tell), the Frankish *spelôn, and the Proto-Germanic *spellōną (to speak) [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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Celtic Pathways – Wagons and Carts

In this episode we’re looking at words for wagons, carts and related vehicles.

Chariot

One Proto-Celtic word for wagon was *karros, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sós (vehicle), from *ḱers- (to run) [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • *karros = wagon in Gaulish
  • carr [kɑːɾˠ / kæːɾˠ] = car in Irish
  • càr [kar] = car, cart, raft in Scottish Gaulish
  • carr = car, cab, van in Manx
  • car [kar] = vehicle, car, sled, dray; rack, stand in Welsh
  • karr [karː / kær] = car in Cornish
  • karr = car, coach, carriage, trailer, vehicle in Breton

The Gaulish word *karros was borrowed into Latin as carrus (wagon, cart, cartload), which became carro (wagon, cart, van, lorry, truck) in Italian; carro (cart, car, bus) in Spanish; car (bus, coach) in French, car, carriage and chariot in English, and related words in most other Indo-European languages [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include currus (chariot, car, wagon) in Latin, horse in English, hors (mare, female foal, frivolous woman) in Norwegian (Nynorsk), and hross (horse) in Icelandic [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *karbantos means (war) chariot or wagon and is possibly related to the Proto-Celtic word *korbos (wagon, basket). [source].

Descendants in the Celtic languages include:

  • carbad [ˈkaɾˠəbˠəd̪ˠ] = chariot in Irish
  • carbad [karabad] = chariot, coach, carriage, wagon, vehicle, bier, jaw(bone) in Scottish Gaulish
  • carbyd = bus, coach, vehicle, bier, hearse in Manx
  • cerbyd [ˈkɛrbɨ̞d / ˈkɛrbɪd] = car, carriage, chariot, wagon, coach; clumsy fellow, bungler in Welsh
  • cerpit = chariot, wagon in Old Cornish
  • karbed = vehicle in Breton

The French word charpente (framework, structure) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Gaulish carbantos and the Latin carpentum (carriage, chariot, wagon, cart) [source].

More details about these words on 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.

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 – Servants

In this episode we’re looking at words for servants and related people.

Tour Scotland March Horse Ploughing

The Proto-Celtic word *ambaxtos means servant and comes from *ambi- (around),‎ *ageti (to drive) and‎ *-os, from the Proto-Indo-European word *h₂m̥bʰi-h₂eǵ- (drive around) [source].

It became ambaxtos (vassal, high-ranking servant) in Gaulish, amaeth [ˈameɨ̯θ / ˈamei̯θ] (ploughman, husbandman, farmer, agriculture) in Welsh, ammeth (agriculture, farming) in Cornish, amhas (hireling, servant, mercenary, hooligan) in Irish, amhas [au.əs] (savage, wild person, madman) in Scottish Gaelic [source].

The English word amassador comes from the same root, via the Middle English ambassadore from the Anglo-Norman ambassadeur (ambassador), from the Old Italian ambassadore, from the Old Occitan ambaisador (ambassador), from ambaissa (service, mission, errand), from the Medieval Latin ambasiator (ambassador), from the Gothic 𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌱𐌰𐌷𐍄𐌹 (andbahti – service, function), from the Proto-Germanic *ambahtaz [ˈɑm.bɑx.tɑz] (servant), from the Gaulish *ambaxtos [source].

The word embassy comes from the same Gaulish word, via a similarly convoluted etymology [source], as does ambacht [ˈɑmbɑxt] (craft, craftmanship, trade) in Dutch, ambátt [ˈam.pauht] (female slave, bondwoman, handmaid) in Icelandic, and ammatti [ˈɑmːɑt̪ːi] (profession, vocation, occupation) in Finnish [source].

Another Proto-Celtic word for servant is *wastos which possibly comes from the Proto-Indo-European word *upo-sth₂-o-s (standing beneath) [source].

Related words in Celtic languages include: *wassos (young man, squire) in Gaulish, gwas [ɡwaːs] (servant, lad, boy) in Welsh, gwas (chap, fellow, guy, servant) in Cornish, gwas (man, husband, servant, employee) in Breton, and foss (attendant, man-servant, servant) in Old Irish [source].

The English word vassal comes from the same Celtic roots, via the Old French vassal, the Medieval Latin vassallus (manservant, domestic, retainer), from the Latin vassus (servant) from the Gaulish *wassos [source].

More details about these words on 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.

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 – People

In this episode we’re looking at words for person, human and related things.

