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Old High German[edit]


Compared to Gothic 𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌺𐌽𐌹𐌸𐌰 ‎(airkniþa) (glossing Latin ingenuitas, from a supposed *𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌺𐌽𐍃 ‎(*airkns, “genuine, true; holy”) (in 𐌿𐌽𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌺𐌽𐍃 ‎(unairkns, “unholy, impure”)), and Old English eorcnan-stan ‎(“precious stone, gem”) (see eorcnan, erce). An archaic Germanic word from the sacral sphere. Its original meaning is difficult to reconstruct as it belonged to the pagan religious vocabulary obscured after Christianization.

Pokorny (1959) tentatively groups the word with Proto-Indo-European *arǵ- ‎(“glittering, white”) (compare Ancient Greek ἀργός ‎(argós), Latin argentum), but Gothic 𐌰𐍂𐌺- ‎(ark-) may also be an early loan of (ἀρχι- ‎(arkhi-, “archi-”)), compare Ulfilan 𐌰𐍂𐌺𐌰𐌲𐌲𐌹𐌻𐌿𐍃 ‎(arkaggilus) for archangelus.

Formerly also compared to Sanskrit अर्चन ‎(arcana, “homage (paid to deities and to superiors)”), root अर्च् ‎(arc, “to praise, sing”) (Proto-Indo-European *erkʷ- ‎(“to shine; to praise”)), or alternatively Sanskrit अर्हण ‎(arhana, “worship”), root अर्ह् ‎(arh, “to be worthy”) (Diefenbach 1851).



  1. sublime, chief, special, egregious, genuine, true (?)
    • der erchano sangheri (=egregius psaltes, Isaiah 4:2)
    • ercna euua (=certa lege Isaiah 2:1)
    • allero specierum erchenosta (=speciem specialissimam)
    • Also ih tes mennisken boteh einen toten mennisken heizo, nals nicht erchenen mennisken (Notker trans. Boethius 5[1] = Nam uti cadauer hominem mortuum dixeris, simpliciter uero hominem appellare non possis "For though you might call a cadaver 'a dead man', you cannot just simply call it 'a man' [viz. it is not genuinely a man].")

Derived terms[edit]


  • German: Erchtag ‎(“Tuesday”) (archaic, Bavarian)


  • Eberhard Gottlieb Graff, Hans Ferdinand Massmann, Althochdeutscher Sprachschatz, oder, Wörterbuch der althochdeutschen Sprache, 1834, p. 468.
  • Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (1835, trans. Stallybrass 1888), 113; 182—185.
  • Bopp, Comparative Grammar (1815, trans. Eastwick 1862), p. 1285.
  • Hjalmar Falk, Alf Torp, Wortschatz der germanischen Spracheinheit, part 3, 5th ed., Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979, ISBN 9783525264058, p. 26.
  • Lorenz Diefenbach, Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der gotischen Sprache, J. Baer, 1851 p. 23.