Friday, 29 February 2008

garble and discriminate

Like zenith, garble has a complicated history, from Latin to Arabic then back to Latin. Its first meaning in English is "sift, take the pick of", then it came to mean "make selection from (unfairly or with a bias)". Its modern meaning, at least for me, is "mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible". It's from Anglo-Latin garbellāre "to sift", from Arabic ġarbala "to select", from غربال ġirbāl "sieve". And ġirbāl was perhaps borrowed from Latin crībellum, a diminuitive of crībum "sieve". The PIE root is *krei- "sieve, discriminate, distinguish".

The suffixed form *krei-men- became Latin crīmen "judgment, crime". This combined with dis- "apart" to form discrīmen "distinction" and discrīmināre, borrowed into English as discriminate.

From "discriminate, distinguish" to "garble". That's quite the semantic spread.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

zenith and amoeba

zenith "point of the sky directly overhead" is from late Middle English cenyth, senith, cinit, from Old French cenit (Modern French zénith), from medieval Latin cenit. The Latin word is from Arabic samt, a component of samt arrās (سمت الرأس) "path over the head". samt "way" + al "the" + rās "head".

Why did samt get borrowed into Latin as cenit? Maybe scribal error was involved. The OED says the derivation is obscure. Also, it seems that the modern English word has influenced the modern French word, or vice versa, since they are both spelled the same.

Arabic samt was borrowed from Latin sēmita "sidetrack, side, path", which is a combination of sē- "apart" (from Proto-Indo-European *s(w)e- the third person pronoun) plus Proto-Indo-European *mi-tā, a form of *mei- "to change, go, move" (also see here).

*mei- in its extended form *h₂meigʷ- became Greek ἀμοιβή amoibē "variation", and amoeba.

Another cognate is mad, from Old English *gemǣdan "to make insane or foolish" from Proto-Germanic ǥa-maiđ-az "changed (for the worse); abnormal" from the suffixed o-grade form *moi-to- (*-to- formed adjectives of accomplishment; it is found in the English adjectival suffix -ed, as in bearded).

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

some words of Dravidian origin

bandicoot: Telugu పందికొక్కు pandikokku literally "pig-rat"

betel from Portuguese, from Malayalam വെട്ടില (?) veṭṭila from വെറു veṟu "simple" + ഇല ila "leaf"

brilliant and beryl: Perhaps from Pali veḷuriya "precious stone, lapis lazuli", perhaps from a Dravidian source akin to Tamil விளர் viḷar "To become pale; to whiten", வெளிறு veḷiṟu "whiteness" (AHD)

candy: "probably from Dravidian" (AHD) - compare Tamil ௧ண்டு kaṇṭu "1. clod, lump; 2. wen; 3. bead or something like a pendent in an ornament for the neck"

catamaran: Tamil கட்டுமரம் kaṭṭumaram from கட்டு kaṭṭu "to tie" plus மரம் maram "tree; wood"

cheroot: Tamil சுருட்டு curuṭṭu "To roll up, coil, curl, fold, twist" from சுரி curi "To be spiral, as conch; to whirl round, eddy, as water" (AHD)

coir: Malayalam കയറു kayaṟu "coir, rope, cord"

congee: Tamil கஞ்சி kañci "rice-water" (OED)

corundum: Tamil குருந்தம் kuruntam

cot: Hindi खाट khāṭ "bedstead" from Sanskrit खद्वा khadvā from Tamil கட்டு kaṭṭu "to tie, bind, fasten" (AHD)

curry: Tamil கறி kaṟi "eating by biting"

ginger: from Middle Indic (akin to Pali singivera) from Dravidian - compare Tamil இஞ்சி iñci "ginger plant" and வேர் vēr "root".

