A New Young (Noble-Nibelung) King

The PGmc. *k of these forms is not surprising, because that is the expected outcome of PIE *ǵ (or velar *g, for that matter); and we expect *r to survive without change in Germanic.  But the vowel of the root doesn’t fit; inherited *ē should have remained *ē in PGmc. and in Gothic, becoming *ā in all the other daughters (with various further devel­opments, especially in OE).

Don Ringe

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When Proto-Germanic *rik- is in question, I would say that Ringe is making a mistake by observing only words related to king in this case. Namely, the PIE root *h3reg– (or Hor-Gon basis in my HSF) gives an enormous number of derivatives in all IE languages. For instance, Gothic raíhts (Recht) is a “counterpart” word to Celtic *rektu– (Old Irish recht, Welsh rhaith); and German Reich/reich is clearly related to Recht (right), richtig1 (correct) and Richtung (direction) because those meanings were shifted from Reihe (raw) and Ordnung2 (order; this may be a borrowing from Latin ordo -inis line, raw, order, but not ultimately). All these words must be carefully examined before any final conclusion is reached. Compare Serbian words red (row, line; Russ. ряд; Cz.  řada, řádek; Pol. rząd), uređenje (system, arrangement; Cz. po-řádek; Russ. по-рядок; po-rządek), uredno (orderly), na-ređenje, na-rediti (order; Cz. na-řídit); do they not sound like the Latin loan-words? However, they are not from Latin, they are clearly inherited Slavic words. If a Serb says “sve je u redu” it means “it’s all right” (Ger. alles in Ordnung). When something is properly arranged (Serb. uređeno) it must be right (Serb. u redu, uredno). Sometimes things are more simply “arranged” than anyone would have ever expected. For instance, who would say that English empire (from Latin imperito -are) is an analogous word to Slavic poredak3 (system; from po-ređati to line up).

As I said before, I am convinced that vowels have no big/significant importance in studying the history of words. Vowels seem to be just necessary “tools” to make words shift/pass from one meaning to another (Serb. uraditi work, urediti arrange, uriktati put in order; Ger. Reihe row, Recht right, Richting direction; Richtigkeit accuracy). Who would suppose that Greek παράδεισος4 (paradise, heaven) is also related to Slavic poredak (system) and Latin im-perito? Serbian raj (paradise; Russ. рай, раек; Cz. raj; OSl. раи) is nothing else but an “arrayed area” (Serb. uređen kraj).


1) The German verb berechtigen (to authorize; i.e. “to make it right”) is close in structure and meaning to berichtigen (to correct) and it is clear that these two words have different connotations thanks to the one simple /e/ to /i/ vowel mutation. If we try to dig deeper into the relation among the “similar” words we will be able to understand that German rechnen (count; Serb. računati) is genetically related not only to regieren (reign) but also to Recht (right). It is very unusual that Don Ringe “skipped” some words that couldn’t fit into his presented theory. For instance, there are words for queen in Germanic like OHG quena, ON kvin (beside kvæn). There are also forms as OS sêhan (sow; Serb. sejanje sowing) and OFries. sêa  where the vowel /e/ is kept instead of expected /a/.  Don Ringe also mentioned Proto-Germanic *dēdiz, maybe without seeing that his “deed” is going back to the root *dailjan and the notion of “dealing” (Serb. delanje working, deljenje dealing; dejstvo effect; Russ. действовать to work; деятель [deyatel’] worker); cf. Goth. táujan, OHG zouwen to do, make. The PIE root *dheigh also goes back to *dailjan or more precisely to *dai(b)l-h2n.

2) German ordnen (to sort out) is related to Latin ordino -are (order, arrange) and Serbian urediti (to arrange) and uredno (arranged).  It shows that it is almost impossible to say that any of these words is a loan word from another language. Most probably, in all the mentioned tongues those words must be of native origin.

