Monday, 15 September 2008


Drew asked about words beginning with fl- that describe quick movement, usually thru the air. I guess this is another phonestheme, like the gl- of glint, glisten, glitter etc. Altho these fl- words might have come from a few different sources, it is possible that their meanings converged because they share the same phonestheme. The OED states that fly and flee are not related - the fl of flee was originally þl. Perhaps it became fl under the influence of the other fl words.
All info from the OED unless noted

fly from Old English flēogan from Proto-Germanic *fleugan from PIE *pleu- "to flow"
flee from Old English flēon from Proto-Germanic *þleuhan. The þ changed to f in all Germanic languages except Gothic. Compare Old Norse flýa, Dutch vlieden, Gothic þliuhan (OED). According to the AHD, flee is from the same PIE root as fly.
float from Old English flotian, weak grade of Proto-Germanic *fleutan from PIE *pleu-
fleet from Old English flēotan "to float" from Proto-Germanic *fleutan
flutter from Old English flotorian, a frequentative from the same root as flēotan.
flotilla from Spanish flota "fleet", borrowed from Old Norse floti "raft, fleet" (AHD)
fluster compare Icelandic flaustr "hurry, bustle"
flit from Old Norse flytja from the same Proto-Germanic source as float
flight from Old English flyht from the same source as fly
flash "of onomatopoeic origin... The synonymous French flache may have influenced the Eng. word; it is commonly regarded as a subst. use of flache, fem. of Old French. flac adj. soft: - L. flaccus."
flurry "omonatopoeic"
fling compare Old Norse flengja "to move impetuously"
flare compare Norwegian flara "to blaze, to flaunt in gaudy attire"
flail the noun, from Old English fligel, compare Dutch vlegel, probably from Latin flagellum "scourge". The verb flail is derived from the noun.
flay from Old English flēan from PIE *pleh₁-(i)ḱ- "to tear" (AHD)
flake from PIE *plag- "to beat" (OED) or PIE *pleh₂k- "to be flat" (AHD), compare Old Norse flóke "flock of wool, lock of hair"

1 comment :

Drew said...

Hey! Thanks so much for posting this. I didn't know what a phonestheme was until I read your post. Or, at least, I didn't know there was a word for the concept. Now I'm obsessed with it to the point that it's making my head spin.