Wiktionary:Etymology scriptorium

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Etymology scriptorium

Welcome to the Etymology scriptorium. This is the place to cogitate on etymological aspects of the Wiktionary entries.

Etymology scriptorium archives edit

November 2018


Does the "mine supervisor" sense have a different etymology than the German-derived/calqued "superhuman" sense? - -sche (discuss) 17:24, 1 November 2018 (UTC)

OED seems to group them together as one term [[1]], as does MW; however Century only has the "foreman in a colliery" sense, and doesn't even mention the German word or meaning, so they must be unrelated. Leasnam (talk) 23:27, 3 November 2018 (UTC)
I broke them out. It's obvious that the German is a much later calque. Leasnam (talk) 23:31, 3 November 2018 (UTC)

虫垂 and vermix[edit]

The etymology section for Japanese 虫垂 (chuusui, vermiform appendix) presents as a possible explanation that this is, perhaps, a calque of Latin vermix. A problem with this explanation is that vermix is not a Latin word. Translated literally, 虫垂 would mean “worm hang”. Now it is a well-known fact that Japanese medical knowledge expanded greatly, starting in the 18th century, through the diligent study of Rangaku, which gave access to Western science, including medicine. Excerpts of Dutch medical compendia were translated into Japanese. The vernacular Dutch term for the learned Latin term vermiform appendix is a very literal calque, wormvormig aanhangsel. It is easy to see why Japanese translators may have opted to calque-translate this more in style as if it were “worm hang”. The use of to form a compound is not unique; for example, 肉垂 (nikusui), literally meaning ”flesh hang”, is used for an animal’s double chin (as seen e.g. in rabbits) or wattle (as in birds).  --Lambiam 19:15, 1 November 2018 (UTC)

  • I'm not sure where that etym was sourced from, but the JA materials I have to hand suggest it's a calque from medical Latin appendix vermiformis. Note that can mean “to hang”, and also “to dangle, to hang off of something else”. It can be used on its own to refer to an appendix, particularly in medical contexts. There are also longer-form synonyms for Japanese 虫垂 (chūsui) that are closer calques and that appear to pre-date the short term: 虫様垂 (chūyō sui, literally worm-shaped dangling → vermiform appendix), 虫様突起 (chūyō tokki, literally worm-shaped sticking-out → vermiform process). Unfortunately, the JA sources I've consulted describe what this is, but say almost nothing as to the historical provenance of these terms. The Shinmeikai 5 does state that 虫垂 is a newer synonym for older 虫様突起 (chūyō tokki). The best I've found so far about the etymon is this entry in the Sekai Dai Hyakka Jiten (“World Big Encyclopedia”), which explicitly calls out the Latin term in a notation similar to etymologies in other dictionaries.
HTH, ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 22:52, 1 November 2018 (UTC)
@Fumiko Take. —Suzukaze-c 23:06, 1 November 2018 (UTC)
  • @Lambiam, I've expanded the etymology. I suspect that rangaku was probably where this term first entered Japanese, but I cannot find a source that definitively states as much, nor any historical sources that use the term. That said, I haven't done much digging yet in historical texts. ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 18:32, 5 November 2018 (UTC)

German Metzger[edit]

Duden's etymology describes this as:

mittelhochdeutsch metzjer, metzjære, wahrscheinlich zu mittellateinisch matiarius = jemand, der mit Därmen handelt, zu lateinisch mattea < griechisch mattýa = feine Fleischspeise

I'm curious if this might (also?) be related somehow to Hungarian metsz (to cut), which appears to have wholly Hungarian / Uralic roots (obsolete verb met + frequentative verb-forming suffix -sz, though our -sz entry is currently missing the frequentative suffix sense; see also the verbs alszik, tesz), with no relation to the Latin or Greek. The German term appears to be more southern, and Austria is right next door to Hungary, so it's at least geographically plausible. ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 17:34, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

I'm certain that there is no connection and that the resemblance to the Hungarian verb is purely accidental. (Also, what's up with the -g- < -j- then?) I don't see how both etymologies (and the mat(t)iārius etymology is pretty compelling; see also de:Metzger and Pfeifer apud DWDS) could be true at the same time. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:52, 14 November 2018 (UTC)
The -j--g- shift required for Middle High German metzjer to become modern Metzger is rather puzzling to me, but maybe that's a regular shift in German?
There is a Hungarian noun-forming suffix -g, and I find evidence of a rare form metszeg (google:"metszeg"), which prompted my initial query from the hypothesis that maybe HU metszeg → *metszg + DE agentive suffix -erMetzger, either as a borrowing or as an influence. But perhaps not. ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 00:29, 15 November 2018 (UTC)


Users knowledgeable of Old English etymologies and with more time than me may want to look into the question on that talk page. - -sche (discuss) 19:23, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

Done. Leasnam (talk) 04:04, 3 November 2018 (UTC)

sumu, somon[edit]

Do we know what language somon is from, and whether sumu (which we're currently missing, there and at sum, as a word for a Sum (country subdivision)) is from Mongolian or Chinese? (Is the word when in reference to Mongolia derived from Mongolian, while in reference to China it's from Chinese?) - -sche (discuss) 22:01, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

Our entry 蘇木#Etymology 2 states that it is borrowed from Mongolian.  --Lambiam 22:21, 2 November 2018 (UTC)
There's also the question of whether sumu is from the older Mongolian, or from Mandarin (in turn from Mongolian). @Crom daba should be able to sort this all out. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 23:00, 2 November 2018 (UTC)
See сум. As a side note, I think we should merge Classical Mongolian and Mongolian, the distinction is more trouble than worth. Crom daba (talk) 12:00, 3 November 2018 (UTC)


I see a lot of sources not just not backing our etymology up, but indeed insisting that stay (the common verb) derives ultimately from Latin stare, which our etymology dismisses. I looked into the citation, but I must be missing something because I don't see how The Century Dictionary's entry disproves or offers grounds for dismissal of the stare explanation.

