Celtic Pathways – Great Big

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

Wood of Chestnut trees

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].

You can find more details of words for Big, Large & Great and related things on the Celtiadur blog. I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

By the way, you can find a longer version of the new theme tune, Dancing on Custard, on: SoundCloud.

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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Celtic Pathways – Hands

In this episode we’re getting to grips with Celtic words for hand and related things.

gemeinsam

A Proto-Celtic word for hand (and palm) is *ɸlāmā, which comes from Proto-Indo-European *pl̥h₂meh₂ (palm, hand), from *pleh₂- (flat) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • lámh [l̪ˠɑːvˠ/l̪ˠæːw] = hand, arm, handle or signature in Irish.
  • làmh [l̪ˠaːv] = hand, arm or handle in Scottish Gaelic
  • laue [læu] = hand, handful, foreleg or arm in Manx
  • llaw [ɬaːu̯] = hand; authority, possession, etc in Welsh
  • leuv [lœ:v / le:v] = hand in Cornish
  • lav [lav] = feathered hand in Breton

The usual word for hand in Breton is dorn, which is related to words for fist in the other Celtic languages. Another Breton word for hand is brec’h, which is related to words for arm in the other languages [source].

The Faroese word lámur ((seal’s) flipper, (cat’s) paw, left hand, (big) hand, left-handed person) comes from the same Proto-Celtic root, via the Old Norse lámr (hand, arm) [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include floor, palm, piano, plain and plan in English, piazza (square, plaza, market) in Italian, llano (flat, level, plain) in Spanish, παλάμη (palámi – palm, hand) in Greek, and words for floor and ground in Celtic languages [source]

You can find more details of words for fists, palms, hands and arms 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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

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.

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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Celtic Pathways – Sacred Trees

In this episode we’re exploring the roots of Celtic words for tree and related things.

Llyn Padarn

One Proto-Celtic word for tree is *belyom, which comes from Proto-Indo-European *bʰolh₃yo- (leaf), from *bʰleh₃- (blossom, flower) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • bile [ˈbʲɪlʲə] = (large, sacred) tree, a scion or a distinguished person in Irish.
  • bile [bilə] = mast, plough, a cluster of trees, or a sacred tree or grove in Scottish Gaelic
  • billey = tree or big bush in Manx
  • pill [pɪɬ] = (tree) trunk, stock, log, branch, pole, stake, post, fortress or stronghold in Welsh.
  • bill = trunk in Breton

In Manx billey is the usual word for tree, however words for tree have other roots in the other Celtic languages: crann (Irish), craobh (Scottish Gaelic), coeden (Welsh), gwedhen (Cornish) and gwezenn (Breton). Only the Cornish and Breton words are cognate (related).

The Proto-Celtic word *belyom became *bilia [ˈbi.liaː] (tall tree) in Gaulish, which became bille (tree trunk, railway sleeper, rolling pin) and billon (a ridge in a ploughed field) in French, and possibly billa (spigot, tap, stick) in Galician [source].

Words from the same PIE roots include folio and phyllo / fil(l)o (pastry), phyllomancy (diviniation by leaves) in English, feuille (leaf, sheet) in French, and hoja (leaf, petal, blade) in Spanish [source].

You can find more details of words for trees, wood(s) and forests 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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

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.

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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Celtic Pathways – Hollow

In this episode we’re delving into Celtic words for hollow and related things.

Hollows

The Proto-Celtic word *tullos means pierced, perforated or hole, and comes from Proto-Indo-European *tewk- (to push, press, beat, pierce, perforate), from *(s)tew- (to push, hit) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • toll [t̪ˠoːl̪ˠ] = hole, hollow, posterior, piereced, empty in Irish.
  • toll [tɔul̪ˠ] = hole, penetration, hole, hold (of a ship) in Scottish Gaelic
  • towl = aperture, bore, cavity, crater, hole, hollow in Manx
  • twll [tʊɬ] = hole, aperture, dimple, hollow, pit, cave, burrow, den, orifice in Welsh.
  • toll = burrow, hollow, hole, opening, orifice in Cornish
  • toull [ˈtulː] = holed, pierced, hole, entrance in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root in other languages include tollo (hole in the ground where hunters hide, puddle) in Spanish, toll (pool, puddle) in Catalan, and tol (ditch, dam) in Galician [source].

