Adventures in Etymology – Finger

In this adventure, we’re poking the origins of the word finger.

fingers

A finger is:

  • A slender jointed extremity of the human hand, (often) exclusive of the thumb.
  • Similar or similar-looking extremities in other animals.

It comes from Middle English fynger (finger, toes), from Old English finger (finger), from Proto-West-Germanic *fingr (finger), from Proto-Germanic *fingraz [ˈɸiŋ.ɡrɑz] (finger), probably from PIE *penkʷrós, from *pénkʷe (five) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Germanic roots include vinger (finger) in Dutch, Finger (finger) in German, and finger (finger) in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include five, fist, pentagon (and other words beginning with penta-) in English, and words for five in most Indo-European languages [source]

Incidentally, the name of the Roman town of Pompeii, which was destroyed in an eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, also comes from the same roots, via the Oscan word 𐌐𐌖𐌌𐌐𐌄 (pumpe – five), a reference to its five districts [source].

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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.

Adventures in Etymology – Bone

In this adventure we’re uncovering the origins of the word bone.

Bones

A bone is:

  • A composite material consisting largely of calcium phosphate and collagen and making up the skeleton of most vertebrates.
  • Any of the components of an endoskeleton, made of bone.

It comes from Middle English bon (bone), from Old English bān [bɑːn] (bone, ivory), from Proto-Germanic bainą [ˈbɑi̯.nɑ̃] (leg, bone), from *bainaz [ˈbɑi̯.nɑz] (straight), from PIE *bʰeyh₂- (to hit, strike, hew, cut) [source].

Words from the same roots include been (leg, limb, side) in Dutch, Bein (leg) in German, ben (leg, bone, sinecure) in Danish, bít (to beat, fight) in Czech, and buain (harvest, reap, cut) in Scottish Gaelic [source].

Incidentally, in Old English a poetic way to refer to the body was bānhūs [ˈbɑːnˌhuːs] (“bone house”). It was also called a sāwolhūs [ˈsɑː.welˌhuːs] (“soul house”) or feorhhūs [ˈfe͜orˠxˌhuːs] (“life/soul house”) [source].

Here’s a song in Scottish Gaelic about cutting the bracken (buain na rainich) called ‘Tha mi sgìth’ (I’m tired), sung by Brian Ó hEadhra:

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.

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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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.

Celtic Pathways – Protruberances

In this episode we’re looking at Celtic words for hill and breast and related things.

Snowdonia in the sun

A Proto-Celtic word for hill is *brusnyos, which comes from Proto-Celtic *brusū (belly, abdomen, breast), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰrews- (belly, to swell) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • broinne = breast, bosom, brink, verge in Irish.
  • broinne [brɤin̪ʲ] = belly, stomach, womb, bulge in Scottish Gaelic
  • brein = big, great, grand, heavy, tall in Manx
  • bron [brɔn] = breast, bosom, thorax, hill-side, slope in Welsh
  • bronn [brɔn] = breast, hill in Cornish
  • bronn [brɔ̃n] = breast in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Proto-West-Germanic *brunnjā (chainmail shirt), include: brynja (coat of mail) in Icelandic, Swedish and Faroese, brynje (mail, armour) in Danish, brynje (coat of armour, protective clothing for motorcyclists) in Norwegian, and броня [brɔˈnʲa] (armour, armoured vehicle, shell) in Ukrainian [source].

The English words breast, brisket and bruise come from the same PIE root, as do borst (chest, thorax, breast) in Dutch, and bröst (breast, chest, thorax) in Swedish [source].

You can find more details of words for Hills 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 – Fire

In this Adventure we look into the origins of the word fire.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Lerwick, Shetland

Fire [ˈfaɪ.ə/ˈfaɪ.əɹ] is:

  • A (usually self-sustaining) chemical reaction involving the bonding of oxygen with carbon or other fuel, with the production of heat and the presence of flame or smouldering.
  • An instance of this chemical reaction, especially when intentionally created and maintained in a specific location to a useful end (such as a campfire or a hearth fire)

It comes from Middle English fyr [fiːr] (fire), from Old English fȳr [fyːr] (fire), from Proto-West-Germanic *fuir (fire), from Proto-Germanic *fōr [ˈɸɔːr] (fire), from PIE *péh₂wr̥ (fire, spelt [grain]) [source].