Fem Fest

In Proto-Celtic a word for person was *gdonyos, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰéǵʰom-yo- (earthling, human), from *dʰéǵʰōm (earth, human) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • duine [ˈd̪ˠɪnʲə] = human, man, mankind, person in Irish
  • duine [dɯn̪ʲə] = fellow, person, man, husband in Scottish Gaelic
  • dooinney [ˈd̪uːnʲə] = human, man, fellow, husband in Manx
  • dyn [dɨːn / diːn] = man, human being; person, and dynes [ˈdənɛs] = woman in Welsh
  • den [dɛ:n / de:n] = man, guy, human, person in Cornish
  • den [ˈdẽːn] = human being, person, man, husband in Breton

Another Proto-Celitc word from the same PIE root is *gdū (place), which became (place, inheritance; native, natural, proper, fitting) in Modern Irish, dùth (natural, hereditary, proper, fit, suitable) in Scottish Gaelic, and dooie (complement, inherent, natural, patriotic) in Manx [source].

Other words from the same PIE root include: human, humus, bridegroom in English; goom, an old word for man in northern English dialects and Scots; gumi, a poetic word for a man in Icelandic, and hombre (man, husband) in Spanish [source].

Incidentally, the English word dean is not related to these words – it comes from the Middle English de(e)n (dean), from the Anglo-Norman deen and from the Old French deien, from Latin decānus (chief of ten people, dean), from decem (ten) and -ānus (of or pertaining to) [source].

Words for man and people in some Native American languages sound similar to, though are not related to these Celtic words. For example, diné (person, man, people) in Navajo comes from di- (thematic prefix relating to action performed with the arms and legs) and -né (man, person) [source].

There are also words for people in Celtic languages that were borrowed from the Latin populus (people, nation, community):

  • pobal [ˈpˠɔbˠəlˠ] = people, community, parish, population in Irish
  • poball [pobəl̪ˠ] = folk, people, community in Scottish Gaelic
  • pobble = people, population, community in Manx
  • pobl [ˈpʰɔbl̩ˠ / ˈpɔbɔl] = people, public, nation, tribe in Welsh
  • pobel = people in Cornish
  • pobl = people, multitude in Breton

More details about these words on 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.

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

Adventures in Etymology – Frolic

Today we find out what links frolics and frogs.

California-06348 - Froggy

Frolic [ˈfɹɒlɪk] means:

  • full of fun
  • a playful or mischievous action
  • an occasion or scene of fun
  • to play and run about happily

It comes from the Dutch vrolijk [ˈvroːˌlək] (cheerful, happy, merry), via the Middle Dutch vrolijc and the Old Dutch frōlīk, from the Proto-Germanic *frawaz [ˈɸrɑ.wɑz] (happy, energetic) ultimately from the PIE *prew- (to jump, hop) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Germanic root include the German words froh [fʁoː] (glad, cheerful, merry) and fröhlich [ˈfʁøːlɪç] (happy, cheerful, merry); the Danish word fro [ˈfʁoˀ] (happy, carefree), and Icelandic word frár [frauːr] (swift, light-footed) [source].

The word frog 🐸 comes from the same PIE root, via the Middle English frogge [ˈfrɔɡ(ə)] (frog, toad, wretch, mushroom), the Old English frocga [ˈfroɡ.ɡɑ] (frog), and the Proto-Germanic *fruþgô (frog), from *fruþ (frog) [source].

Another Old English word for frog was frosċ [froʃ], which apparently became frosh in southern English dialects, such as Essex, and is cognate with German word Frosch [fʁɔʃ] (frog) [source].

In Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and other parts of northern England, the word frosk is/was used for frog, and comes from the Old Norse froskr (frog) [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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Adventures in Etymology – Timber

In this week’s Adventures in Etymology we’re exploring the origins of the word timber.

Studio / Stwdio

Timber [ˈtɪmbə/ˈtɪmbɚ] means:

  • Trees in a forest regarded as a source of wood.
  • Wood that has been pre-cut and is ready for use in construction.
  • A heavy wooden beam, generally a whole log that has been squared off and used to provide heavy support for something such as a roof.

It comes from the Middle English tymber/timber (timber), from the Old English timber [ˈtim.ber] (timber, a building, the act of building), from the Proto-Germanic *timrą [ˈtim.rɑ̃] (building, timber), from the PIE *dem- (to build) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Germanic root include timmeren (to build, put together) in Dutch, Zimmer [ˈt͡sɪmɐ] (room) in German, timmer (timber) in Swedish, and timbur (wood, timber) in Icelandic [source].

Words from the same PIE root include domus (house, home) in Latin, duomo [ˈdwɔ.mo] (cathedral) in Italian, дом [dom] (house, building, home) in Russian and most other Slavic languages, and dome, domestic and despot in English [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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Adventures in Etymology – Telling Tales

In today’s Adventure in Etymology we’re telling tales about the origins of the word tale.