Forgive me if I truly am missing something blatantly obvious or something like that, but I don't see why we ought to assume that the common verb stay is from an Old French verbal derivative of a noun derived from Middle Dutch staeye ("a prop, stay"), from a contracted form of Middle Dutch staede, ultimately from Proto Germanic *stadiz (a standing, place). Tharthan (talk) 06:30, 5 November 2018 (UTC)

The question is, does English stay come from the Old French verb estayer or from the Old French ester (simple present third person singular estait)? As a general rule, English verbs derived from Old French verbs ending in -er drop the infinitive ending -er, first replacing it by -en, which then is dropped in the transition from Middle English to English. For example, Old French contester → English contest. So in the first case we expect Old French estayer → Middle English estayen → English estay, in the second case Old French ester → Middle English esten → English est. The aphaeresis estay(en)stay(en) is almost standard, as in Old French especial → Middle English special. A development leading from Old French ester to English stay, on the other hand, is not easily explained.
It is generally accepted that estayer comes from an Old French noun *estai (French étai). Now the question becomes the etymology of *estai. Here, we find a serious divergence. Our stay etymology derives it from Middle Dutch staeye. The French Wikipedia derives it from Old Low Franconian *staka (cognate with stake), as does “étai” in le Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).  --Lambiam 08:17, 5 November 2018 (UTC)
When an English word has an Old French pedigree, you’d generally expect that it migrated to the British isles with the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. If estai was already then part of the Old French lexicon, it cannot have been borrowed from Middle Dutch, since the latter term denotes West Germanic dialects that were spoken and written between 1150 and 1500.  --Lambiam 21:09, 5 November 2018 (UTC)
Yes, but didn't Old Norman or Anglo-Norman end up also creating a bit of a passageway for other Old French terms to enter into English at a somewhat later date? Furthermore, even if it isn't from Middle Dutch, could it not still be derived from the other Germanic source suggested by the French source that you mentioned? Tharthan (talk) 22:13, 5 November 2018 (UTC)
While there remained contact for a considerable time between Anglo-Normans and continental Normans, the number of words introduced thereby in Anglo-Norman French from the second half of the 12th century onward must be rather small compared to the lexicon imported in the wave of the initial 1066 conquest. That makes the Middle Dutch hypothesis not entirely impossible but considerably less likely. An additional problem is that the meaning of étai is “prop” while the Middle Dutch word just meant “place”, although it is conceivable that the meaning in French shifted only later. I have no opinion on the Old Low Franconian hypothesis. The Trésor presents no evidence for the claim.  --Lambiam 07:18, 6 November 2018 (UTC)
The earliest occurrences of Middle English staien are from the early 15c (1423) in the sense of "to support, hold something up", and it appears that this word came into English much later after the Norman Conquest. Also, to my understanding, most English words of French origin were borrowed 14-15 century, and not immediately after the Conquest. Leasnam (talk) 23:03, 6 November 2018 (UTC)
But were they borrowed from Anglo-Norman French or from continental Middle French? In other words, when did estai cross the Channel?  --Lambiam 07:43, 7 November 2018 (UTC)
They were borrowed from both. The notion that English was immediately flooded with Norman French words in the years following the Norman Conquest is simply just not true. Early Middle English writings show meagre borrowings contrasted with Late Middle English (Chaucer), which is rife with French words, both from Central French and Northern varieties. In Early Middle English, the English simply did not "take" to the French. It wasn't until after the French speaking monarchs in England abandoned French to speak ENGLISH that we see a version of English, their "English", peppered to death with French insertions. As far as estai is concerned, as it says above, it's attested first in 1423, which makes it rather Late Middle English. Leasnam (talk) 20:42, 7 November 2018 (UTC)
The conquerers brought with them, in the 11th century, an extended lexicon from Old Norman French and other Old French dialects. Their language developed into what is called Anglo-Norman French. This was the King’s French. Regardless of when estaien was borrowed by Middle English, surely it found its way via the intermediary of Anglo-Norman French, so at some earlier point in time it must have become part of the Anglo-Norman French lexicon. When did this happen? In the course of its development, the Anglo-Norman French lexicon also incorporated many new words from continental French. However, the number of such new words was nevertheless much less than the size of the “old” lexicon. Was estai already part of the lexicon imported wholesale across the Channel in the 11th century, or was it one of the later imports? The latter form a minority, so without further specific information on any particular word, the former is more likely. If Middle English estaien is first attested in 1423, does that tell us something about the earliest use of estaie in French? Le Trésor gives 1304 as the first attestation. We should compare that to early attestations of Middle Dutch staeye in a sense of “support”, something on which I have no information.  --Lambiam 09:24, 8 November 2018 (UTC)

Proto-Germanic “jaw”[edit]

*kaflaz and *kefalaz overlap in their descendants. Now I am not sure what’s the truth about what was used in Proto-Germanic. Am I right to assume that *kefalaz as created by @Leasnam, but later than the other, is the better reconstruction? I wouldn’t know if there were variants in Proto-Germanic. Pfeifer speaks of “r-, l- oder t-Suffix” and there are more descendants with -r and -t. I find neither form anyway elsewhere, but some thing or the other needs to be done, onto which I focus attention herewith. Fay Freak (talk) 18:48, 6 November 2018 (UTC)

The former variant seems to have been created on the basis of Old English (ċeafl < *kæfl < *kafl-), while Dutch/French/German clearly point to *ke- (and Norse to *kē-!). It looks frankly unclear if the words can be derived from a single proto-form. --Tropylium (talk) 17:22, 10 November 2018 (UTC)


The etymology which User:Hikui87 added, can anyone verify that? --Naggy Nagumo (talk) 23:50, 7 November 2018 (UTC)

It's not right. I'd fix it, but I'm having trouble with the editor features at the moment. ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 02:03, 8 November 2018 (UTC)
@Eirikr, should it be removed? --Naggy Nagumo (talk) 00:46, 10 November 2018 (UTC)
@Naggy Nagumo, done. Replaced with {{rfe}} until I or someone else can get around to adding the correct etym. ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 00:30, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

not to worry[edit]

Etymology? @Backinstadiums. Per utramque cavernam 23:03, 10 November 2018 (UTC)

