Thursday, 20 December 2007

fat and Irish?

The Proto-Indo-European root *peiH- "to be fat, swell" in the extended o-grade form *poid- became in Proto-Germanic *faitaz "fat". This became Old English fæt and then English fat.

In Proto-Celtic, the extended form *pī-wer- "fat, fertile" became *f–weryon- "earth, soil", which became Old Irish *īwer-iū "Ireland". This was borrowed into Old English as Īras "Irish", and thence our word Irish.

This is not completely certain; An etymological lexicon of Proto-Celtic notes in the entry for *f–weryon-:

"The Irish (and Welsh) name of Ireland, Ériu, W[elsh] Iwerddon, might also be related, but there are difficulties with this etymology, and there are alternative ones"

In Latin it became pītuīta "moisture exuded from trees." Thence English pituitary.

Another cognate is paneer, from Hindi पनीर panīr from Persian پنیر panīr from Indic *pēm "milk".

sources: Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, An etymological lexicon of Proto-Celtic, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots 2001

3 comments : said...

I don't see a problem with the connection between the word fat and the word Irish. I think back in the day "fat" did not have a negative connotation, rather it meant healthy, alive, fertile, abundant "the fat of the land". Today fat simply means "obese" with a negative connotation tacked on.

Squirrel Boy said...

I think "difficulty" in this sense means unclear or unexplained phonological or morphological changes, not anything to do with the negative connotations of one of the words today.

goofy said...

I think squirrel boy is right. Too bad the etylomological lexicon of Proto-Celtic doesn't say what the alternatives are.