Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2b-Nouns

Finally, a free moment.

It has been a great weekend so far–the weather has gone from “okay” to “beautiful” and before I go enjoy it a bit more, I wanted to make sure I NOM’d a bit more on the projects I’ve gotten myself into.

Thus–it’s time to tackle more Indo-European Root words–this time focussing on the nouns.  Just like the modifiers that were in a previous post, these are nouns that did not keep their exact original meaning, but rather were modified a bit over time.  Nonetheless, there are interesting patterns and ideas that can be seen by taking a gander at these core words of our language.   In addition–they also seem to fit into a number of core categories that I’ve organized them under here–but which could be reorganized if someone so chose.

The Nouns, which originally comes from a word meaning “name”–as in the things you give a “name” to–are the following:

sheep –> Ewe
horse –> Mare
spelt –> barley
barley, to bristle –> gorse
field –> acre
harvest –> to earn
reed –> haulm
flax –> linen
berry –> acorn
root –> wort

jaw –> jowl
pudenda(external genitalia) –> wife
woman –> queen
vital force –> ever
elbow –> ell (a unit of measure equalling about the length of one’s arm..)
shoulder –> hip
body –> midRIFF
brain –> Marrow
neck –> mane
person –> man
skin –> film

Nature words:
eagle –> erne (sea eagle)
fly –> midge
snake –> (n)adder  <–“a nadder” became “an adder” in English…
bison, bull –> steer
steppe –> land
sea, lake –> marsh
earth –> brideGROOM
resin –> cud
stone –> hammer
water –> island
water –> fish
day –> lent
dawn –> east
oak –> fir
northwind –> shower
cloud –> nebula
ice –> icicle

smoke –> dusk
bonfire –> fire
beer –> ale
butter –> salve
fort –> burg, borough
house –> timber
roof –> rib
dwelling –> thorp
god, i.e. “shining” –> Tiw/Tuesday <–also noted here..
fault, sin –> ache
staff –> peg
bow –> arrow
metal –> ore
other –> other, else
pouch –> maw
road –> to find
grease –> smear, to smear
tool, to create –> landSCAPE, shape

Looking at these 4 general categories, it’s interesting to see how words were translated/transformed by some of our ancestors.  In the agriculture grouping–which, is obviously just a specialized segment of the technology/culture group, but a very central segment–the transformations are interesting in two ways.  With the agricultural animals–sheep and horse–the designation becomes the name of the female half of the species, which points to the obviousness of the importance that female animals had in an agricultural society–especially a pastoral one involving herds.  While Male horses (stallions) and sheep (Rams)–were given other names–the original designator of the species was the female..

With regard to the plants–you see a lot of sideways movement.  Spelt becomes barley, berries become acorns, etc… but what also is fun is to see that the word for “harvest” becomes the basis of our word for “earning”–which makes it very clear that our early economy was tied to the production of agricultural staples–a phenomenon that would remain true and dominant until at least the 1600’s.

Regarding the “body” words–it’s interesting to see a number of sideways transformations such as neck ==>mane, jaw==>jowl, shoulder==> hip body==>Riff (in Midriff), etc.. but there are a bunch of other kinds of changes that one finds here.  For example, the fact that the word for woman became specialized as “queen” as well as the fact that the modern word “wife” originated in the word for vulva says many interesting things about the gender dynamics in this branch of humanity.  Similarly, the fact that the word for “person” became “man” adds to a clear perception that these early folk structured their language in ways that were clearly sexist/unequal in nature.

With the “Nature” words, one again sees a number of sideways movements in meaning or links to particular examples.  Thus, Eagle becomes sea eagle, flies become midges, and snakes have become adders. A second interesting aspect is how many words associated with water were transformed into other things.  Seas and lakes became swamps, while the words for water (and there were a few of them) became part of the words for ISland and for Fish.  Finally, I think it is quite enlightening to see that the root word for “stone” became the word “hammer”–as that was probably one of the most basic tools that a human would need–namely, something to smash things with..

Getting to the “Tech and Culture” words, again there is a lot of sideways movement of meanings–with forts==>borough, bonfire==>fire, dwelling==>thorp(village–like the German word Dorf), bow==> arrow, etc.  However, there are also some very interesting specific words in this group.  I find the fact that “roof” became our word “rib” rather interesting in that I can see how looking at a roof with it’s cross-beams could then become closely attached to the “ribcage”–which acts like a roof to many of our important organs.   Additionally, the fact that the concepts of “fault/sin” became our word for “ache” strikes a deep chord in me, in that it really gets to the core of what “wrong-ness” is–namely that doing something wrong is about pain–and not just acute one-time pain, but rather a lasting pain that may have consequences for a long time.

Obviously, there are other interesting words within this group–but I leave it up to others to find their own meanings here… for I have a beautiful day in front of me that I should enjoy a bit more… perhaps with a bike ride…


About Prof. Woland

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One Response to Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2b-Nouns

  1. Pingback: Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2c-Verbs | The Philosophy of NOM

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