Adventures in Etymology – Extravagant

In this adventure we’re wondering about the wandering origins of the word extravagant.

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Extravagant means:

  • spending much more than is necessary or wise; wasteful
  • excessively high
  • exceeding the bounds of reason, as actions, demands, opinions, or passions
  • going beyond what is deserved or justifiable

It used to mean wandering beyond bounds [source], and comes from Middle English extravagaunt (rambling, irrelevant, extraordinary, unsual), from Middle French extravagant (extravagant), from Medieval Latin extravagans, from extravagor (to wander beyond), from extra- (beyond) and vagor (to wander, stray) [source].

Words from the same roots include vagabond, vagrant and probably vague in English, vague (vague, vagueness) in French, vaag (vague, hazy, odd, weird) in Dutch, and vago (wanderer, vagabond, slacker) in Spanish [source].

Other English words from the same roots include divagate (to wander about, stray from a suject or theme) [source], and evagate (to wander), which come from Latin roots meaning “to wander away from” and “to wander out of” [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 – Weird

In this adventure we’re unwinding the origins of the word weird.

weird sisters

As an adjective weird means:

  • Having an unusually strange character or behaviour.
  • Deviating from the normal; bizarre.
  • Of or pertaining to the Fates (archaic)
  • Connected with fate or destiny; able to influence fate (archaic)
  • Having supernatural or preternatural power (archaic)

As a noun weird means:

  • Weirdness
  • A prediction
  • That which comes to pass; a fact
  • Fate; destiny; luck (archaic)

As a verb weird means:

  • To destine; doom; change by witchcraft or sorcery.
  • To warn solemnly; adjure.

It comes from Middle English werd (fate, destiny), from Old English wyrd (fate), from Proto-West-Germanic *wurdi (fate, destiny), from Proto-Germanic *wurdiz (fate, destiny), from PIE *wert- (to turn) [source].

By the 16th century weird was obsolete in English, though it contained to be used in Scots. It was reintroduced to English by Shakespeare, who called the three witches in Macbeth the Weird Sisters.

In Scots weird means fate, fortune or destiny, and various other things, and tae dree your weird means to follow your destiny, to make what you can of your lot, or to suffer the consequences of your action [source].

Words from the same roots as weird include retain, verse, vortex and worth in English, Wert (value, worth) in German, gwerth (value, worth) in Welsh, worden (to become, get, grow, turn) in Dutch, and verða (to become, have to, must) in Icelandic [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.

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Adventures in Etymology – Down

In this adventure we’re going down the rabbit hole and unearthing the origins of the word down.

Thistle Down

Down has various meanings, each of which has different roots. First let’s look at down that means ‘from a higher position to a lower one; facing downwards, to knock down; a negative aspect’, and various other things.

This comes from Middle English doun [duːn] (down), from Old English dūne (down), a form of adūne (down, downward), from ofdūne [ovˈduː.ne] (down – “of the hill”), from Proto-Germanic *dūnǭ (sand dune, hill), possibly from *dūnaz (pile, heap), from PIE *dʰewh₂- (smoke, mist, haze) [source].

Another meaning of down (especially in southern England) is a (chalk) hill, rolling grassland, a field, especially one used for horse racing, or a piece of poor, sandy hilly land near the sea covered with fine turf used mainly for grazing sheep.

This comes from Middle English doun(e) [duːn] (hill, grass-grown upland, open country), from Old English dūn (mountain, hill), from Proto-Germanic *dūnǭ (sand dune, hill), probably from Proto-Celtic *dūnom (stronghold, rampart), from PIE *duh₂-nós (lasting, durable), or from *dʰewh₂- (smoke, mist, haze) [source].

Words from the same roots include dùn (heap, fort, town) in Scottish Gaelic, dinas (city) in Welsh, town and dune in English, tuin (garden, yard) in Dutch, and Zaun (fence) in German [source].

Down can also refer to soft, fluffy feathers that grow on young birds, and that are used as insulating material in duvets, sleeping bags and jackets, and soft hairs on plants or people’s faces.

This comes from Middle English doun (soft feathers of birds, down), from Old Norse dúnn (down), from Proto-Germanic *dūnaz (pile, heap), from PIE *dʰewh₂- (smoke, mist, haze) [source].

So all the different senses of down might ultimately come from the same PIE root, but arrived in modern English via different routes. So try not to feel down when up on the downs in a down jacket because that would be a bit of a downer.

Incidentally, we used to call duvets slumberdowns in my family. I thought that was their name, but later discovered that other people have different names for them, such as duvet or continental quilt. Slumberdown is in fact the name of the company that makes them. They’re apparently called comforters or quilts in North America, doonas in Australia, and ralli quilts or razai in India and Pakistan. What do you call them? [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.

