Bizzare etymologies of common words in various languages

Since I am quite fond of the topic of alternate linguistics and alternate etymologies in particular, I figured we could have a go at this it...

I don't mean the usual "think of an obscure, forgotten word for tank that could be used as an ATL term" approach. I'm interested in us looking for words that entered our everyday vocabulary and are used on a regular basis, but whose etymologies make little sence or were the result of mistranslations and general misunderstandings of the semantics of a word. Note that these terms don't have to come from English, you can mention examples from any language(s) you understand.


I'll kick off with some funny Czech language examples :

The Latin term for the species of common rabbit is cunniculus (full name oryctolagus cunniculus). When the first rabbits were imported to German-speaking countries during the Middle Ages, Germans gradually settled on using the garbled version of the word, resulting in Kaninchen (and its variations). But this isn't where our story ends... Once rabbits got imported to the Czech lands from the German ones, Czechs unfortunately mangled Kaninchen further. There seems to have been a misunderstanding of pronunciation and semantics on part of the Czechs. They thought the weird burrow-dwelling hare look-alikes were called Königchen i. e. "Little Kings / Kinglings". Hence the eventual calque into Czech : Králík, i.e. "little king / kingling". Then it eventually entered Slovak vocabulary as well (králik) and the rest is history... :D

A single tram/streetcar is called a tramvaj, due to the Czechs mistaking the English term for a tram rail line ("tramway") with the term denoting a tram itself (the vehicle).


So, what are your favourite odd or silly etymologies for common OTL terms ?
 
Since I am quite fond of the topic of alternate linguistics and alternate etymologies in particular, I figured we could have a go at this it...

I don't mean the usual "think of an obscure, forgotten word for tank that could be used as an ATL term" approach. I'm interested in us looking for words that entered our everyday vocabulary and are used on a regular basis, but whose etymologies make little sence or were the result of mistranslations and general misunderstandings of the semantics of a word. Note that these terms don't have to come from English, you can mention examples from any language(s) you understand.


I'll kick off with some funny Czech language examples :

The Latin term for the species of common rabbit is cunniculus (full name oryctolagus cunniculus). When the first rabbits were imported to German-speaking countries during the Middle Ages, Germans gradually settled on using the garbled version of the word, resulting in Kaninchen (and its variations). But this isn't where our story ends... Once rabbits got imported to the Czech lands from the German ones, Czechs unfortunately mangled Kaninchen further. There seems to have been a misunderstanding of pronunciation and semantics on part of the Czechs. They thought the weird burrow-dwelling hare look-alikes were called Königchen i. e. "Little Kings / Kinglings". Hence the eventual calque into Czech : Králík, i.e. "little king / kingling". Then it eventually entered Slovak vocabulary as well (králik) and the rest is history... :D

A single tram/streetcar is called a tramvaj, due to the Czechs mistaking the English term for a tram rail line ("tramway") with the term denoting a tram itself (the vehicle).


So, what are your favourite odd or silly etymologies for common OTL terms ?
Well, there's LOTS of euphemistic uses. "Bra" (short for brassiere, literally 'arm holder'), of course the French do it one better 'Soutien gorge' is a 'throat support' (throat?!?)

Beyond that, there's the infamous British pubs named "Elephant and Castle" (infanta de Castille)

That the sort of thing you want?
 
Hence the eventual calque into Czech : Králík, i.e. "little king / kingling". Then it eventually entered Slovak vocabulary as well (králik) and the rest is history... :D

Now I know why in Polish this small animal is called "królik" (król = king, "królik" literally means "little king"). It's probably calque from Czech.

A single tram/streetcar is called a tramvaj, due to the Czechs mistaking the English term for a tram rail line ("tramway") with the term denoting a tram itself (the vehicle).
In Polish: "tramwaj". :)

So, what are your favourite odd or silly etymologies for common OTL terms ?[/QUOTE]

"Wielbłąd" (the camel) comes from gothic "ulbandus" which comes from latin "elephantus". The elephant is in Polish called "słoń". This in turn comes from turkish "e(r)slan", which means "tiger".

http://www.przelom.pl/porady/2556/O-wyrazach-niedzwiedz-wielblad-slon-i-tygrys/
(For those who can read Polish)
 
"Wielbłąd" (the camel) comes from gothic "ulbandus" which comes from latin "elephantus". The elephant is in Polish called "słoń". This in turn comes from turkish "e(r)slan", which means "tiger".

Interesting ! I had no idea. :eek: :cool: I'm particularly shocked by the etymology of slon (seeing how the term is identical in all west Slavic languages). The Polish term for camel is very similar to the Czech one. Funny, I thought the Czech term was figurative, meaning something like "great roamer"...
 
I've always liked the etymology for the word 'black,' as an example of just how far things can go over time.

I wondered why English had both the words "black" and "swarthy" to mean roughly the same thing. In German, the word "schwartz" means 'black,' but no such word exists that sounds similar to "black." It turns out that "black" shares the same ancestor as the word "bright," and other assorted words in Indo-European languages that all mean "white" (ie. Bela-, blanc, alba, etc.)
 