I think this was first used in the mid 20th century (as a standalone phrase). DTLHS (talk) 01:45, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
It might be an ellipsis of something, but what? "I tell you not to worry."? "It's better not to worry."? "Not any reason to worry."? DCDuring (talk) 04:07, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
@DCDuring: Could it be a construction running parallel with to be sure and others, about which there has been a discussion a few months ago? Per utramque cavernam 15:03, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. I'd forgotten about Wiktionary:Tea_room/2018/February#to_be_sure. But the expressions discussed there functioned as sentence adverbs. Not to worry has a discourse function (a bit like de nada?) as a response to an apology.
In that discussion there was a large population of adjectives that could follow to be. At the moment I can't think of other verbs that can fill the slot occupied by worry. DCDuring (talk) 06:07, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
"Not to fear": [2], "not to fret", [3]. DTLHS (talk) 06:10, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
According to Partridge’s Dictionary of Catch Phrases the idiom dates from the mid-1930s with a surge in 1957–8. There are many grammatically standard sentences with the collocation; a nice example from 1935 is, “Not to worry is obviously at times impossible to the thoroughly sane and sound.”[4] Or, paraphrasing the Bard’s tragical Prince of Denmark: “To worry or not to worry, that is the question that is worrying me.”  --Lambiam 08:30, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
But is/was there an expression which performs a similar function in discourse? DCDuring (talk) 14:56, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
I can imagine an exchange like “To worry or not to worry, that is the question. — Well, if these are the alternatives, my choice is not to worry.” Admittedly somewhat contrived, compared to “I tell you not to worry”. But the expression is somewhat odd, and almost certainly was felt even more so when it was fresh, so whatever the origin is, it may not have been a quite normal expression either.  --Lambiam 22:45, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
Looking at the citations in the entry, the Kingsley Amis citation is indirectly reported speech, not the stand-alone expression. Our usage example is stilted and omits commas that I would expect to bracket the expression. It would be more natural if the usage example was of the use of the expression in dialog.
There is not terribly much usage in Google Books of standalone conversational Not to worry = No worries, but abundant usage of the collocation in indirect reported speech. Is it possible that a sentence like 'He told me not to worry (indirect reported speech) is interpreted as He told me "Not to worry"' (direct reported speech)? DCDuring (talk) 05:43, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
I found this in Jewish Language Review, Volume 5: "It has been supposed that English Not to worry! is of Yiddish origin, but those who have suggested this etymology have never specified the presumed Yiddish etymon. Could it be ni(sh)t gedayget!?" DTLHS (talk) 06:31, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
As well as "Meshuggenary: celebrating the world of Yiddish" (2002, 21): "And another translates a Yiddish expression into English, as Be well (Yiddish, Zay gezunt), not to worry (Yiddish, nit gedayget), [] "
@Metaknowledge, Wikitiki89? Per utramque cavernam 09:04, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
I don't know. It may be worth noting that "ni(sh)t gedayget" literally translates to "not worried" rather than "not to worry". --WikiTiki89 16:12, 12 November 2018 (UTC)


Is the etymology correct? Not from con- + assimilation?--Espoo (talk) 15:27, 11 November 2018 (UTC)

One might quibble about the "with ‘m’ doubled to clarify pronunciation" part, but, but the etymology has to be correct- the second part is definitely mingle, not assimilate. I suppose it could also be a calque, but assimilate and mingle aren't that great a match, semantically. It looks to me like addition of the co- prefix to an English word with the "m" added by analogy with the behavior of the same prefix in Latin borrowings. Chuck Entz (talk) 16:29, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
I think that's what Espoo meant (con- + mingle with assimilation). Per utramque cavernam 16:47, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
Now that you point it out, probably. My last sentence is still relevant- not assimilation, but analogy with assimilated Latin terms. Chuck Entz (talk) 23:43, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
It looks like the spelling comingle is slightly older than commingle. It is hard to tell now why some people, three centuries ago, chose a second, different spelling, but it is possible they only knew the word from hearing it used and just guessed a spelling for it. If the words were pronounced then as they are now, commingle is the more phonetic spelling. At the same time, for people familiar with words like command, commemorate, commit and commotion, a double mm may by analogy have seemed the correct spelling. I find it plausible that both explanations have played a role.  --Lambiam 22:26, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
My guess is that the extra "m" was added to make it match other words where the assimilation happened in Latin before they made their way into English. It wouldn't surprise me if it was at least partly motivated by the old belief that Latin was the model to which all other languages should conform. Chuck Entz (talk) 23:43, 11 November 2018 (UTC)


It looks as if I found another one.

Many other sources put forth this as the etymology for the word:

From Middle English mincen, from Old French mincier/mincer ("to cut into tiny pieces"), from Vulgar Latin *minutiare ("to make tiny") [from minutiæ ("tiny pieces"), from minutia ("smallness")] from Latin minutus ("small").


Although some dictionaries list an Old English etymology as a possibility, it is still usually noted to be less likely than the Latin etymology. And as plausible as I grant you that our etymology is, is there any real reason besides the alternative Middle English spelling minsen of Middle English mincen and the obsolete alternative Modern English spelling minse of mince why we assume that mince comes in part from Old English minsian ("to make less, make smaller, diminish")? Again, it is not that it seems implausible (not at all, in fact, it would seem implausible for Old English minsian to exist at the same time [if it was indeed still part of the common parlance at the time] as Old French mincier/mincer and not influence the Middle English word), but before we declare a word to be the result of a conflation of two ancestral words from two different languages, I think that we ought to give it some more thought. If the partial penultimate etymon (of sorts) is indeed Proto-Germanic *minniz (less), I suppose that in the grand scheme of things that it doesn't matter because both Latin minutus and Proto-Germanic *minniz come from the same Proto-Indo-European root. Still, it would be good if we could back up our etymology. If mince didn't partially come from Old English minsian, then the Old English term ought not to be listed in our etymology. Tharthan (talk) 04:12, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

The question is really this, Tharthan: Why do you think it should be removed ? Let us not mince words... Leasnam (talk) 20:39, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
Ha ha. And I was thinking that I might end up making mincemeat out of some of our etymology.
In all seriousness, my concern is a bit of a broader one. I (at least) perceive that we may have a bit of a problem here on the English Wiktionary of suggesting Germanic (or partially Germanic) etymologies for words that are far more likely of other origins. I can name one example right now off of the top of my head.
Our previously given etymology for the common word neat was that it was derived from a Middle English word which was derived from Anglo-Norman neit, which we said was the result of a conflation of Old French net or nette ("clean, clear, pure"), which was from Latin, and another Middle English word, *neit/nait ("in good order, trim, useful, dextrous"), which was derived from Old Norse neytr (“fit for use, in good order”), which was from Proto-Germanic. Until the etymology was looked at and deemed suspicious, that was the etymology that we gave.
I know that there are plenty more examples, but I can't recall them off of the top of my head. I also realise that there are plenty of other sources out there that have slants themselves (I can think of one right now that is too hasty in dismissing Germanic etymologies in favour of 'Unknown' or 'Of Latin origin'), but I think that we ought to be as neutral as possible in this regard. If you want more examples, I can go digging around for some other ones that I have spotted before. Tharthan (talk) 23:41, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
Tharthan, you sound like the etymology police ! A one time error does not a pattern make, you should know that (and such a tiny error too). Are you keeping tabs ? tsk tsk... Deriving mince from minsian and mincier is absolutely sourceable, and reasonable. You've stated that above more or less. The real issue may be whether Old French mincer, mincier comes from Frankish *minsōn or Vulgar Latin *minūtiāre. Let's chat :D Leasnam (talk) 01:56, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
Well, I'm pretty sure that I've seen quite a few other examples in the past. If I come across one again, I'll mention it under this topic header.
Regarding Old French mincer/mincier, there is always, of course, the possibility that it comes from a conflation of both. The problem with determining if it comes almost solely from one or the other is that we couldn't really determine that by the resulting word's meaning. For instance, if we assume that it comes from Vulgar Latin *minutiare, then close cognates such as archaic Italian minuzzare ("to crumble, to rip apart into little pieces), and archaic Spanish menuzar ("to crumble, to comb over"), as well as Portuguese esmiuçar ("to chop finely; grind, to 'break it down' [to explain in detail]") make it pretty clear that at least later on in its existence, one of the meanings of the Vulgar Latin verb was "to reduce to tiny pieces", even though it initially would seem to have simply been "to make small" (however, we cannot rule out that "to reduce to tiny pieces" was a later development in the Romance languages rather than in Vulgar Latin). This is something that was obvious already. The problem is that the hypothetical Frankish verb seems like it would have meant "to reduce in size". So from my perspective, the question is about what the original meaning of the Old French verb was, because it could even not much later in its development have developed either meaning reasonably irrespective of which one it started with. If we can't figure that out (and I imagine that that might be difficult, to say the least), then we are at a dead end. Tharthan (talk) 02:58, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
True. I Agree with you there. However, an additional point I'd like to bring up concerns the form of the word, and this makes derivation from *minūtiāre difficult. Seeing that the primary and secondary stresses fall on the 4th and 2nd syllables, respectively, the expected descendant of Latin *minūtiāre should be Old French *menucer, *menucier, and this is precisely the outcome we see in words like menu, menuise, and menuiser (Old French menusier), the last being the true descendant of *minūtiāre. Sharply contrasted are mincer/mincier with complete loss of the Latin stressed -ū- so staunchly preserved in the other forms. This makes taking a serious a look at Frankish *minsōn as a likely candidate worth considering, at least where the form of the Old French word is concerned. And as you say, it's not a huge leap from "cut into small pieces, crumble" to "become smaller, lessen", however you choose to slice it ;) Leasnam (talk) 03:45, 13 November 2018 (UTC)