Words from the same roots include furze, purge, pyre and pyromania in English, vuur [vyːr] (fire, heater) in Dutch, fyr [fyːr] (lighthouse, fire) in Swedish, and fyr [fyɐ̯ˀ] (lighthouse, radio beacon, boiler, fire, light) in Danish [source]

There are in fact two PIE words for fire *péh₂wr̥ (fire as something inanimate, passive and neuter), and *h₁n̥gʷnis (fire as something animate, active and masculine). The latter is the root of English words like ignite (to set fire to), igneous (resembling fire, produced by great heat, e.g. igneous rocks), and ignipotent (presiding over fire, fiery – poetic) [source].

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.

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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Celtic Pathways – Donkeys

In this episode we’re looking into words for donkey and related beasts in Celtic languages.

Donkeys

There don’t appear to be any Proto-Celtic words for donkey. Instead, the Celtic languages borrowed words from Latin. These include:

  • asal [ˈasˠəlˠ] = ass or donkey in Irish.
  • asal [asal̪ˠ] = ass or donkey in Scottish Gaelic
  • assyl = ass or donkey in Manx
  • asyn [ˈasɨ̞n / ˈasɪn] = (male) donkey / (he-)ass, or an absurd or stubborn person in Welsh
  • asen = ass or donkey in Cornish
  • azen = donkey in Breton [source]

The Brythonic words come from the Latin asina from asinus (donkey, ass), which is of unknown origin [source]. The Goidelic words come from the same root via the Latin asellus (young ass, donkey) [source].

The English word ass (donkey) was borrowed from an old Brythonic language, via the Middle English asse (ass, donkey) and the Old English assa and assen (she-ass) [source].

Other words from the same Latin roots include asinine (foolish, obstinate, donkeyish), asinicide (the killing of an idiot) in English [source], osel (donkey, ass, stupid person) in Czech, and osioł (male donkey) in Polish [source].

Incidentally, another word for donkey in Old English was esol [ˈe.zol], which came from Proto-West Germanic *asil (donkey), from Latin asellus (young ass, donkey) [source]. Related words in other Germanic languages include ezel (donkey, ass, fool, idiot, easel) in Dutch, Esel (ass, donkey, a stupid/stubborn person) in German, and æsel (ass, donkey) in Danish [source].

The English word easel also comes from the same roots, via Dutch ezel and Proto-West Germanic *asil [source].

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.

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.

Celtic Pathways – Baskets

In this episode we’re looking into baskets, bundles and related things.

Baskets

The Proto-Celtic word *baskis means a bundle or load, and comes from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰask- (bandle, band) [Source].

Related words in Celtic language include:

  • basc = circular necklet or neckband in Middle Irish
  • basc = round, red, scarlet in Scottish Gaelic
  • baich [bai̯χ] = burden, heavy load, labour, duty, sin, sorrow, woe, responsibility, a load or a dry measure in Welsh
  • begh = burden, load in Cornish
  • bec’h = difficulty, effort in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include bascauda (woven mat or vessel to hold basketwork) in Late Latin, bâche (tarpaulin, canvas sheet, cover) in French, vascullo (broom, bundle of straw) in Galician, basket in English, فَشْقَار (fašqār – a heap of sheaves) in Arabic.

Incidentally, the Irish word bascaed, the Scottish Gaelic basgaid, the Manx basca(i)d/baskad, the Welsh word basged and the Cornish basket, all of which mean basket, were borrowed from English. The Breton word for basket, paner, was borrowed from the French panier (basket), from the Latin pānārium (breadbasket), from pānis (bread, loaf) [source].

Other words from the PIE root *bʰask- include fascis (bundle, burden, load, high office) in Latin, and possibly bast (fibre made from certain plants used for matting and cord) in English, bast (bast, raffia) in Danish, bast (inner bark, velvet, skin, hide) in Dutch, and bashkë (together, simultaneously) in Albanian [source].

You can be find more details of words for Burdensome Loads 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.

Adventures in Etymology – Haven

In this Adventure we’re finding a safe haven and other peaceful places.

Armadale harbour

A haven [ˈheɪvən] is:

  • A harbour or anchorage protected from the sea
  • A place of safety
  • A peaceful place

It comes from Middle English haven(e), from Old English hæfen [ˈxæ.fen] (inlet, harbour, port), from Proto-Germanic *hab(a)nō [ˈxɑ.βɑ.nɔː] (harbour, haven), from PIE *kh₂p(ó)neh₂, from *keh₂p- (to take, seize, grasp) [source].

The English word abra, which means a narrow mountain pass, was borrowed from Spanish abra (small bay, inlet, glade, clearing), which comes from French havre (haven), and comes ultimately from Proto-Germanic *hab(a)nō via Middle Dutch, Old Dutch and Proto-West-Germanic, or Old Danish and Old Norse [source].