jute: Bengali jhuṭo from Sanskrit जूट jūṭ "twisted hair (of ascetics and Shiva)", probably of Dravidian origin - compare Proto-Dravidian *ǯuṭ- "tuft of hair"

mango: Malay manga, from Tamil மாங்காய் māṅkāy, from மா "mango" plus காய் kāy "unripe fruit"

mattar from Hindi मटर maṭar "pea", from Tamil மட்டை maṭṭai "inferior person or thing" (OED) (This dictionary has "a stupid fellow")

mongoose: Marathi मुंगूस muṅgūs "Bengal mongoose", of Dravidian origin - compare Tamil மூங்கா mūṅkā "A species of mongoose", Telugu ముంగిస muṃgisa, Proto-Dravidian *muŋ- "mongoose" (AHD)

mulligatawny: Tamil மிளகுத்தண்ணீர் miḷakuttaṇṇīr "Mulligatawny, a soup highly seasoned with pepper", from மிளகு miḷaku "black pepper" plus தண்ணீர் taṇṇīr "cold fresh water"

orange: Sanskrit नारङ्ग nāraṅga "orange tree", possibly of Dravidian origin

paratha: perhaps of Dravidian origin; cf Tamil பரத்து parattu- "to spread" (OED)

pariah: Tamil பறையன் paṟaiyaṉ "a caste" from பறை paṟai "Drum; The Paṟaiya caste, as drum-beaters"

patchouli probably from Deccan pacolī; the first part of the word is probably from Dravidian; cf Tamil பச்சை paccai "fragrant plant" (OED)

Rom, Romani: Romani rom "man", probably from Sanskrit डोम्ब ḍomba "lower-caste person", probably from Dravidian, compare Kannada ಡೊಮ್ಬ ḍomba "caste of acrobats, jugglers, clowns", Tamil டொம்பரவர் ṭomparavar, தொம்பர் tompar "A wandering tribe of singers and rope-dancers"

tank: Gujarati tānkh "cistern" (altho most dictionaries have ટાંકી ṭāṅkī) from Sanskrit तडग taḍaga "pond", "perhaps of Dravidian origin" (AHD) - compare Tamil தடாதம் taṭākam "pond, pool, tank" (Cologne), தட்டம் taṭṭam "tank, pond", Telugu తటాకము taṭākamu "A tank, reservoir, pond, pool"

teak: Malayalam തേക്കു tēkku "the teak tree"

Monday, 25 February 2008

hell, colour, apocalypse

Proto-Indo-European *ḱel- "to cover, conceal" became English hell as in "concealed place".

The suffixed o-grade form *ḱol-os became Latin color "colour" as in "that which covers".

The suffixed variant *ḱal-up-yo- became Greek καλύπτω kaluptō "to cover, conceal", which combined with ἄπο "away from" (PIE *apo- "off, away") to form apokaluptō "to uncover" and apocalypse.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

bridegroom and chameleon

Proto-Indo-European *dʰǵʰem- "earth" with derivatives meaning "earthling" became Proto-Germanic *ǥumōn "man", and then Old English guma "man". This combined with bride to form the Middle English word bridegome, which became bridegroom under the influence of the word groom, an unrelated word meaning "man". The origin of groom is unknown; the word has no other Germanic cognates.

In Greek the o-grade form *dʰǵʰom- became χαμαί khamai "on the ground", which combined with leōn "lion" to form khamaileōn "chameleon". This was borrowed into Latin as chamaeleōn, then into English as chamalioun, chameleon.

The suffixed o-grade form *dʰǵʰom-on- became Latin homō "man", which gives us the words homage and homicide thru Old French. The form *dʰǵʰom-o- became humus "earth", which gives us the words humble, exhume and human, also thru Old French.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

druid and Veda

Drew Mackie of Back of the Cereal Box has commented once or twice on my posts on Indo-European words that have traveled far afield. So here's another!

druid is from Latin druidæ, druides from Proto-Celtic *druwid- "priest". (Compare Irish Gaelic draoi, druadh, Scots Gaelic draoi, draoidh, druidh.) This is probably formed from the Proto-Indo-European roots *deru- "to be firm, solid, steadfast" (the source of tree and true) and *weid- "to see". So the etymological sense of druid is either "true seer" or "oak, tree + seer", druidical rites being associated with the oak.

