Etymology: Russian, English, and Swedish

Not sure where to post this as this brings together the three languages.
When I first learned the word “läkare” in Swedish, I immediately thought of the Russian word “лекарь” (lekar). While the latter is quite dated, it still means the same as “läkare” in Swedish—that is a doctor.

I’m always surprised to find such similar words in different languages, so with a little help from our friend the Internet, I found an interesting etymological link between these words. What’s more, the English word “leech” has a lot to do with the other two. Behold:

eech (2)
obsolete for “physician,” from O.E. læce, from O.Dan. læke, from P.Gmc. *lælijaz “healer, physician” (cf. O.N. læknir, O.H.G. lahhi, Goth. lekeis “physician”), lit. “one who counsels,” perhaps connected with a root found in Celt. (cf. Ir. liaig “charmer, exorcist, physician”) and/or Slavic (cf. Serbo-Croatian lijekar), with an original sense of “speak, talk, whisper, conjurer.” The form and sense merged with leech (1) in M.E. by folk etymology. In 17c., leech usually was applied only to veterinary practitioners. The third finger of the hand, in O.E., was læcfinger, translating L. digitus medicus, Gk. daktylus iatrikos, supposedly because a vein from that finger stretches straight to the heart.

I don’t know about you, but I find this fascinating.

P.S. The forum could greatly benefit from using some simple text formatting tags; something to make words bold or italic.

. . . and simple editing capabilities. The “eech” above is actually “leech.” Have no idea why the “l” didn’t show up.

You can find all kinds of interesting etymological links if you look for them. I think Swedish got “torg” (square) from the Russian “торговля” (trade, market place), and only today I found “town” - “Zaun” (German: “fence”) - “tun” (Swedish: “fence”).

It’s not like I discovered plutonium by coincidence, but nevertheless etymology is fascinating.

Didn’t know about the word “torg.” Really interesting. Thank you for pointing it out! As for “town/Zaun/tun,” these are not as unusual, because they’re all Germanic words.

Oh, I found a few more:

tolk (interpreter)—from “толк” n. (sense), “толковать” v. (interpret)
pråm (barge)—from “паром” n. (ferry)

hamster—from “хомяк” and Lithuanian “staras” (same meaning). The old English term for “hamster” was “German rat.”
vampire—from “упырь”

Grenze/grens (border)—from “граница” (same meaning).

Better editing capability is on our list of things to do.

There are some surprising cognates between Russian and Swedish тарелки tallrik

I’ve always wondered about Jag and Я? They are pronounced the same and both mean I. Coincidence or not?

Good question, Will. I’ll have to investigate, but right off the bat I can tell you that “я” is a fairly recent word. The old version was “азъ.” I’m pretty sure that jag and я have some Indo-European roots.

Hm. Okay, in my book, it requires a bold leap of faith, but looks like they are related. Here are a few links:

Древнерусское – язъ
Старославянское – азъ
Общеславянское – jazъ
Индоевропейское – eg(h)om

Somehow this guy suggests that the “Y” sound came as a result of the elongation of the initial “e” sound of the Indo-European word. Then later, the word dropped its final “z” sound. Hence, ego > jego > jez > jaz > ja (I think). Pretty drastic, if you ask me.

Also, the guy writes:

Из общеславянского слово попало во многие языки: литовский, латышский, англосаксонский, латинский, греческий.

That is, he suggests that the word came to many other languages (Lithuanian, Latvian, Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek) from the Common(?) Slavic language. This all smells of extreme Slavo-centrism to me. Not sure what he means by “общеславянский,” though. Proto-Slavic? Balto-Slavic? All Slavic languages in general?

Here’s another link:

12c. shortening of O.E. ic, first person sing. nom. pronoun, from P.Gmc. *ekan (cf. O.Fris. ik, O.N. ek, Norw. eg, Dan. jeg, O.H.G. ih, Ger. ich, Goth. ik), from PIE *ego(m) (cf. Skt. aham, Hitt. uk, L. ego, Gk. ego, Rus. ja). Reduced to i by 1137 in northern England, it began to be capitalized c.1250 to mark it as a distinct word and avoid misreading in handwritten manuscripts.

Notice, it mentions the Russian “ja,” as well.

Then there’s this page from a Swedish Etymological Dictionary:

(Can’t copy and paste; it’s a page scan.) It does mention the “slavo-bålt. språk,” however.

Privet hej!
Menya zavout Pierre Ya svhedzija :slight_smile: menya gavartji nemongu pa ruuskij

Well My name is Pierre im from Sweden im trying to learn russian if your learning Swedish and your Russian it would be nice if you contact me :slight_smile:

Hejdå ! dos vidanja!