We all know that most languages of Europe belong to a big Indo-European family and therefore it is not strange to find some words which are common for English and Slavic languages. On this list you will find more than 60 words, words that were very important in everyday use in ancient times. (A surprisingly large number) For example:
Nature: SUN – SUNCE, EAST – ISTOK, DAY – DAN, SNOW – SNEG, LAKE – LOKVA, SEMEN – SEME
Food and drink: MILK – MLEKO, WATER – VODA, WINE – VINO, MEAD – MED
Family relations: MOTHER – MATER, SISTER – SESTRA, BROTHER – BRAT, SON – SIN, DAUGHTER – DUSHTER
Body parts: NOSE – NOS, RIB – REBRO, BROW – OBRVA, BEARD – BRADA
Animals: WOLF – VUK, MOUSE – MIS, GOOSE – GUSKA, CAT – KOTKA, LION – LAV, SWINE – SVINJA, EWE – OV(CA), WOOL – WULNA, HERD – KRDO
Objects: BARREL – BURE, STOOL – STOL(ICA)
Numbers: ONE – JED(AN), TWO – DVA, THREE – TRI
Various characteristics: SMALL – SMOL(EN), BROWN – BRAON, NEW – NOV
Basic grammar: YES – JESTE, NO – NE, TO BE – BITI, some forms of personal pronouns like (to) ME – MI, MENI and so on…
Other: GUEST – GOST, STEP – STOPA, STEPS – STEPENICE, LIE – LAZH, TO ASK – ISKATI
But there are some other interesting parallels that are maybe less obvious. Here is my Top 10 list:
(Note: All English etymologies are taken from http://www.etymonline.com. You can go directly to the link by clicking the highlighted word.)
10. DEEP – DUBOK
deep (adj.) Old English deop “profound, awful, mysterious; serious, solemn; deepness, depth,” deope (adv.), from Proto-Germanic *deupaz (cognates: Old Saxon diop, Old Frisian diap, Dutch diep, Old High German tiof, German tief, Old Norse djupr, Danish dyb, Swedish djup, Gothic diups “deep”), from PIE *dheub- “deep, hollow” (cognates: Lithuanian dubus “deep, hollow, Old Church Slavonic duno “bottom, foundation,” Welsh dwfn “deep,” Old Irish domun “world,” via sense development from “bottom” to “foundation” to “earth” to “world”).
Note: For the Old Church Slavonic as a cognate we have a word “duno” which is misleading as it means “bottom”. Word for “deep” is “dubok” and that is a much closer cognate to PIE root.
9. PATH – PUT
I thought that this is the obvious one. But let’s see what Etymonline says (I highlighted some important words):
path (n.) Old English paþ, pæþ “path, track,” from West Germanic *patha- (cognates: Old Frisian path, Middle Dutch pat, Dutch pad, Old High German pfad, German Pfad “path”), of uncertain origin. The original initial -p- in a Germanic word is an etymological puzzle. Don Ringe (“From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic,” Oxford 2006) describes it as “An obvious loan from Iranian …, clearly borrowed after Grimm’s Law had run its course.” Watkins says the word is “probably borrowed (? via Scythian) from Iranian *path-,” from PIE root *pent- “to tread, go, pass” (source of Avestan patha “way;” see find (v.)), but this is too much of a stretch for OED and others. In Scotland and Northern England, commonly a steep ascent of a hill or in a road.
8. Numerous words beginning with “F”
It is a well known fact that in many Germanic words original Indo-European sound “P” at the beginning of the word was exchanged for the sound “F” . Some of the many examples are: pater-father, fire-pyr, fish-pesces, for-por… However, once we revert this change some of the words become very obvious Slavic cognates:
FLAME – PLAMEN
flame (n.) Middle English flaume, also flaumbe, flambe, flame, flamme, mid-14c., “a flame;” late 14c., “a flaming mass, a fire; fire in general, fire as an element;” also figurative, in reference to the “heat” or “fire” of emotions, from Anglo-French flaume, flaumbe “a flame” (Old French flambe, 10c.), from Latin flammula “small flame,” diminutive of flamma “flame, blazing fire,” from PIE *bhleg– “to shine, flash,” from root *bhel- (1) “to shine, flash, burn”
FRY – PRZHITI
fry (v.) late 13c., “cook (something) in a shallow pan over a fire,” from Old French frire “to fry” (13c.), from Latin frigere “to roast or fry,” from PIE *bher- (4) “to cook, bake” (source also of Sanskrit bhrjjati “roasts,” bharjanah “roasting;” Persian birishtan “to roast;” Greek phrygein “to roast, bake”).
FALL – PAL
fall (n.) c. 1200, “a falling to the ground; a dropping from a height, a descent from a higher to a lower position (as by gravity); a collapsing of a building,” from the source of fall (n.). (Old English noun fealle meant “snare, trap.”) Meaning “a sinking down, subsidence” Of the coming of night from 1650s. Meaning “downward direction of a surface” is from 1560s, of a value from 1550s.