3) The Serbian verb poređati (to line up, arrange; Russ. приводить в порядок literally “to get in order”; Cz. pořádný orderly)  seems to be related to Latin imperito (to govern; from in + perito; Serb. u poretku in order?). In order to understand the history of these words we have to start from the PIE root h3rebh ‘turn’ (proposed by Michael Weiss from Cornell University  ᅳ “Latin Orbis and Its Cognates,” Historische Sprachforschung, 2006) and its transposed form h3berh ‘rotate’. Namely, the Serbian word obrt (turn, rotation) appeared to be a metathesized form of Latin orbit, while Latin orbit might be compared to Serbian krivulja (curve; Pol. krzywa, Cz. křivka, Russ. кривая; Serb. kriva linija curved line; Ger. kurbeln to wind [wound; wound], Lat. curvus). Now  it becomes clear that the above-named Weiss’ PIE root h3rebh can be modified to h3rbelh (Hor-Bel basis in HSF). The Serbian verbs porediti (com-pare), poraditi (to work on), poroditi (to give birth), poređati (to line up, command) have a clear-cut relation with English words produce, pare, produce, apparatus, birth. In reality, all these words are derived from the above *h3br- (Lat. abrado -radere -rasi –rasum to scrape, shave; Serb. obrada arrangement, production, workup, obrt trade, obrtnik craftsman); i.e. all these words are connected to the notion of the “cyclic rotation” (turning).

4) One question can be very interesting here. Is the word paradise akin to park? It is hard to say, but one thing is sure: Παραδείσος (garden, orchard) is an abraded, nicely “shaved” and cleaned area. In addition, is there anything that can be taken as common for the words park and part (from Latin pars partis)? Serbian parče (piece, mouthful, part) is derived from obruč (ring, enclosed area), which from its side comes from the agglutinated h3b(l)-h3rg root (Gon-Bel-Hor-Gon basis in HSF). It means that Serbian obruč (ring; Russ. обруч) and parče (part) are both coming from an earlier form, ob(l)-krug (“oval circle”; Serb. oblo round + krug circle); okrug (district, area) <= ob-krug => obruka (barrel fastener) => obruč (ring).

PIE *gwḗn ‘woman’ (OIr. bé, Jasanoff 1989) >→ PGmc. *kwēniz ‘wife’ > Goth. qens, ON kván, OS quān, OE cwēn;

Don Ringe

There is a well-established “scientific” belief that Slavic knez (prince; OSlav. кънѩѕь) is a Germanic loanword (Vasmer p. 2,266.). The following analysis will show that such an assertion is completely unsubstantiated and essentially wrong. In addition, this could possible be an indirect proof that Don Ringe’s assumption about Celtic loan words in Germanic couldn’t be more reliable than the above-mentioned Vasmer’s statement about *kuninggaz => knez relation.

Here I think it would be interesting to mention that the Serbian word knez (count, lord, prince, duke; Russ. князь; Cz. kníže) sounded first as (prior to g => ž palatalization) kneg , like in kneginja (princess; Russ. княгиня, княжна; Ger. Königin; Pol. księżniczka; Cz. kněžna). Now let us compare Slavic words for book (Serb. knjiga book, knjižica booklet; Pol. książka, książeczka book, booklet; Russ. книжечка booklet; Cz. kniha, knížka) with the above-mentioned Slavic words for ‘prince’ and ‘princess’. What else can we see here? Is there anything here beside the pure phonetic resemblance and analogous morphology? What is that that Serbian kneževina (principality; Pol. księstwo; Russ. княжество; Cz. knížectví) may have in common with the Serbian word književnost (literature)? Are these two words anything more than lookalikes? On the other hand, in what mutual relations are the English words, count, know, and king? Why count is at the same time ‘the act of counting’ and a ‘noble man’? Might it not be related to English king (Ger. König) and the verb know (Ger. kennen? What about the possible kinship among the Serbo-Slavic words znanje (knowledge), nauka (science), knez (prince) and knjiga (book), on one side, and the above-named Germanic words on the other? Also, there seems to be a clear parallel to English words duke (from Lat. dux leader; ducere lead) and education (Lat. ex-ducere lead out)? Now we can suppose that king was not only the ruler and the one who oppressed his people (cf. Ger. Knecht servant; Serb. ugnjeten oppressed; kmet servant; from knet; ultimately from goniti chase, drive, prosecute), but he also was the leader, the one who teaches, educates, counts… Nevertheless, is it possible that English teacher (again Latin ducere, dicere, dictio) is related to Serbian douka (teach), dokaz (evidence, token, testimony), dokučiti (to find out, see through), tečaj (cours; from teknuti, teći flow) and učiti (learn, teach). Of course, all these words go back to the ur-form *(h)obli-gn or to the PIE root *bhleugh- (hence Serb. oblinuti/obliti suffuse; from ob-h-liti, h-linuti, s-linuti, d-linuti, and obučiti teach, educate). As we can see, we need here an in-depth phonetic expertise in order to be able to describe all the phonetic mutations that occurred in these examples.