*weid- in the form *woid-o- became Sanskrit वेदः vedaḥ "knowledge". The Rigveda (ऋग्वेद r̥gveda from ऋच् r̥c "praise, verse" from PIE *erkʷ- "to radiate, beam, praise", plus vedaḥ) is an ancient collection of hymns dedicated to the gods. The Rigveda dates to 1000 BC and is our first record of Indic.

*weid- also became Old English wīs as in wise, Greek ἰδέα "appearance, form, idea" as in idea, and Latin vidēre "to see" as in video, vision.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

king, cognate, gene, jaunty

The Proto-Indo-European root is *ǵenh₁- "to give birth, beget".

The "birth" meaning being extended to cover familial relationships, the suffixed zero-grade form *ǵn̥h₁-yo- (the *-yo- suffix meaing "of or belonging to") became Proto-Germanic *kunyam "family", then *kuninǥaz "king", Old English cyning, and English king.

The form *ǵn̥h₁-sḱo- became Latin gnāscī, nāscī "to be born". This combined with com "together" (from *kom- "together, with") to form cognātus "by common descent" - and cognate. Cognates are words that have a common origin. Some people define cognates as words that have a similar sound and meaning - but cognates can often be very semantically and phonologically divergent, as this blog shows.

In Latin, the suffixed form *ǵenh₁-es- became genus "type", which gives us words like gender, generation, and genre, thru French. In Greek, *ǵenh₁-es- became γένος genos "race, kind", which gives us gene.

The form *ǵn̥h₁-ti- (*-ti- was a nominal suffix) became Latin gēns, gentis "race, clan", then gentīlis "of the same clan", then Old French gentil "noble". This was borrowed into English as gentle c 1200. Then around 1600, French gentil "nice, pleasing" was borrowed into English as jaunty, spelled to resemble the French pronunciation.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Alice and edelweiss

The Proto-Indo-European root is *at-h₂el- "race, family". This was a compound formed from *at(i)- "over, beyond" (found in Latin at "but, yet, moreover" and Greek ἀτ-άρ "however") and *h₂el- "to grow, nourish", perhaps also "noble fosterling" (found in old). In Proto-Germanic, *at-h₂el- became *aþala-, which combined with *haiduz "manner, quality" (this is the same hood in knighthood, childhood and is from *(s)kai- "bright, shining", maybe the same as *sḱeh₂(i)- "to gleam") to form the Old High German name *Adalhaid "nobility", which was borrowed into Old French as Adélaide. This was contracted to Aliz, then Alice.

In German, *at-h₂el- shows up as Adel "nobility" and edel "noble". Edelweiß literally means "noble white" (from *ḱweid- "white"). In English it survives in atheling from Old English æþeling "prince".


'My NAME is Alice, but--'

'It's a stupid enough name!' Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. 'What does it mean?'

'MUST a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.

'Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: 'MY name means the shape I am--and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.'

Thursday, 14 February 2008

sambar, bring, metaphor

Idli sambar is a yummy Indian dish sometimes eaten for breakfast. I'll leave the recipe to the cooks and just discuss the etymology. The word for the rice cake seems to be of Dravidian origin (Tamil இட்லி iṭli), while the word for the lentil stew, sambar, is from Tamil சாம்பார் cāmpār, borrowed from Prakrit saṃbhārei "to gather", related to Sanskrit संभारयति saṃbhārayati the causative of संभरति saṃbharati "to bring together". This verb is a combination of sam "together" (from Proto-Indo-European *sem- "together, with") and bharati "to bear, support" from PIE *bʰer- "to carry; to give birth".

*bʰer- combined with *h₁neḱ- "to bring", to form *bʰrenk- (presumably after the centum-satem split? I don't know where the laryngeal went), which became Proto-Germanic *ƀrenǥan, *ƀranhta, then Old English brinȝan, brōhte, ȝebrōht, then English bring and brought.

*bʰer- became Greek φέρω pherō "to carry", which combined with μετά meta "with" (from *me- "in the middle of") to form metaphora "transference, metaphor" - that is, "carrying across".

*bʰer- gives us many other words:
fertile, prefer, differ from Latin fertilis, præfero, differo, all from fero "to carry"
bear from Old English beran "to carry"
birth from Old Norse byrð
fortune from Latin fortūna from the suffixed zero-grade form *bʰr-tu-.

