Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tidbits of Philology #6

Rafael Lanzetti's Tidbits of Philology #6


The word for nightmare has an interesting etymology in many languages. In English, although one might think "mare" refers to a female horse, the term really comes from Old English "mære", a female demon (sometimes called by her Latin name, "Incubus") whose job was to kill sleepers.

The word in Dutch, "nachtmerrie", comes from the same Germanic roots.

In Swedish, "mardröm" has the same Germanic root, "mar", combined with the word for dream, "dröm".

In French, the term is "cauchemar", and the stem "mar" has probably the same origin as the Old English "mære" (or was borrowed from it), while "cauche" comes from Old French "chauchier" and means "press (down)", that awful, tense feeling we get during a nightmare when it feels like something is pressing us down the mattress.

Both Romanian and Bulgarian adopted the French word, "coșmar" and "кошмар", respectively.

The Portuguese ("pesadelo") and Spanish ("pesadilla") [note that the Portuguese word is masculine, while the Spanish one is feminine] also contain this allusion to "pressing down", as "pesado" means "heavy".

The Italian word ("incubo") refers directly to the Latin demon, no euphemisms needed!

The Persian word کابوس ['kɒː.bus] also alludes to the Latin demon.

In German, "Alptraum", which contains the stem "Traum" (dream), refers to the "Alben", the elves responsible for giving people bad dreams.

Finally, the Greek word "εφιάλτης" does not seem to have a precise origin, but the probable etymology is Ancient Greek "επί + άλλομαι”, which can mean a number of different things, from "a grain of salt", "leap" and "soul" (compare with Lat. "alma").

So, how do you say "nightmare" in your language? Can you tell us anything about its etymology?

Have a nice nightmare-free week, y'all!


Rick Zorieuk Aleph said...
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Rick Zorieuk Aleph said...

Olá, Rafael. Meus parabéns pelos conteúdos de primeiro que tens postado na internet em forma de vídeos e de textos. Para alguém que aspira a carreira de linguística, é realmente empolgante visitar seu canal no youtube e o seu blogo. Se não se importa, gostaria de saber quais são os passos para que alguém possa se tornar professor na Europa. Pretendo começar a faculdade de Letras este ano e tenho um grande desejo de sair do Brasil e morar na Europa algum dia. Se puder me ajudar com alguma coisa, ficarei grato! Bom,é isso. Best regards!

Lanzetti said...

Olá Rick, obrigado! Para ser professor na Europa, você precisa primeiro fazer o curso no país onde você quer lecionar, eles não aceitam o curso feito no Brasil. Geralmente são 5 anos, incluindo as disciplinas específicas de língua e as didáticas. Depois, você precisa fazer uma prova elaborada pelo Ministério da Educação. Alguns detalhes variam de país para país, mas, em resumo, é isso.

Nasrin Mostofian said...

کابوس در زبان فارسی یعنی: nightmare.
But what you have said at beginning about the sleeper killer was so interesting to me, and I'll ask about it. Cause in Persian, there's a word: بختک /Baxtak/،which is an anonymous creature who is able to mute his audience and then kill them.
I may be able to tell more about it after some research!