матур = beautiful[edit]

Is it possible to find out the etymology of матур matur, the Bashkir and Tatar word for 'beautiful'? It doesn't show any resemblance to the words for beautiful in any other languages. Johanna-Hypatia (talk) 20:23, 12 November 2018 (UTC)

Done, feel free to trim/reword. Crom daba (talk) 21:27, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
See also Baghatur.  --Lambiam 22:17, 12 November 2018 (UTC)
Great, thanks! (Any citations available?) Johanna-Hypatia (talk) 05:24, 13 November 2018 (UTC)


The past participle of Proto-Germanic *aiganą is automatically given as *aihtaz, but it is really *aiganaz, which has been lexicalised and has got its own entry. Given that Wiktionary's inflection table templates are notoriously undocumented, I have no clue if and how I can correct this. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:40, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

cancer bush & kankerbos[edit]

These two terms are clearly related, but the direction is unclear to me. Also, it would be nice if it is clarified whether cancer/kanker refers to a colour or to use in folk medicine, or to something else. ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 09:40, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

According to this webpage (not necessarily reliable), “For many years African people and Xhoi-xhoi people and Xhoi-san people as well as Bantu people used this plant in the fight against cancer, and it was very effective there, and it still is.” Other sites agree. Here is a leaflet (pdf) with the text: “Traditional name: Kankerbos / English Translation: Cancer Bush”, suggesting a transmission Afrikaans → English. Several English-language books discussing Sutherlandia/Lessertia frutescens introduce an alternative name with some text like “kankerbos (cancer bush)”, also suggesting that cancer bush is a calque.  --Lambiam 10:12, 14 November 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. I see this short magazine article also states the early colonists used it for cancer, so it is clearly linked to the disease. Here's a mention of kankerbos from 1896 (mentioning stomach cancer by the way), predating anything I've seen for cancer bush. ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 10:36, 14 November 2018 (UTC)


Would a Hindi and Urdu speaker kindly check if I indicated the etymology at chur correctly? Thanks. — SGconlaw (talk) 16:33, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Could be better, but I'll let @AryamanA fix it. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 07:35, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
@Sgconlaw, Metaknowledge: The Urdu transliteration was... strange to say the least, but the etymology looks to be correct. I have not heard or used the word चर (car) but it is in the Dasa Hindi Dictionary marked as "military jargon", so it's probably just out of use now. —AryamanA (मुझसे बात करेंयोगदान) 21:46, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
Ha, ha, thanks. — SGconlaw (talk) 13:14, 18 November 2018 (UTC)

Polish lewo[edit]

Any ideas where this came from? It reminds me vaguely of Latin laevus. —Rua (mew) 18:42, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Compare Russian налево (nalevo), from левый (levyj), which is indeed related to laevus. Per utramque cavernam 18:58, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Arabic سَرْج(sarj, saddle) vs. Ossetian саргъ (sarǧ, id.)[edit]

@Victar, Fay Freak; Arabic seemingly has a solid etymology and Ossetian is traditionally considered an Arabic loan, but Abaev (vol. 3, p. 32) wonders if the word could be Iranic instead and adduces a number of Iranic cognates. However, some Iranic words look like they might be from Ancient Greek σάγμα (ságma) (presuming its etymology is correct and the direction of loaning wasn't the reverse), interestingly a later descendant of the same word, Greek σαμάρι (samári), seems to have reached Chagatai. Crom daba (talk) 20:13, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

He says that “after the word has been found in Sogdian” it has become more appropriate to ask if the Arabic is borrowed into Arabic from Iranian. I don’t think so. The Iranian might as well from Aramaic, the existence of which he … seems to ignore, as I read? Even if the word is borrowed into Aramaic from Iranian, contaminating the s-r-g root, the Arabic would still come more likely from Aramaic. Arabs just conversed more easily with Semitic-speakers and struggled with the totally different Indo-European. Note that other saddle words have come into Arabic from Aramaic, like أُكَّاف(ʾukkāf) or نَمَط(namaṭ), though بَرْذَعَة(barḏaʿa) is a counter-example. But names of occupations are especially likely to be borrowed from Aramaic, سَرَّاج(sarrāj, saddler), إِسْكَاف(ʾiskāf, shoemaker), and many more, see Fraenkel pp. 253 seqq.. Fay Freak (talk) 21:20, 14 November 2018 (UTC)
I'm generally rather distrusting of anything Abaev writes. --Victar (talk) 21:23, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
@Fay Freak, Victar I've added the alternative theory for completeness sake, although qualified as less likely than the alternative.
How should we organize the Iranic words? Directly derived from Aramaic? Crom daba (talk) 14:37, 18 November 2018 (UTC)


Why is this said to be onomatopoeic? Does marrow make a sound? DTLHS (talk) 04:37, 17 November 2018 (UTC)

