Friday, 1 February 2008

weird, rhombus, worm, crimson

The Proto-Indo-European root *wer- "to turn, bend" in the zero-grade form *wt- became Proto-Germanic *wurþi and then Old English wyrd "fate", and then weird. weird originally meant "fate", as in the "weird sisters", the three fates of Greek and Roman mythology. Apparently the meaning of "odd-looking, uncanny" is modeled on Shakespeare's odd-looking and uncanny weird sisters in Macbeth.

The nasalized variant *wremb- became Greek ῥόμβος rhombos "rhombus, spinning top". The form *w-mi- became Old English wyrm "serpent", then worm.

*w-mi- is connected to *kʷ-mi-, both words meaning "worm", and the second word being a variant (or "rhyme word") of the first. *kʷ-mi- became Sanskrit कृमिज kṛmija "produced by worms (as silk)" or "(red dye) produced by worms". (The ja suffix means "born or descended from, produced or caused by" and is from jan "to be born" from PIE *ǵenh₁- "to give birth".)

The Sanskrit word was borrowed into Arabic as qirmiz "kermes insect", and this was borrowed into Medieval Latin as cremesīnus, which was borrowed into Middle English as cremesin, which became crimson.


Jon Boy said...

Not to mention words like versus, all the Latin vert words like convert and pervert, the English suffix -ward and the Old English weorthan 'become'.

goofy said...

Yes. And "rhapsody". It was a productive root.

Stuart Douglas said...

From 'to bend' to 'crimson' in three easy steps! You're never less than unexpectedly informative, John :)