Delvestius

Banned
YEH LINGUISTICS <3

One of my favorite origins is the word "brag", which comes from Old Norse. Bragi was the Norse god of eloquence, and "brag" literally translates to "what Bragi does."

The modern day use of it has somewhat of a negative connotation :p
 
Boycott got its name from Charles Boycott, a land agent during the Irish "Land Wars", who was socially ostracized. Need a short term for the last two words in my previous sentence ? Use his surname, there you go ! And then add semantic shift to let it also mean "political and/or economic ostracization".
 
"Baragouiner" a french verb which means "saying some incomprehensible stuff" comes from the bretons "bara gwin" which mean "bread and wine".

You can call a pub "bistro", a term which comes from Russian "fast" (or something like that).
 
You can call a pub "bistro", a term which comes from Russian "fast" (or something like that).

Ha ! I've always wondered whether that term came from a Slavic language... :D Seems plausible. Looking it up on the Genocide, it's either this etymology (suppossedly linked to the Russian occupation of Paris in 1814) or something to do with a type of French apperitif. Bistros as a term were definitely coined in Paris, though...
 
Or "sine" in trigonometry. The Arabic word for it sounded like the Arabic word for 'bay', so when translating to Latin, they used "sinus" the Latin word for 'bay'.
 
The Russian word for a railway station is Vokzal, which is a corruption of Vauxhall, a suburb of London. The story goes that a group of Russian engineers came to London in the 1840's to study the first railways and were shown around Vauxhall station, and thought "Vauxhall" was a generic name for the building, not the area it served.

(An alternative explanation is that it came from Vauxhall pleasure gardens, which were imitated in Russia with Vokzal becoming a generic term for an amusement park and the name then travelled to railway stations after the first line in Russia ran from St Petersburg to a Vokzal outside the city. Take your pick, but it's still Vauxhall:cool:)
 
The Russian word for a railway station is Vokzal, which is a corruption of Vauxhall, a suburb of London. The story goes that a group of Russian engineers came to London in the 1840's to study the first railways and were shown around Vauxhall station, and thought "Vauxhall" was a generic name for the building, not the area it served.

Wow. :eek: I knew Donetsk was founded by a Welshman and the local geographic terms are calques of some anglophone names, but... wow ! Tsarist Russia seems to have had more contact with the British isles than visible at first glance... :)
 
'Bolwerk' is a Dutch word, meaning a bastion or a fort.
Later, the French also started to use this word, but they called it a Boulevard, and they used it for a road behind the wall of a fort.
Boulevard later got its current meaning, and it was introduced with the same new meaning both in English and in Dutch!
 
"Que Dalle", in french means nothing, nada, "there's nothing".

It likely comes from occitan "Que d'aila", "only a wing" as when you eat a chicken, when you have the wing...well you have almost nothing to eat.

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"Pedigree" comes from french "Pied de grue" because the foot of this animal looks like a genealogic tree.
 
The bear facts

Ancient people were so terrified of bears that they did not say the word "bear" out of fear that it would catch ones attention, so the modern word for "bear" in many northern European languages (including English) are derived from euphamisms that were used.
 
This one is interesting, given how certain homophobic teenagers will use "that's gay" to refer to anything they don't like: "bad" itself has an etymology tied up with gender. It's theorized to be derived from baeddel, meaning a hermaphrodite, or an effeminate man.
 
Ancient people were so terrified of bears that they did not say the word "bear" out of fear that it would catch ones attention, so the modern word for "bear" in many northern European languages (including English) are derived from euphamisms that were used.

It could easily have been more of a spiritual taboo than a common fear, but it's still interesting.

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The words shirt and skirt both come from the same word brought into English on different paths: shirt comes from Old English, and skirt from Old Norse, and both probably go back to a word in proto-Germanic for a short garment.
 

Adler

Banned
There is no Umlaut, ä, ö or ü, in the English language. Well, that's not totally true. There are some imported words from Germany, which have remained with the Umlaut.

At first the über. Like the English over it comes from the Gothic word ufar. Über is used, mostly without the ü, as a replacement of super. The über-dunking. And so on. The ü is not written, mostly as it is uncommon for English. A way to write it in a correct way, once no Ü is on the keyboard, you can use ue.

Another one is much more specific. Lagerstätte. A lagerstätte, which means litterally storage place, is in German a deposit of minerals, which can be exploited. The way into the English language came by the science. In the 19th century several deposits of fossils were known in Germany. So these fossil deposits, lagerstätten, needed to have an own word in the English language and so the term was transferred 1:1. With the umlaut. So a fossil deposit is called lagerstätte in English as well.

Oh, in German there are four cases. Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ and Akkusativ. However, in some cases there are more. For example, the term anno or anno domini was kept. The Church was built anno domini 1200. for example. It is mostly outdated now though. Anyway, if you wanted to determine the cases, you needed to introduce a fifth case, the Latin Ablativ. Thus the A.D. in English is an ablative as well.

Adler
 
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