This is from DRAE, but I agree- it makes no sense. There might be some non-obvious connection with onomatopoeia, but it needs to be spelled out and explained for this to be believable. Chuck Entz (talk) 06:59, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
Spanish and Portuguese dictionaries appear to agree that the origin is onomatopoeic. My first guess was the sound one produces when sucking out the marrow from the bone, but one online dictionary presents this explanation: La palabra tuétano es una voz onomatopéyica, tut tut, que se le daba a las flautas, cañas, y tubos. The explanatory power of this statement leaves something to be desired. Were the Spaniards of old wont to blow into the bones after sucking out the marrow? It sure could do with some elaboration.  --Lambiam 07:52, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
Tuétano is from older tútano, which comes from Old Spanish tut, and it is tut that is onomatopoeic. I don't have a dictionary of Old Spanish to look up tut in. Possibly it means toot? —Stephen (Talk) 20:11, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
I guess that is what the explanation above is trying to say. Translated: “The word tuétano is an onomatopoeic term, tut tut, given to flutes, reeds and tubes.” But how did a word meaning something like “pipe” get specialized to meaning, specifically, “marrow pipe” (compare Dutch mergpijp and Swedish märgpipa) and then ”marrow”?  --Lambiam 22:33, 17 November 2018 (UTC)


This is the missing etymology for the name The name Brannigan comes from Middle-Welsh. "Bran"(-) refers to mythical King Bran (Brân) in the "Second Branch" of The "Mabinogi", a Welsh "Triad". "-igan" is an Anglicization of the Middle Welsh name suffix "-yggan" meaning son/daughter of. Any of the elements that I listed in this Etymology of the name Brannigan can easily be confirmed. How does this get coded if there are no "inh" codes for either Welsh, Middle Welsh, or Brythonic Gealic? Please advise.

The name is generally thought to be an Anglicized form of the Irish surname Ó Branagáin, in which the ending is a double diminutive.[5] Is there more specific evidence for the claim of a Welsh origin?  --Lambiam 06:11, 19 November 2018 (UTC)
Either way, English, a Germanic language, can't have inherited anything from any Celtic language- borrowed, perhaps, but not inherited. That means using {{bor}} for the form borrowed, itself, and {{der}} for everything before that. Chuck Entz (talk) 14:42, 19 November 2018 (UTC)

menstruate, menstruation[edit]

The etymologies are partially circular. For added fun, Merriam-Webster dates the noun to the late 17th and the verb to the early 18th century, while Oxford dictionaries online dates the verb to the mid 17th, but perhaps that is only conflating the noun with the verb. ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 09:36, 19 November 2018 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done. — SGconlaw (talk) 18:16, 19 November 2018 (UTC)

Mount Lycabettus[edit]

Mount Lycabettus: Λῠκᾰβηττός Prob. < Λúκη (Light) and βαίνω (To Go therefore To Walk); source: Greek-Italian Vocabulary - Lorenzo Rocci

This web page cites Αι Τοπωνυμίαι Αθηνών και Περιχώρων των (The Toponyms of Athens and its Surroundings) by Kostas Biris, who suggests a Pelasgian (pre-Greek) origin, a name meaning “breast-shaped height”.  --Lambiam 15:39, 20 November 2018 (UTC)


Is the etymology, given as Pre-Greek, correct? This word looks like a rather late attestation, the cites in LSJ are Lydus and Procopius. ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 08:35, 22 November 2018 (UTC)

Why is there a link to Le Grand Bailly? If this is indeed the same word as Latin mataxa found at Lucilius and Vitruvius, it is much older than the Greek attestations would suggest. Rather than “pre-Greek”, it is safer to say “unknown”, as do Liddell & Scott. Perhaps it is a non-Greek (but not pre-Greek) term transferred along the silk route.  --Lambiam 11:23, 22 November 2018 (UTC)


RFV of the etymology. Wyang (talk) 23:31, 22 November 2018 (UTC)

Second definition of Greek δῶρον (dôron, palm) and Irish dorn (fist)[edit]

Should the Greek entry be split into different etymologies? "gift" and "palm" seem completely unrelated. A relation with dorn seems more likely. RubixLang (talk) 17:10, 24 November 2018 (UTC)

A relation with Celtic dorn would imply a common PIE origin that, strangely, survived only in Celtic and Ancient Greek. None of the usual sources suggest that the two Greek senses stem from different etyma; for example, LSJ presents both in a single lemma as related to δίδωμι (dídōmi).  --Lambiam 08:37, 25 November 2018 (UTC)
They don’t seem unrelated. The meaning “palm” comes from the picture of a hand being held open for gifting, though I do not know if the one of the gifter or the one of the receiver. While English “hold up their hands” and “hold their hands open” seems to appear only in SOP expressions (“Women hold up their hands at a rally”) in German if you claim somebody’s die Hand aufhalten it means that he will not act until remuneration is assured. Fay Freak (talk) 20:44, 25 November 2018 (UTC)


بیرق is pure Turkic word as mentioned at bayraq and bayrak and here and here and here. But it seems there is Persian-Mafia (!) in Wiktionary which randomly adds Persian origin to the words!!! see بیرق‎. I want to remove that "Perhaps..." part.

Please don't. That hypothesis has the right to exist. Also, as someone who's new, please refrain from doing anything drastic. Ideally, let etymologies alone. More experienced people got it covered, using very serious sources, such as Clauson, Dörfer, Starostin & Dybo, Nişanyan and others. I'm not saying you should never edit etymologies, just not now. If you proceed the way you do now, the consequences will be sad (eşiyə atılacaqsan), which would be very sad.
There are, however, plenty of things you can contribute with right from the start, both with Azerbaijani and other Turkic langauges. I will write a suggestion on your talk page in a few minutes. Allahverdi Verdizade (talk) 14:11, 26 November 2018 (UTC)
@Allahverdi Verdizade This is really hilarious, You add a "Perhaps... bla bla bla" on every Turkic word and claim it as Persian then you came and say to everyone who wants to stop this ignorance "You will be banned"!!! also who says Nişanyan is serious source and دهخدا and معین and عمید are not serious (These 3 are Persian glossaries)? in Nişanyan all of the Turkic words have Sogdian origin (Maybe this is why it is serious source?), this is all hilarious, you can ban me and whole world and also claim all Turkic words as Persian but it won't change anything these words are TURKIC and they will stay Turkic.
@Zeos 403 In this case you are correct, this word is Common Turkic, it could still potentially be Iranian, but it is certainly not Persian. Crom daba (talk) 14:24, 26 November 2018 (UTC)
It is not only this case, check the Turkic words in Persian headings, most of them have a "Perhaps..." which claims the word is Persian, this is hilarious, specially when you ban people who want to correct them.
If it makes sense (that is, has both a semantic and phonological link to the possible etymon, and fits into the known facts of language contact) but is not discussed in scholarly literature, then yes, you can put "perhaps" and add your hypothesis. But deriving gül from gülmek has no semantic link (the laughing rose is not convincing anyone and there are really no parallels in other languages for such a thing); derivation of nouns from verbs by deleting the infinitive marker is, as was already pointed out, very rare in Turkic languages. You can be sure, no ethnic "maffia" rules here. When someone pushed the hypothesis that "dayı" is derived from Persian rather than from Proto-Turkic *dāj- without any backing from the literature, the process was made very short with that editor. Actually, much shorter than the current one. So be calm, the Turkic etymologies are well taken care of. Allahverdi Verdizade (talk) 15:03, 26 November 2018 (UTC)
Of course I am calm, yes you take care of all Turkic words well by adding a Perisan origin to them, actually according to your etymology I think in all of these years I were talking Persian not Turkic, anyways, I don't want to start talking about "gül" I will do it later if you don't "ban" me! but what about قلعه? you even claim it as Persian, everyone in Iran knows قلعه as a Turkic origin word but yes cause you here are taking care of Turkic etymology well so you didn't even accept that but you accept a random dummy Persian word which nobody knows what it is!!!
Well, you can't refer to "according to everyone's knowledge in Iran". Even the spelling with 'ayn suggests it's non-Turkic. Anyways, I think I've made all I could. Consider what I wrote on your page. There you have a possibility to do something useful with your time. Allahverdi Verdizade (talk) 15:26, 26 November 2018 (UTC)
lol, language is made from knowledge of everyone, there are many books claiming that قلعه is Turkic origin but yeah you can continue taking care of your Sogdian and Persian words (and perhaps Russian!), I don't want to waste my time in your dictatorship. this website according to MediaWiki rules is a open and FREE wiki, so I will do what ever I want, you can ban my account but I can also create unlimited numbers of new accounts.