FLOAT / FLEET – PLUTATI
float (v.) late Old English flotian “to rest on the surface of water” (intransitive; class II strong verb; past tense fleat, past participle floten), from Proto-Germanic *flotan “to float” (source also of Old Norse flota, Middle Dutch vloten, Old High German flozzan, German flössen), from *flot-, from PIE *pleud-, extended form of root *pleu- “to flow” (see pluvial).
fleet (n.) Old English fleot “a ship, raft, floating vessel,” also, collectively, “means of sea travel; boats generally,” from fleotan “to float” (see fleet (v.)). Sense of “naval force, group of ships under one command” is in late Old English. The more usual Old English word was flota “a ship,” also “a fleet; a sailor.”
FUEL – PALITI (to burn)
fuel (n.) c. 1200, feuel, feul “fuel, material for burning,” also figurative, from Old French foaille “fuel for heating,” from Medieval Latin legal term focalia “right to demand material for making fire, right of cutting fuel,” from classical Latin focalia “brushwood for fuel,” from neuter plural of Latin focalis “pertaining to a hearth,” from focus “hearth, fireplace” (see focus (n.)).
Interestingly, but none of the etymologies above mention Slavic cognates. Exceptions are these two:
FREE / FRIEND – PRIJATELJ
free (adj.) Old English freo “free, exempt from, not in bondage, acting of one’s own will,” also “noble; joyful,” from Proto-Germanic *frija- “beloved; not in bondage” (source also of Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon vri, Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis “free”), from PIE *priy-a- “dear, beloved,” from root *pri- “to love” (source also of Sanskrit priyah “own, dear, beloved,” priyate “loves;” Old Church Slavonic prijati “to help,” prijatelji “friend;” Welsh rhydd “free”).
The primary Germanic sense seems to have been “beloved, friend, to love;” which in some languages (notably Germanic and Celtic) developed also a sense of “free,” perhaps from the terms “beloved” or “friend” being applied to the free members of one’s clan
FRESH – PRESNO
fresh (adj.1) c. 1200, fresh, also fersh, “unsalted; pure; sweet; eager;” the modern form is a metathesis of Old English fersc, of water, “not salt, unsalted,” itself transposed from Proto-Germanic *friskaz (source also of Old Frisian fersk, Middle Dutch versch, Dutch vers, Old High German frisc, German frisch “fresh”). Probably cognate with Old Church Slavonic presinu “fresh,” Lithuanian preskas “sweet.”
FIST – PEST
fist (n.) Old English fyst “fist, clenched hand,” from West Germanic *fustiz (source also of Old Saxon fust, Old High German fust, Old Frisian fest, Middle Dutch vuust, Dutch vuist, German Faust), from Proto-Germanic *funhstiz, probably ultimately from PIE *penkwe- “five” (see five, and compare Old Church Slavonic pesti, Russian piasti “fist”).
7. DOOR – DVERI
door (n.) Middle English merger of Old English dor (neuter; plural doru) “large door, gate,” and Old English duru (fem., plural dura) “door, gate, wicket;” both from Proto-Germanic *dur- (cognates: Old Saxon duru, Old Norse dyrr, Danish dør, Old Frisian dure, Old High German turi, German Tür).
The Germanic words are from PIE *dhwer– “a doorway, a door, a gate” (cognates: Greek thyra, Latin foris, Gaulish doro “mouth,” Gothic dauro “gate,” Sanskrit dvárah “door, gate,” Old Persian duvara- “door,” Old Prussian dwaris “gate,” Russian dver‘ “a door”).
6. STONE – STENA – STAN
stone (n.) Old English stan, used of common rocks, precious gems, concretions in the body, memorial stones, from Proto-Germanic *stainaz (cognates: Old Norse steinn, Danish steen, Old Saxon sten, Old Frisian sten, Dutch steen, Old High German stein, German Stein, Gothic stains), from PIE *stoi-no-, suffixed form of root *stai- “stone,” also “to thicken, stiffen” (cognates: Sanskrit styayate “curdles, becomes hard;” Avestan stay- “heap;” Greek stear “fat, tallow,” stia, stion “pebble;” Old Church Slavonic stena, Russian stiena “wall”).
So “stone” was STAN in Old English. What does that mean?
-stan place-name element in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., from Persian -stan “country,” from Indo-Iranian *stanam “place,” literally “where one stands,” from PIE *sta-no-, suffixed form of root *sta- “to stand”.
Interesting, because every Slavic person knows that STAN means “dwelling”, STATI means “to stop” and STAJATI means to stand. It seems that this word remained preserved from those ancient times when people were still nomads so they called their rock (stone) shelters STAN?