In other news, I talk about the English subjunctive on Write Wow.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

lord and wardrobe

lord is from Old English hlāford from hlāf "loaf, bread" and weard "guardian, ward". See lady. weard is from Proto-Germanic *warđaz which is from the Proto-Indo-European root *wer- "to perceive, watch out for" (not to be confused with *wer- "to turn, bend").

*wer- gives us words such as:
wary from Old English wær "prudent"
guard from Old French guarder "to keep, to guard" from Proto-Germanic *warđaz
wardrobe from Old French guarderobe from guarder and robe "clothing" (from Proto-Germanic *rauƀō "plunder" as in "clothes taken as plunder", from PIE *reup- "to snatch")
Arcturus from Greek ἄρκτος arktos "bear" (from PIE *h₂rtḱo- "bear") and οὖρος ouros "guard" from the suffixed form *wor-wo. The star was so named because it is near Ursa Major, the bear.
panorama from Greek πας, παν pas, pan "all" (from *pant- "all" attested only in Tocharian and Greek) and horāma "sight" from ὁράω horaō "to see" from the variant *s(w)or-.

Friday, 8 February 2008

hippopotamus and feather

The Proto-Indo-European root is *peth₁- "to rush, to fly" (not to be confused with *peth₂- "to spread"). The suffixed form *peth₁-rā- became Proto-Germanic *feþrō "feather", Old English feðer, then feather.

The o-grade form *poth₁- plus the Greek suffix -amo- became Greek ποταμός potamos "river" ie, "rushing water". This combined with Greek ἵππος hippos "horse" (from PIE *eḱw-o "horse" as in equine) to form hippopotamos "river horse".

The suffixed form *pet-nā- became Latin penna "feather", and this became Old French penne and English pen, as in the writing instrument, which was made from feathers.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Shiva and céilidh

Let's go as far afield geographically as we can, like fjord and Parvati.

The Proto-Indo-European root *ḱei- had a few meanings: "to lie; bed, couch; beloved, dear". The suffixed zero-grade form *ḱi-wo- (*-wo- being an adjective suffix) became Sanskrit शिव śivá "auspicious, propitious, gracious, friendly, dear", and then the name of the Hindu deity Shiva or Siva.

The suffixed form *ḱei-liyo- became Proto-Celtic *kilyo- "companion", Old Irish céile "companion", then Old Irish célide "visit", then Irish Gaelic céilidh "social gathering". Compare Sanskrit शील śīla "habit, custom, natural or acquired way of living or acting". (An etymological lexicon of Proto-Celtic doesn't list a PIE form for *kilyo-. Because it's "in progress"?)

The suffixed form *ḱei-wi- became Latin cīvis, cīvitās "citizen", that is "a member of a household". This gives us city, citizen and civil.

Some people folk-etymologize Shiva as being from Dravidian civa "red" (compare Tamil சிவ civa "to redden").

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

guru and gravity



Proto-Indo-European *gʷerh₂- "heavy" in the suffixed zero-grade form *gʷrh₂-u- became Sanskrit गुरुः guruḥ "heavy, venerable; any venerable or respectable person; a spiritual parent or preceptor" and Hindi गुरू gurū "teacher".

The suffixed zero-grade form *gʷrh₂-wi- became Latin gravis "heavy", giving us grave (the adjective) and gravity. grave as in "place of burial" is from a different root (*grebh- "to dig, bury, scratch").

In Greek it's βαρύς barus "heavy" as in barium.

The suffixed extended form *gʷrih₂-g- became Proto-Germanic *krīǥ, Old High German krēg "stubbornness", then German Krieg "war".

The Advayatāraka Upaniṣad (अद्वयतारकोपनिषत् and here) verse 16 provides a folk etymology of guruḥ.

गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारः स्यात् रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः । अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ।। १६ ।।
The syllable gu [signifies] darkness. The syllable ru [signifies] the destroyer of that [darkness]. By reason of the [ability] to destroy darkness, he is called a guru.
(translation from here)

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.