Telling Tales

A tale [teɪl] is:

  • a narrative that relates the details of some real or imaginary event, incident, or case; story
  • a literary composition having the form of such a narrative
  • a falsehood; lie
  • a rumor or piece of gossip, often malicious or untrue

It used to mean:

  • number, tally, quota
  • account, estimation, regard, heed
  • speech, language
  • a speech, a statement, talk, conversation, discourse
  • a count, declaration

It comes from the Middle English tale [ˈtaːl(ə)] (personal narrative, account), from the Old English talu [ˈtɑ.lu] (account, reckoning, tale, narration) from the Proto-West Germanic *talu (narration, report, assessment, judgement, calculation, counting), from the Proto-Germanic *talō (narration, report), from the PIE *dol-éh₂ (reckoning, calculation, fraud), from *del- (to reckon, calculate) [source].

Some words from the same Proto-Germanic root include tell in English, taal [taːl] (language) in Dutch and Afrikaans, Zahl [tsaːl] (number, numeral, figure) in German, tala [ˈtʰaːla] (a speech, button, number) in Icelandic, tala [ˈtɑːˌla] (to speak, tell, talk) in Swedish, and tale [ˈtˢæːlə] (speech, talk, discourse; to speak, talk) in Danish [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

Here’s a silly little ditty I wrote in 2019 called Tall Tales:

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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Episode 49 – Linguistic Correctness

In this episode I talk about linguistic correctness. That is, the idea that there are correct ways to speak and write languages that conform to grammatical standards and conventions (“rules”), and that anything else is wrong.

There are three kinds of grammatical rules or conventions:

  1. Rules that everybody follows. For example in English, articles and adjectives precede nouns – you say the word and not word the, and a long word, not a word long.
  2. Rules that distinguish the standard varieties of a language from other varieties. For example, in standard English you might say ‘I don’t have any money’, while in some varieties you might say ‘I ain’t got no money’.
  3. Rules that are written in grammar books and which many people believe you should follow. For example, in English infinitives should never be split, sentences should never end with a prepostion, and you should never use a double negative. Many of these were just pet peeves and preferences of 18th century writers.

Then there are spelling and punctuation conventions, such as the use of commas, semi-colons and apostrophes.

I discussed what grammar is and where it comes from in Episode 16 and talk about the origins of some linguistic pet peeves in Episode 16

Further reading
What Is ‘Correct’ Language?
The Notion of Correctness
Definition and Examples of Correctness in Language

Theme tune

Friday Afternoon / Prynhawn Dydd Gwener

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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Adventures in Etymology 29 – Rain

As quite a bit of wet stuff has been falling out of the sky this week, and it’s raining as I write this, I thought I’d look into the the origins of the word rain [ɹeɪn].

A photo of rain taken from my house

Definition:

  • condensed water falling from a cloud
  • any matter moving or falling, usually through air

[source]

It comes from the Middle English reyn/rein [rɛi̯n/reːn] (rain), from the Old English reġn [rejn] (rain), from the Proto-West Germanic *regn [rejn] (rain), from the Proto-Germanic *regną (rain), possibly from the PIE *Hreǵ- (to flow) [source], or from *reg- (to water, moisture, wetness) [source]

Words for rain in other Germanic languages come from the same Proto-Germanic root, including regen [ˈreɣə(n)] in Dutch, Regen [ˈʁeː.ɡŋ̍] in German, and regn in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic, with different pronunciations in each language [source].

The English word irrigate comes from the same PIE root, via the Latin irrigare (to irrigate), from irrigō (I water, irrigate, flood), from in- (after) and rigō (I wet, moisten, water) [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Here’s a song I wrote about rain:

A slightly different version can be heard at:

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, 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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Adventures in Etymology 15 – Sky

Today we are looking at the word sky [skaɪ].

Clouds

Definition:
– the region of the clouds or the upper air; the upper atmosphere of the earth
– the heavens or firmament, appearing as a great arch or vault
– the supernal or celestial heaven

It comes from the Middle English word sky [skiː] (sky, cloud, mist), from the Old Norse ský [ˈskyː] (cloud), from the Proto-Germanic *skiwją [ˈskiw.jɑ̃] (cloud, sky), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewH- (to cover, hide, cloud) [source].

In Old English the word for sky (and heaven) was heofon [ˈhe͜o.von], from the Proto-West Germanic *hebn (sky, heaven), which became heaven in modern English [source].

Related words in other languages include sky [ˈskyˀ] (cloud) in Danish, sky [ʂyː] (cloud) in Norwegian, sky [ɧyː] (sky, cloud) in Swedish, ský [sciː] (cloud) in Icelandic,and skýggj [skʊt͡ʃː] (cloud) in Faroese. A more common word for sky in Swedish is himmel, and cloud is moln [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology on the Omniglot Blog. There are more details about words for sky in the post When is the sky not the sky?.