Lending and borrowing words

I’m fascinated by words and names and always interested to find out how they evolved and what they might have been originally and what they might have meant. As an English speaker I’m very conscious of the different influences on our language, the very ancient words which still remain from an almost pre-historic time, Celtic words, Latin words, Saxon and Scandinavian words,, Norman French influences, and then all the thousands of words we have borrowed from other places as we journey and traded and sometimes conquered.

As a rather feeble learner of Irish Gaelic I’ve realised it’s remarkable how many words have travelled between the two cultures, ‘English’ words in Gaelic and Irish words in English; sometimes we each have a word for something which has come from outside, and due to our history and the raids and conquests of the Viking across Britain, we each have words originally from the Norse. An example is ‘boat’; in Irish it is ‘bád’, and you can see and hear the similarity – in the orignal Old Norse it is ‘bátr’. Ling, the fish, is the same word in both other languages – langa. A brogue is a type of sturdy shoe, in Gaelic it is bróg, in Old Norse it is ‘brók’. Market – margadh (G), markadhr (ON), anchor  – ancair (G),  akkeri (OL); there are many, many more and most of these words have a connection with the sea or with trade.

It isn’t just words but names which reflect the Viking influence; Áskell (ON) – MacAsgaill (G), McCaskill (Anglicised), Óláf (ON) – MacAmhlaibh (G), MacAuliffe/Cowley (A), Ivar (ON) – MacÌomhair (G), MacIvor/Ivor (A), and not just personal names, but place names too.

This Norse influence is also evident in Scots gaelic – but I don’t know as much about that! However there is an interesting document you can look at, with wonderful photos which will make you want to visit!



lixical impositions

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