Memorable Etymologies

"Japan" thorugh time & spaceThese days it is becoming increasingly simple to find etymologies online. Besides our old friend, now has quite a few (especially Two other good sources are (Italian) and (Spanish). The later one welcomes additions and thus includes quite a few original insights. Bit by bit so much of our history is revealed to still be with us.

For words in far Eastern languages, e.g. Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese etc. I have the feeling that our great etymological dictionary is still waiting to be written, but perhaps I’ll stumble across it one day. Some partial lists are out there (for example, Thai/Chinese word lists), but nothing comprehensive that I know of. The list of correspondences between all these and many European languages (especially Germanic) is long, so it would be a massive work.

I’ll list some memorable word collections here (and add to it later). Those that strike me tend to be those which reveal cognates which I had not previously thought of.

asare (lt), asar (es) = to roast, asado (es) = barbeque, cf. ash (en), Asche (dt)
ardere (lt), arder (es) = to burn, cf. ardor (lt, en), presumably related to asare

tela (lt) = woven stuff, texere = to weave (cf. texture), tekton (el) = carpenter, tekhne (el) = art (cf. technical), tejado (es), Dach (dt) = roof… but also: towel/toalla (disputed) and even toilet

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One Response to Memorable Etymologies

  1. Ponderer says:

    When I talk about Chinese etymologies, it is worth noting that I am referring to the origins of words, not characters. Numerous scholars have done work on the “etymology” of characters. Notable in particular are James Heisig and the Taiwanese American Tienzen Gong. For a resume of his work, see

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