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Celtic Pathways – Cream

In this episode we look into the Celtic roots of the word cream.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Cream comes from Middle English cre(i)me (cream, chrism [a mixture of oil and balsam]), from Old French cresme (cream), from Late Latin crāmum (cream), probably from Gaulish *crama, from Proto-Celtic *krammen (skin), from Proto-Indo-European (s)krama- [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages possibly include:

  • screamh = a deposit on surface, coating, crust, scum in Irish.
  • sgrath [sɡrah] = bark, husk, peel, skin, crust in Scottish Gaelic
  • scrooig = crust, incrustation, scab, slime, scale in Manx
  • cramen [ˈkramɛn] = scab, sore, boil, crust, layer in Welsh
  • kragh = scab in Cornish
  • kramm = grime, filth in Breton

Other words from the same Proto-Celtic root include crème (cream, cool) in French, schram (scratch, scrape, graze) in Dutch, and creme (cream [coloured]) in German.

Incidentally, the Old English word for cream was rēam [ræ͜ɑːm], which comes from Proto-Germanic *raumaz (skin, film, cream), from PIE *réwgʰmn̥ (cream). A descendent of this word, ream, is apparently still used for cream in English dialects in northern England [source], and in Scots [source].

You can find more details of words for beaks, snouts 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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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.

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Celtic Pathways – Spears and Sceptres

In this episode we find out what links the words spear and beam in Celtic languages with words for sceptre and arrow in other languages.

Romano British spearmen

The Proto-Celtic word *gaisos means spear. It comes from Proto-Germanic *gaizaz [ˈɣɑi̯.zɑz] (spear, pike, javelin), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰoysós (throwing spear), from *ǵʰey- (to throw, impel) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • ga [ɡa]= spear, dart, sting, ray (of light), radius, suppository or (fishing) gaff in Irish.
  • gath [gah] = dart, beam, ray (of light), sting, barb or shooting pain in Scottish Gaelic
  • goull = beam, dart or ray in Manx
  • gwayw [ɡweɨ̯.ʊ] = lance, spear, javelin, shooting pain, stab, stitch or pang in Welsh
  • guw = spear in Cornish
  • goaf = spear, pike, javelin or stamen in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root in other languages include gezi [ɡe̞.s̻i] (arrow) in Basque (via Latin and Gaulish), գայիսոն [ɡɑjiˈsɔn/kʰɑjiˈsɔn] (sceptre) in Armenian (via Ancient Greek), gaesum (a Gaulish javelin) in Latin, and γαῖσος [ɡâi̯.sos] (a Gaulish javelin) in Ancient Greek [source].

Words from the same Proto-Germanic root include garfish (any fish of the needlefish family Belonidae) in English [source], geer (spear) in Dutch, Ger (spear) in German, and keihäs (spear, javelin, pike) in Finnish, [source].

Incidentally, my surname, Ager, possibly comes from the same Proto-Germanic root as well, via the Old English name Ēadgār, from ēad (happiness, prosperity), and gār (spear) [source].

You can find more details of words for spears, javelins 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 – Story

In this Adventure we’re telling tales about the origins of the word story.

In Honor of The Story Teller

A story [ˈstɔː.ɹi] is:

  • An account of real or fictional events.
  • A lie, fiction.
  • History (obsolete).

It comes from Middle English storie (story, history, quip), from Old French estoire (history, story, tale), from Latin historia [isˈtoɾja] (history, account, story), from Ancient Greek ἱστορία (historía – learning through research, narration of what is learned), from ἱστορέω (historéō – to learn through research, to inquire), from ἵστωρ (hístōr – the one who knows, the expert, the judge), from PIE *wéydtōr (knowner, wise person), from *weyd- (to see) [source].

English words from the same roots include guide, history, idea, idol, idyll, video, vision, visit, wise, wit and wizard [source].

In Old English the word for story was talu, which also meant tale, talk or account. It comes from Proto-West Germanic *talu (narration, report), from Proto-Germanic *talō (narration, report), from PIE *del- (to reckon, calculate) [source].

Words from the same roots include tale, talk and tell in English, taal (language) in Dutch, Zahl (number, numeral, figure) in German, and tala (to speak, tell, talk) in Swedish [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.

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.

Adventures in Etymology – Ship

In this Adventure we’re uncovering the origins of the word ship.

Tall ship in Copenhagen harbour

A ship [ʃɪp] is:

  • A water-borne vessel generally larger than a boat.
  • A vessel which travels through any medium other than across land, such as an airship or spaceship.
  • A sailing vessel with three or more square-rigged masts. (archaic, nautical, formal)

It comes from Middle English s(c)hip [ʃip] (ship, boat), from Old English scip [ʃip] (ship), from Proto-West-Germanic *skip (ship), from Proto-Germanic *skipą (ship), possibly from PIE *skey- (to split, dissect) which originally meant a hollowed tree [source].

Words from the same roots include skipper in English, Schipp (ship) and Schiff (ship, nave, vessel, boiler) in German, schip (ship, nave) in Dutch, skepp (ship, nave) in Swedish, and sgioba (crew, team) in Scottish Gaelic [source].

The English word skiff (a small flat-bottomed open boat) also comes from the same roots, via Middle French esquif (skiff), Old Italian schifo (small boat, dingy), and Lombardic skif (ship, boat) [source].

Incidentally, the Scots word skiff (a light, fleeting shower of rain or snow; a gust of wind; to move in a light airy manner, barely touching the ground) does not come from the same roots. Instead, it probably has onomatopoeic origins. The English word skiffle (a type of folk music made using homemade or improvised instruments) was possibly borrowed from this Scots word [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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