We have even a "Perhaps..." to the word خانم‎ in Persian heading lol (where you found the word کانم lol?), I think, like this, we can claim all Turkic words, Persian or Sogdian origin with a random dummy word.

If you sign your contributions with ~~~~ (see Help:Talk pages#A few tips) it will help everyone to keep track of who is arguing what.  --Lambiam 02:51, 27 November 2018 (UTC)


The Arabic word قلعه is derived from Turkic verb Kalmak/Qalmaq/قالماق which means remain,

The path is like this: قالماق -> قال -> قالا -> قلعه

It has both semantic and syntactic linking to the verb قلعه. but currently you are considering کالت as the origin for قلعه which is a dummy non-existence word and has no semantic nor syntactic linking to the verb قلعه.

Also in several etymology books like:

فرهنگ واژگاه دخیل ترکی در زبان های فارسی و عربی written by پرویز زارع شاهمری at the year 2012 published at Iran. page 81.

واژگان زبان ترکی در پارسی written by محمد صادق نائبی at the year 2000 published at Turkey, Azerbaijan Republic and Iran (Freely in Iran). page 161.

I expect you at least add a "Perhaps" to the term قلعه to mantion that IT CAN BE also from Turkic origin which actually makes sense.

noolbenger and wambenger[edit]

https://library.dbca.wa.gov.au/static/FullTextFiles/055915.019.pdf lists words in the Nyungar language for animals found in the southwest corner of Australia. It has "noolbenger" as "ngoolboongoor" (<oo> is /u/; I don't know why they use ⟨oo⟩ and leave ⟨u⟩ unused in a language that has /i e a o u/) and "wambenger" as "wambenga". So although they come from the same language, there is no common element in the words; they don't beng nools and wams. PierreAbbat (talk) 03:06, 27 November 2018 (UTC)


RFV: Gaffiot and L&S list this entry as deriving from sollicitus. How can this etymology be correct? ~ sollicitus + -tūdō would naturally render something like "solliciti-tūdō". It seems like a better etymology would be: sollus + cieo + -tūdō.

It is probably by haplology, like honestas from *honestitas and consuetudo from *consuetitudo.  --Lambiam 18:10, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
This MA thesis (pdf) states explicitly that sollicitudo is formed by haplology from *sollicititudo, presenting it as one of 12 examples in which haplology makes the suffix -i-tudo look as if it is *-udo; see pp. 46 & 47.  --Lambiam 18:22, 28 November 2018 (UTC)


From a derivative of Latin nupta ("bride").

Addition: Possibly influenced by Slavic *nevěsta of the same meaning. Compare Romanian nevastă.

~ Does anyone agree to my addition of these observations to this page's etymology?


I have the feeling the etymology is missing a step here. If the Latin word was lasanum, then how did Italian end up with a palatalised -gn-, and a different declension/gender? You'd expect lasano in Italian from the regular application of sound laws, while for the attested Italian you'd need Latin lasania. —Rua (mew) 19:24, 30 November 2018 (UTC)

I'd read years ago about the discovery of an English recipe for lasagna from the late 1300s with a spelling more like lasoyne or some such. A quick Google search brings up articles like this one from the Daily Press, mentioning a date of 1390 and a spelling of loseyns, and I see now that this is also mentioned over at w:Lasagne#Etymology. Perhaps that might at least present a few leads for building out our entry? ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 20:03, 30 November 2018 (UTC)
There's this, which links to this discussion of the etymology. Chuck Entz (talk) 05:09, 1 December 2018 (UTC)
And here is the MED entry for "loseyn", which is the alleged "lasagna" cognate, but which is instead related to lozenge, and here is the recipe in question. Chuck Entz (talk) 05:25, 1 December 2018 (UTC)
The Online Etymology Dictionary derives the word from Vulgar Latin *lasania.  --Lambiam 18:55, 1 December 2018 (UTC) And so does Merriam–Webster.  --Lambiam 18:06, 2 December 2018 (UTC)
That still leave us with the mystery of how Latin -num becomes Vulgar Latin -nia... ‑‑ Eiríkr Útlendi │Tala við mig 20:56, 3 December 2018 (UTC)
Since *lasania is not attested, we can only guess at the meaning of this conjectural form. One hypothesis is that this was a term for the contents of the cooking pot. Sometimes dishes are named after the type of pot in which they are cooked, like caçolet from cassola. Then the term was presumably formed from the stem lasan- + -ia. Although the suffix -ia was used to form nouns for abstractions in Classical Latin, that may not have been a strict rule in Vulgar Latin; cf. Reconstruction:Latin/virdia. Another possibility is that -ia is the plural of the substantive use of neutral -ium of the suffix -ius.  --Lambiam 21:34, 3 December 2018 (UTC)

December 2018


Is this a calque from Chinese? DTLHS (talk) 20:16, 30 November 2018 (UTC)

Since energy transferability is completely different in Chinese, this blend is certainly not a calque. The combination energy transfer is pretty common and found already in 19th-century texts. Likewise for transferability of energy. For energy transferability we have to wait till the 20th century, still preceding the research reported on by Professor Guo and his group by a long time.  --Lambiam 19:22, 1 December 2018 (UTC)

grogram and grosgrain[edit]

Are these just doublets borrowed at different times? Some dicts suggest grogram came from gros-grain. Ultimateria (talk) 03:53, 5 December 2018 (UTC)

