Wednesday, 21 January 2009

tiger and thistle

Tiger is from Latin tigrem from Greek τίγρις. The AHD tells us that the Greek word is from the same Iranian source as Old Persian tigra- "sharp, pointed" and Avestan tighri "arrow". The Proto-Indo-European root is *steig- "sharp, pointed".

And also according to the AHD, the extended variant *teigs- became Old English þistel and English thistle. Where did the -tel come from?

The more conservative OED says about tiger (for "Zend" read "Avestan"):

(Some have conjectured connexion with Zend tīghri arrow, tighra sharp, pointed, in reference to the celerity of its spring; but no application of either word, or any derivative, to the tiger is known in Zend.)

*steig- is also found in raita.

2 comments :

Ethan Osten said...

tigrem is the accusative singular - it'd be more accurate to use the nominative tigris.

goofy said...

Perhaps you're right. I think the OED cites tigrem to show that is the actual form that the English tiger is derived from thru Old French.:
"ME. a. OF. tigre (c1150 in Godef. Compl.), ad. L. tigrem, nom. tigris, whence also rare OE. pl. tigras, -es"