Other words from the same Proto-Germanic roots include Hafen (harbour, port, haven) in German, haven (harbour, port) in Dutch, hamn (harbour) in Swedish, and havn (harbour, haven) in Danish [source].

Incidentally, the word heaven doesn’t come from the same roots as haven. Instead it comes from Middle English heven(e) [ˈhɛv(ə)nə] (heaven, the heavens), from Old English heofon [ˈxe͜o.fon] (sky, heaven), from Proto-West-Germanic *hebun (sky, heaven), the roots of which are uncertain [source].

In case you’re interested, here details of the origins of the word harbour.

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 – Swans

In this episode we are looking into words for swan.

Swans, etc

In Proto-Celtic word for swan was *eli-, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁el- (swan, bird, waterfowl) [Source].

Related words in modern Celtic language include:

  • eala [ˈalˠə] = swan in Irish
  • eala [jal̪ˠə] = swan in Scottish Gaelic
  • olla(y) = (mute) swan in Manx
  • alarch [ˈalarχ/ˈaːlarχ] = swan, the constellation Cygnus in Welsh
  • alargh = (mute) swan in Cornish
  • alarc’h = swan in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root include alondra (lark) in Spanish, alouette (lark) in French, and allodola (skylark) in Italian. They were probably borrowed from the Gaulish alauda (skylark), from ala (swan) [Source].

Other words from the PIE root *h₁el- include auk in English, olor (swan) in Latin, alke (auk) in Danish and Norwegian, and álka (razorbill) in Faroese and Icelandic [Source].

More details of words for swan in Celtic languages 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.

Celtic Pathways – Javelin

In this episode we’re getting to grips with the word javelin.

Javlin

A javelin is a light spear thrown with the hand and used as a weapon, or a metal-tipped spear thrown for distance in an athletic field event. It comes from the Old French javelline (javelin), a diminutive of javelot (javelin), from the Vulgar Latin *gabalottus (spear), from the Gaulish *gabalos (fork), from the Proto-Celtic gablā- (fork, forked branch), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰabʰlos (fork, branch of tree) [source].

Related words in modern Celtic language include:

  • gabhal [ɡoːəl̪ˠ] = bifurcation, fork, crotch, junction in Irish
  • gobhal [ɡoːəl̪ˠ] = bifurcation, fork, crotch, junction in Scottish Gaelic
  • goal = fork, branch, crotch, crutch, junction, perineum in Manx
  • gafl [gafl] = fork, stride, lap, inner part of the thigh, groin, angle, nook in Welsh
  • gowl = crotch, fork in Cornish
  • goal = fork in Breton

The English word gable comes from the same Gaulish root, via the Old French gable [source]. The English word gaffle (a lever used to bend a crossbow) possibly comes from the same Gaulish root, via Middle English gaffolle, the Middle Dutch gaf(f)el (fork) and the Proto-West Germanic *gabulu (fork) [source].

Words in other languages from the same Gaulish root include Gaffel (gaff) in German, gaffel (fork) in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and kahveli (gaff, fork) in Finnish [source].

More details of fork-related words in Celtic languages 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.

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 – Investigate

Sherlock

Today we are looking into, examining, scrutinizing and underseeking the origins of the word investigate.

Investigate [ɪnˈves.tɪ.ɡeɪt/ɪnˈves.tə.ɡeɪt] means:

  • to inquire into or study in order to ascertain facts or information.
  • to examine, look into, or scrutinize in order to discover something hidden or secret.
  • to conduct an inquiry or examination.

It comes from investigation, from the Latin investīgātiō (a searching into), from investīgātus (investigated), from investīgō (I track, trace out, search after, discover), from in- (in, within, inside) and vestīgō (I follow a track, search, investigate), possibly from the PIE root *steygʰ- (to walk) [source].

Related words in English include vestige (a mark left on the earth by a foot; a faint mark or visible sign left by something which is lost, or has perished, or is no longer present), vestigial, and the old word pervestigate (to investigate thoroughly) [source].

A synonym for investigate is underseek (to examine, explore, investigate, spend too little time or effort in seeking). It comes from the Middle English underseken, from the Old English undersēcan [ˌun.derˈseː.t͡ʃɑn] (to investigate, examine), from under (beneath), and sēċan (to look for, seek, visit, attack) [source].

Related words in other languages include onderzoeken (to investigate, research) in Dutch, untersuchen (to examine, investigate) in German, and undersøge (to examine, test, investigate) in Danish [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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