The dictionaries suggesting this include Wiktionary. For grogram the Online Etymology Dictionaty dates its use from the 1560s. I have no data on the appearance of the form grosgrain in English. Interestingly, French borrowed grogram (or grogran) back as gourgouran.  --Lambiam 05:32, 5 December 2018 (UTC)
Le Trésor gives more specifically “since 1562” for grogram; Oxford Dictionaries gives “mid 19th century” for grosgrain.  --Lambiam 05:45, 5 December 2018 (UTC)

RFV: Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/wandijaną#Etymology[edit]

Is it correct mentioning Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/windaną insinuating it is the origin before the ultimate etym? Or their relationship is simply as cognates? Should we change the tree of *wendʰ- (to turn, wind, braid)? Sobreira ►〓 (parlez) 08:14, 5 December 2018 (UTC)


RFV of the etymology (from Mainland Chinese). — justin(r)leung (t...) | c=› } 23:48, 5 December 2018 (UTC)


The etymology section strikes me as a bit lurid. As far as I can tell most sources state that the cakewalk dance was a post-Civil War dance that was popular after the Reconstruction, though one or two texts confusingly date it to the pre-Civil War slave plantations. There does seem to be consensus that it derived from a plantation dance; some sources state this dance was primarily a way to mock slaveowners, [6] another one that it was imposed by slaveowners but subverted by slaves. [7] ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 09:15, 6 December 2018 (UTC)

Obviously, the etymology section is not intended for a capsule encyclopedic article and should not be used for that. Something like “cake +‎ walk” should suffice. Points of view on who designed or organized cakewalks and who made a mockery of whom are best left to the article on Wikipedia. As to the various senses and their definitions, Collins has a countable sense of “a piece of music” for the musical sense, not the current uncountable “style of music”. I’m only familiar with Golliwogg’s Cakewalk, which is a specific piece of music.  --Lambiam 16:20, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
I utterly disagree. Etymologies absolutely can provide historical details. DTLHS (talk) 16:25, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
I'm with DTLHS on this one. Most people don't care about the actual lexical, surface etymology. It's the historical circumstance that led to words being used in a certain way that are interesting. And even from a lexicographical point of view, it's not at all clear how the current meaning came from "cake" + "walk", so further explanation is necessary. Andrew Sheedy (talk) 16:43, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
There is a difference (or, at least, that is what I think) between providing historical details and including an encyclopedic article, although in abridged form. The current elaborate section fails to shed any light on the sense development from a dance requiring skill and often the subject of a contest – and so presenting a challenge – to something supposedly not presenting a challenge.  --Lambiam 21:59, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
@Lambiam Just edited the etymology. How do you feel about the current text and length? ←₰-→ Lingo Bingo Dingo (talk) 09:48, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
It is much improved. I have done some further copy editing, such as replacing the ambiguous term amusing by entertaining, and added some sentences on the sense development.  --Lambiam 11:02, 7 December 2018 (UTC)


  • Old English sēman (“to reconcile, bring an agreement”), Old English sōm (“agreement”).

Souldn't the relation between OE sēman and sōm be specified in the etymology of seem? As it is currently, related by a comma, one cannot infer what their relation is at all (By the way, I'm afraid this is a fault in the general writing style of this section in entries) --Backinstadiums (talk) 11:40, 6 December 2018 (UTC)

The relationship is that they have a common ancestor. It is probably better to write “cognate with” than “akin to”. Most of the etymology info in general is pilfered from various sources that are not always crystal clear about the relation between various forms. Since (unlike Wikipedia) we mostly do not cite our sources when it comes to etymology, it is not easy to check if perhaps the sources were clearer than what ended up here.  --Lambiam 16:32, 6 December 2018 (UTC)


Is the given etymology right/sourceable? Alexander Beider's Origins of Yiddish Dialects notes that Western Yiddish knoblikh (Birnbaum has the same word, written knoblix) and dialectal knoploch are "well correlated with various German dialectal phonetic forms related to NHG Knoblauch", and suggests that the form knobl used in Eastern Yiddish and some other dialects "may be due to hypercorrection: this ending was falsely interpreted as the diminutive plural suffix giving rise to a 'singular' knobl. It is unclear whether this change was internal to Jews, or influence by a similar phenomenon that took place in German dialects of Moravia, Austria and Swabia." (E.g. Swabian has a corresponding form Knobl.)
(Presenting a third possibility, Paul Wexler's Two-tiered Relexification in Yiddish stars *knobloch as nonexistent and gives Knobel and Knöbel and "Austrian G knofe 'garlic'" as the Yiddish word's German cognates, but he seems to be mistaken; the Duden relates Knobel to Knöchel, and Knofi is only a diminutive which, like Knof(e)l, ultimately derives from the same source as Knoblauch.)
- -sche (discuss) 21:57, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

To make this even stranger, the entry on German Knoblauch states that the initial kn- arose by dissimilation from kl-, and that the Knob component is cognate with English clove. Knoblauch would then originally literally have meant something like “cloven onion”. Moreover, the same kl-kn- switch is said to have applied to German Knopf. That is incompatible with having Proto-Germanic *knuppô as ancestor, something stated both at קנאָבל(knobl) and Knopf. I find back-formation from (a variant of) Knoblauch more plausible than the presently given etymology.  --Lambiam 00:55, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
Looks like I added this one, but I don't know what my source was, so I'd go with Beider; he's not always right, but he's careful, whereas Wexler is insane. —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 02:27, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

aju/eju/ejò/àju (mother)[edit]

Italian Walser terms meaning "mother" (not "mom"). Can't find any cognates. Is this just recently-developed nursery language? Or does it descend from some earlier root? Note that möter, muater, and mamma are also attested in these dialects, i.e. aju/eju/ejò/àju aren't the sole terms for "mother". — Julia 02:12, 10 December 2018 (UTC)


Currently swap is divided into Etymology 1 (inherited from Middle English) for the verb, and a request for a separate Etymology 2 for the noun. But according to the OED, both the noun and the verb (as well as a dialectal adverb) come from the same source, Middle English swappe, swappen, with earlier origins "probably echoic" (of striking a blow). Etymonline says the noun came from the verb c. 1620, but OED has citations for the noun in Middle English a. 1400. Are there other sources that suggest separate etymologies? @Rua, DCDuring. Cnilep (talk) 02:47, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

I have nothing to add, except to observe that it is not unusual to have two etymologies for homonym noun-verb pair with ME derivation, because ME or OE may also have had cognate noun-verb pairs. But apparently there is no evidence of such a pair in this case. DCDuring (talk) 04:23, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
I've moved all the Noun senses derived from the verb to Etymology 1, leaving only the obsolete noun sense inherited from Middle English in Etymology 2. Leasnam (talk) 06:08, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Given what Cnilep found, it's not appropriate to have the same etymology for both. I've unmerged them. —Rua (mew) 11:57, 10 December 2018 (UTC)


RFV of the etymology. A Manual for Parthian (Arsacid Pahlavi) [in Persian ], Hassan Rezai Baghbidi, PhD. Qoqnus pub. P:199 [pwsg /pusag~pūsag/ : Flowered crown , diadem ] —This unsigned comment was added by Ariamihr (talkcontribs) at 17:05, 10 December 2018 (UTC).

