Bits and pieces of interesting information: history, languages
Here you will find some information about things which I
found to be interesting. I hope they will be interesting to you too... For some
part, I don't remember where I got these data. I guess in some cases there exist
different speculations on the same subject. This means also that I do not
guarantee the correctness of these statements. As you will notice, some of the
items will center around the Lithuania, because I like learning about my
Things which I am interested in is history of the olden
times, and also languages. So here goes the first bit. What is the origin of
the word hussar (name for cavalryman in some countries)? This word
originates from the name of nomad Turkic people Khazar, good
What is the origin of the word ogre (one of the
horrible fairy-tale monsters, akin to trolls and similar folks)? I read
somewhere that it is a distorted word Uighur which is a name of
another Turkic tribe which used to invade Europe until 1000 A.D. together with
other tribes, such as Huns. Presently Uighurs live in the Eastern part of
China. See also 16.
Interestingly enough, Estonians call the Russians
Vene, which originates from the tribal name Veneti, used by
Graeco-Roman historians to name people who used to live in that part of the
Europe in the beginning of the Modern Era.
In a similar development, Estonian name for the Swedes is
Rootsi (Ruotsi in Finnish). Well, some scholars believe that
the present day Russians borrowed the name "Russians" from Swedes who were
called in the time of Vikings Ross, in other words, Vikings were
Russians in old times. This curious confusion probably comes from the fact
that for some time Viking kings ruled what is present day Russia. Vikings even
used to sail Russian Rivers to trade with Byzantium. At that time probably
each of the several Slavic tribes had their own name, which is seen also from
the following example.
The Latvian name for the Russians, in their turn, is
krievi, which stems from the name of the Slavic tribe
The old Lithuanian name for the Belorussians
(Belarusans), their Eastern Slavic neighbors, is "gudai" which is
nothing else but Goths (Greek Ptolemy called the Goths gutai, Romans
called them gutones). Which means that roughly 1500 years ago Goths
used to be the Eastern neighbors of Lithuanians.
The Lithuanian name for the German man is
vokietis (Germany - Vokietija), which some originate from
the Gothic tribe vagoths, originally living in Gotland Island in the
Baltic Sea. Few other Germanic tribes are thought to originate from
Estonians call Germans simply Saksa, i.e.
Of the living languages, Lithuanian language is the
closest to the Sanskrit, the sacred ancient language of India, which
in its turn is close to the proto-Indo-European language. I guess this doesn't
mean Lithuanian is the best, it just means it is a very archaic language. The
reason for this peculiarity of Lithuanians is that people living in the
present day Lithuania didn't move anywhere during the great movement of
peoples in the time of the Roman empire, neither any people moved to the
territory of Lithuania, therefore, no intermixing occurred. However, not all
Balts were so lucky.
The Baltic hydronyms (names for the rivers, lakes) can be
found from the Vistula river in the West to the Oka River near Moscow in the
East. It is considered this area was inhabited by Balts at around the birth of
Christ. The Eastern Balts were gradually assimilated by Slavs which moved in
from the southwest during one of the movements of nations. As late as 12th
century chronicles report Baltic tribe Galindians (Golyad in Slavic) not far
from Moscow. Interestingly, there was another tribe named Galindians in the
western end of the Balt inhabited territory, a subset of Prussians. Baltic
root gal- means end, edge, bordering.
The last Prussian perished in the beginning of 18th
century (due to bubonic plagues/ germanization/ assimilation). What is left of
this group of this language is the name of the region and some toponyms. This
land was known also to the ancient world as Borussia. (Soccer fans
should know this name).
Lithuania was first mentioned as Litua in the
Quedlinburg annals in 1009. Linguistically, root liet- means "to
pour". Actually, geographically Lithuania's name is derived from the name of
11 km long rivulet Lietava. The river gave its name to the province
(land) Lietuva, and here it goes, the whole country is called that
name. Lithuania in Lithuanian is Lietuva. There is also an argument
that the name of Lithuania is can be originated from the name of the duke's
convoy/army in olden times (as in a probable phrase uttered by appalled
neighbors: "Lithuania is coming!!!" - meaning army). The same root can be
found, for example, in a German word Geleite - "military escort" and
English lead. More details can be found in an article by
Simas Karaliunas, written in Lithuanian though.
It is the last land to be baptized in Europe. Lithuania
remained pagan until the end of 14th-beginning of 15th century.
The Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania
eventually formed a united state which had a simple name: Republic
(Rzeczpospolita in Polish). Despite the name, the state was ruled by
kings. Listen to this: the parliament of the state had a veto rule,
which meant that a single vote against by any member of the parliament would
rule down the proposal. No wonder that Russia, Prussia and Austria were able
to take over Poland and Lithuania without much difficulty: there was a
nobleman (his name is known to history) who voted against resistance to
Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of all Indo-European
languages, refers to very very old times. Ever wondered what was even earlier?
Scholars talk about hypothetical Nostratic language, from which Indo-European,
Semitic, Sino-Tibetan and some language groups descended. Nostratic
proto-language descended from even more mysterious language dubbed Borealic.
(For some more sober opinion, look at this article.)
Remember Huns, the terror of the Roman Empire? They have
a direct relation to the birth of two European states: Hungary and Bulgaria.
Actually, Huns was probably union of Ugric and Turkic tribes. I read of the
following etymology of the word Hungary : on ogur - ten
arrows in Turkic, meaning ten tribes. At the and of the first millennium AD
this union of tribes moved to the central Europe. Mostly Ugric part settled
finally in the present day Hungary, the Turkic part settled in what is now
Bulgaria (called after their previous homeland Bolgar on the banks of the
Volga River). The Bulgarians had wide contacts with Southern Slavic people and
gradually became slavicized.
Origin of Romania. Romania became a place of exile for
people Roman Empire law enforcement agencies wanted to get rid of. Remember,
Romans genocided Dacians who lived there before, so this land became sort of
empty. The inhabitants of this country considered themselves Romans. I wish I
had a time machine to see all what happened. Boredom never again! Unless using
time machine would also become institutionalized:)
In a huge work on the Roman Empire I found an interesting
fact, which sort of made me feel the connections between different nations
were closer than now. There is a mountain range in the territory of present
day Germany named Harz. The Romans called that place
Hercinia. The name originates from the old Celtic name Perkunia.
In Lithuanian this word means "thunderclap", but, more importantly, it is
related to the name of god Perkunas, a powerful Baltic god of
thunder. In a different yet related case, Latin word quercus means
"an oak tree". One of differences between Latin and Baltic languages is that
sometimes "qu" in Latin corresponds to Baltic "p", for
example Latin quinque vs. Lith. penki "five". Thus
quercus becomes perkus. I will remind you that oak trees
were considered to be sacred by pagan Balts and Celts.
I was wondering if my last name Kairys which
means left-handed has a similarly sounding word with similar meaning in other
languages. What I was able to find was Scottish Gaelic cearr which
also means left-handed.