Words from the same PIE root possibly include tkát (to weave) in Czech, тъка [tɐˈkɤ] (to spin, plait, entwine, weave) in Bulgarian and tkać (to weave, stick, tuck) in Polish [source]. Also stoke in English, stoken (to poke, stoke, light a fire, stir up) in Dutch, and estoquer (to impale) in French [source]

You can find more details of words for hollows, holes, caves 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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Adventures in Etymology – Chair

In this Adventure we’re taking a seat to uncover the origins of the word chair.

Three Chairs

A chair [t͡ʃɛə(ɹ)/t͡ʃɛɚ] is:

  • An item of furniture used to sit on or in, comprising a seat, legs or wheels, back, and sometimes arm rests, for use by one person.

It comes from Middle English chayer/chaier(e) [ˈtʃɛi̯ər(ə)] (a comfortable seat, such as a chair or couch; a throne), from Old French chaiere (chair, seat, throne) from Latin cathedra [ˈka.tʰe.dra] (armchair, ceremonial chair, office/rank of a teacher or bishop, pulpit, chair), from Ancient Greek καθέδρα [kaˈθe.ðra] (seat, posterior, base of a column, imperial throne), from κατά [kaˈta] (down) and ἕδρα [ˈe.ðra] (seat, chair, stool, bench), from PIE *sed- (to sit) [source].

English words from the same roots include cathedra (the chair or throne of a bishop, the rank of bishop), cathedral, catastrophe, cataract and chaise (an open, horse-drawn carriage for one or two people).

Words from the same roots in other languages include cadair (chair), and cadeirlan (cathedral) in Welsh, cathaoir (chair, seat, throne) in Irish [source], and words for cathedral in many other languages [source]

The native English words for chair or seat were stool and settle. When chayer was borrowed from French their meanings changed: stool came to mean “A seat, especially for one person and without armrests.” [source], and settle, which originally meant a seat of any kind, came to mean “A long bench with a high back and arms, often with a chest or storage space underneath” [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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Celtic Pathways – Hogging Sockets

In this episode we find out what links the words hog and socket with words for pig, ploughshare and related things in Celtic languages.

Family of Feral Hogs

The Proto-Celtic word sukkos means a pig (snout) or ploughshare, presumably because ploughshares looked like pig’s snouts. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European *súH-s (pig, hog, swine) [source]

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • soc [sˠɔk] = sow in Irish.
  • soc [sɔxg] = beak, snout, socket, ploughshare, or a short, chubby person in Scottish Gaelic
  • sock = bow, nose, snout, ploughshare, jet or nozzle in Manx
  • hwch [huːχ] = sow, pig, swine, or a dirty creature in Welsh
  • hogh = hog, pig or swine in Cornish
  • houc’h = sow in Breton

Words from the same Proto-Celtic root in other languages include socket and possibly hog in English, and soc (ploughshare) in French.

The word socket comes from the Middle English soket, from the Anglo-Norman soket (spearhead), from the Old French soc (ploughshare), from the Vulgar Latin *soccus, from the Proto-Celtic *sokkos, probably via Gaulish [source].

The word hog comes from the Middle English hog(ge) (pig, swine, pig meat, hogget [young sheep]), from the Old English hogg (hog), either the Old Norse hǫggva (to hew), or from the Proto-Brythonic *hux (pig) [source].

The English word hoggan (a pork pasty), which is used mainly in Cornwall, probably comes from the Old Cornish hoggan/hogen) (pork pasty, pie), from hoch (pig), from the Proto-Brythonic *hux (pig). The word oggy/oggie (pasty), which is used in Devon and Cornwall, and also in Wales, comes from the same roots [source].

Welsh oggies are larger than Cornish pasties and contain lamb, potatoes and leeks. Here’s a recipe.

Oggie

Incidentally, the Welsh words hogyn (boy) and hogen (girl), which are used mainly in North Wales, come from hòg (young/little boy, youth, lad, fellow), from the English hogg (young sheep or hogget), from the Middle English hogget (a boar/sheep of the second year), from Anglo-Norman hog(g)et (young boar) and an Anglo-Latin hogettus [source].

You can find more details of words for pig and related beasts 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.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com