This is probably in response to my rfv-etymology at Persian بساک(basâk). Can Middle Iranian *pusak give Persian بساک(basâk)? @Calak, Victar, ZxxZxxZ. --Vahag (talk) 17:56, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
@Vahagn Petrosyan:, I don't know much about b/p variation in modern Persian, but the etymology, which I cleaned up, is pretty solid. @Ariamihr, please don't reconstruct generic MIr forms like you did. There is a reason we don't allow for MIr lemmas. --{{victar|talk}} 18:52, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

perish the thought[edit]

Is the etymology correct? Isn't it simply a subjunctive with a postposed subject, as in far be it? @Leasnam, Equinox, DCDuring Per utramque cavernam 20:54, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

I think it is off. “The thought” is the subject, not the object, just like “the king” in “long live the king”. The whole is a wish, not a command (addressed to whom?).  --Lambiam 21:03, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Oxford Dictionaries online lists the phrase as an example of a set phrase that contains a subjunctive. Here is one more example of a set phrase where the subject follows the verb: be that as it may.  --Lambiam 21:15, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Indeed, thank you. I was looking for more examples of that. Per utramque cavernam 21:30, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
"Let not my sins perish your noble youth." - Beaumont and Fletcher. The Maid's Tragedy (c. 1609) is an example of the obsolete transitive perish. See perish in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911. DCDuring (talk) 21:37, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Whether it is an order or a wish is not determined by the grammar, but by the context, certainly now that it is a set phrase. DCDuring (talk) 21:37, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Indeed. But how can we use the fact that we are dealing with a set phrase to determine its intended parsing, as a wish or as a command? Let us examine what books on English idiom have to say.
Now the issue cannot be settled by an appeal to authority, but no source that I have seen even considers the possibility that we are dealing with an order. While not strictly impossible, it seems somewhat implausible. For that to make sense, the person uttering the command has to be addressing themselves, like in a soliloquy.
The first recorded appearance seems to be in the libretto of Handel’s Joshua, Part II, Scene VI. Caleb is speaking to Othniel, a young warrior betrothed to Caleb’s daughter: “Firm to our Faith, it never ſhall be ſaid, That our Allies, in vain implor’d our Aid.” Othniel responds: “Periſh the Thought ! while Honour hath a Name, Iſrael’s, or Gibeon’s Cauſe is ſtill the ſame.” In theory, Othniel could be issuing a command to Caleb, but that does not accord with their relative status. The last recorded use of obsolete transitive perish is from 1619, while Joshua is from 1747. Of course, the phrase may already have been set idiom when it was penned there; there is no reason to think it was coined by Thomas Morell, the librettist. All considered, I have not seen an argument for preferring the parsing of the verb form as a transitive imperative over an intransitive subjunctive.  --Lambiam 09:39, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
I am curious how you determined that the usages you quote were last and first, respectively.
I don't think the two parsings are the only possibilities. It can be either imperative or subjunctive with either a transitive or intransitive verb. The absence of inflection or other marking makes it impossible to determine. Semantically, there is little distinction to be made in the interpretation. The part that I find implausible is the inverted word order required for the intransitive. I don't find any semantic reason to prefer subjunctive over imperative. A synonymous 20th century idiom often in imperative form is "Put that thought right out of your head." DCDuring (talk) 15:40, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
It is generally impossible to ascertain with absolute certainty whether a given instance of recorded use is the first or last; there is always the possibility of a perfect instance hidden in a forgotten file in the Vatican Library, patiently waiting to be discovered. But I imagine that Mrs. Whitney and Smith, had they known of a later instance of use of obsolete transitive perish, would have recorded that instead of, or supplementary to, the one from The Maid’s Tragedy. I have interpreted the statement that this phrase “appeared” in Handel's Joshua as meaning that this was the first known appearance. Perhaps that was not what was meant; since my argument does not rely on this – I wrote that the phrase may already have been set idiom at the time – it is of no consequence to the conclusions.
I don’t quite see how we can have a parsing in which the verb is an imperative for an intransitive sense. What is the grammatical role of the thought in this parsing? It cannot be a subject, since the English imperative only allows an (optional) second-person pronoun as subject. It cannot be an object, since the verb is intransitive. I also have a problem seeing how we can have a subjunctive with a transitive verb. The subject role can only be taken by the thought, as there are no other constituents around. Substituting may destroy for subjunctive transitive perish, we get “May the thought destroy”. That does not feel right.
Above I have given several examples of VS order for the subjunctive. Some more examples: come what may; suffice it to say; so help me God.
Take a passage like this about the hunt for the Higgs boson: “In all cases, agreement would be a confirmation that the Standard Model worked in a new process, and a disagreement would mean either that the Standard Model was wrong or that there was a mistake in the calculation or (perish the thought) in our measurement.” The sense here, and in most cases, appears to be, ”A truly horrible idea!”, with the subtext that one believes it not to be so, but cannot completely rule out the possibility; hence, the aspect of hope. If we try to interpret it as a command, the question is to whom the command is addressed. Who is being ordered to bring the thought to eternal rest? In many cases, as in the Higgs boson example, the context is not a dialogue; there is no you there.  --Lambiam 21:09, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
It can be imperative or subjunctive. To me, the subjunctive seems a better fit ("[Let] perish, the thought" "Let the thought be done away with"). Either way, this construction has led to a lot of re-analysis and it's certainly interpreted now as either subjunctive (rarely by those who know), and imperative, and transitive (see here [8]). How then is the etymology wrong ? It states that it likely began as a subjunctive and morphed into other things Leasnam (talk) 23:59, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
The etymology does not state that it likely began as a subjunctive. It conjectures that the (obsolete) transitive sense of perish arose from an incorrect analysis of its role in set phrases in which the word was the subjunctive of the usual intransitive sense. It also states that the phrase is from the transitive sense – all without evidence. Curiously enough, if the example set phrase of the conjectural misunderstanding is taken as not a mere possibility but as something actually likely, we are presented with the following development:
perish (subjunctive intransitive) the thought (subject) by misunderstanding perish (imperative transitive) the thought (object) modern reanalysis perish (subjunctive intransitive) the thought (subject).
Really?  --Lambiam 08:59, 12 December 2018 (UTC)


I'm wondering if the Hawaiian word hikina is a combination of the verb hiki (to arrive) and the suffix -na. Any thoughts on this? --Lo Ximiendo (talk) 17:04, 12 December 2018 (UTC)