5. PLOUGH (PLOW) – PLUG
plow (n.) late Old English plog, ploh “plow; plowland” (a measure of land equal to what a yoke of oxen could plow in a day), possibly from a Scandinavian source (such as Old Norse plogr “plow,” Swedish and Danish plog), from Proto-Germanic *plogo- (cognates: Old Saxon plog, Old Frisian ploch “plow,” Middle Low German ploch, Middle Dutch ploech, Dutch ploeg, Old High German pfluog, German Pflug), a late word in Germanic, of uncertain origin. Old Church Slavonic plugu, Lithuanian plugas “plow” are Germanic loan-words, as probably is Latin plovus, plovum “plow,” a word said by Pliny to be of Rhaetian origin.
4.Some words begening with Q
QUEEN – ŽENA (ZHENA)
queen (n.) Old English cwen “queen, female ruler of a state, woman, wife,” from Proto-Germanic *kwoeniz (cognates: Old Saxon quan “wife,” Old Norse kvaen, Gothic quens), ablaut variant of *kwenon (source of quean), from PIE *gwen- “woman, wife” supposedly originally “honored woman” (cognates: Greek gyné “a woman, a wife;” Gaelic bean “woman;” Sanskrit janis “a woman,” gná “wife of a god, a goddess;” Avestan jainish “wife;” Armenian kin “woman;” Old Church Slavonic zena, Old Prussian genna “woman;” Gothic qino “a woman, wife; qéns “a queen”).
The original sense seems to have been “wife” specialized by Old English to “wife of a king.” In Old Norse, still mostly of a wife generally, as in kvan-fang “marriage, taking of a wife,” kvanlauss “unmarried, widowed,” kvan-riki “the domineering of a wife.” English is one of the few Indo-European languages to have a word for “queen” that is not a feminine derivative of a word for “king.”
I would never see this one coming without the etymological dictionary. It is interesting that in Slavic ZHENA means both, “woman” AND “wife”. The sound Q sometimes acts as Slavic ZH as we see in these other examples too:
QUERN – ZRNUVI
quern (n.) Old English cweorn “hand-mill, mill,” from PIE *gwere-na- “millstone” (source also of Old Norse kvern, Old Frisian quern, Old High German quirn, Gothic quirnus; Sanskrit grava “crushing stone;” Lithuanian girna “millstone,” girnos “hand mills;” Old Church Slavonic zrunuvi “mills”
QUICK – ZHIV
quick (adj.) Old English cwic “living, alive, animate,” and figuratively, of mental qualities, “rapid, ready,” from Proto-Germanic *kwikwaz (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian quik, Old Norse kvikr “living, alive,” Dutch kwik “lively, bright, sprightly,” Old High German quec “lively,” German keck “bold”), from PIE root *gweie- (1) “to live” (see bio-). Sense of “lively, swift” developed by late 12c., on notion of “full of life.”
3. HAMMER – ČEKIĆ / MOLOT
I know, no connection at the first glance. But the etymology of this word is following:
hammer (n.) Old English hamor “hammer,” from Proto-Germanic *hamaraz (cognates: Old Saxon hamur, Middle Dutch, Dutch hamer, Old High German hamar, German Hammer). The Old Norse cognate hamarr meant “stone, crag” (it’s common in English place names), and suggests an original sense of the Germanic words as “tool with a stone head” which would describe the first hammers. The Germanic words thus could be from a PIE *ka-mer-, with reversal of initial sounds, from PIE *akmen” stone, sharp stone used as a tool” (cognates: Old Church Slavonic kamy, Russian kameni “stone”), from root *ak- “sharp” (see acme).
Akmen… really?? As we see, Slavic word for stone is KAM-EN. Stone hammer? This has to be a really old one. Neolithic old at least.
2. SADDLE – SEDLO
saddle (n.) Old English sadol “seat for a rider,” from Proto-Germanic *sathulaz (cognates: Old Norse söðull, Old Frisian sadel, Dutch zadel, zaal, German Sattel “saddle”), from PIE *sed- (1) “to sit” (cognates: Latin sedere “to sit,” Old Church Slavonic sedlo “saddle;”
Ok, ok, we can call root SED proto-indo-European, but -LO is a typical Slavic suffix!
1. BOOK – BUKVA (letter)
book (n.) Old English boc “book, writing, written document,” traditionally from Proto-Germanic *bokiz “beech” (cognates: German Buch “book” Buche “beech;” see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed, but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them).
So just like we have a word “paper” because of “papyrus”, the word “book” comes from the “beech” tree. So let’s see some parallels:
- ENGLISH: BOOK – BEECH
- GERMAN: BUCH – BUCHE
- SLAVIC: BUKVA – BUKVA
Well, it definitely seems that the English were not the first to write on a beech tree. Was it Slavs or Germans who brought it on the island is really the question. All these words are so old that it is hard to say who was the first to use them. But we will never be able to judge objectively as long as Slavic parallels are so timidly mentioned in western etymological dictionaries and Slavs do not get their proper place in the ancient history of Europe, of which they were undoubtedly part of.