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