Thursday, 23 December 2010


The place where Christ was crucified was called in Aramaic gogulþō or gogolþā meaning "skull" (OED) - in Hebrew גולגולת gulgolet. Presumably this was because the hill was rounded like a skull.

In Latin it was called Caluāria "skull", which was borrowed into Engish as Calvary. Latin caluāria is from caluus "bald", from Proto-Indo-European *kl̥h₂-wo- "bald" (AHD).

English callow and German kahl "bald" are both from Proto-Germanic *kalwo-, which is thought to be borrowed from Latin caluus (OED). Although others think it's from another Proto-Indo-European root, *gal- "bald" (AHD).

In Old English the hill was called hēafod-pannan stōw "head-pan place", that is, "skull place".

1 comment :

Glen Gordon said...

Aha, calvus. I guess that's where French chauve 'bald' comes from then. I wasn't aware of the Latin version of the word but I remember reading through La cantatrice chauve in high school. It was an absolutely crazy play created by Eugène Ionesco of the théatre de l'absurde genre. Sufficed to say, it was so funny and random that French class wasn't such a drain for a while.