For instance, Serbian odlučiti (decide; odluka decision) is the “older” form of the Serbian verb tumačiti (comment, inerpret; Ger. dolmetschen interpret) and is related to English talk and Russian толковать (interpret). Let us now concentrate on the PIE root for talk and tale –  *del- (Pokorny 1. del- 193). Can we not say that English teach belongs to the same group of words as tale and talk? No, we cannot because teach is derived from the PIE root *deig-! Yeah, but why talk wouldn’t be related to token (from talken?) and Serbian dokaz (Cz. důkaz token, evidence, argument; Russ. доказательство evidence, доказывать to assert) and odluka (issue, evidence, judgment, verdict, decision), odlučiti (decide, determine)? Why wouldn’t Latin decisio -onis (decision) be related to Slavic dokaz (evidence, proof) and what is the history of the Latin word documentum (evidence)? Greek δοκῐμάζω (approve, test, assay) appeared to be the same word as Latin documentum. Serbian dokazivanje (proving) is the same word as doznavanje or doznati (get knowledge; from dognavati, dognati; i.e. it is a cognate (!) to Lat. cognitio!). Also, if we compare English knowledge and the Serbian adjective znalački (knowingly) we will see that these two words are structured in the same way.

Above analysis should (and must) go much deeper and for that hundreds of pages wouldn’t be enough, but in this specific case I tried just to make some outline “inspection” of the words that potentially could be related to king and queen. Next word that can capture our attention is the word noble! Surprisingly or not, here we may mention the Egyptian god Kneph (also known as Chnoubis, Chnoumis, Chnouphis, Nebo, Naba, Nechi, Necho), who appears to be related not only to our king/knez but also to ‘wisdom’; i.e. to ‘knowledge’ or Serb. ‘znanje’ (by Eusebius Kneph is identified with the Logos; Jamblichus identifies him with Brahma since he says of him that “this god is intellect itself”). How it happen that Ethiopian negus (king) is present in Serbian language today in the name of a town Njeguši (best known as birth place of Serbian’s royal dynasty of Petrović in Montenegro)? Actually, it seems that Serbian Njegoš/Njegoš is the same word as English king, German König or Serbian knez/knjaz. The other name that could be helpful in this case is Serbian name Nemanja, which could go back to Nebo (sky; from nasalized NeMbagna, something close to the name of Nabunaid, king of Babylon), which also could be related to Noah (New Man, Serb. Novak; from novo new; Neu Man). This shows too that the Germans might not have been called Nemci in Slavic in a conformity with the Slavic words for mute (Serb. nem; Russ. немой; Pol. niemy), but in accordance with the word know (Serb. znati, Pol. znać; Russ. знать; Gr. γνωσις, γνομε knowledge, skillfulness).

If queen is related to Greek γῠνή (woman; Serb. žena, ženka) than king must be related to Greek κυνηγία (hunt, chase; Serb. goniti chase, gonič hunter). We shall see that Greek κυνηγός (huntsman) sounds almost the same as PGerm. *kuninggaz (OE cyning; Goth. kuniggs). Slavic knez (OSlav. кънѩѕь) is also the above mentioned gonič (hunter). Originally, knez is hunter (Serb. ženik bridegroom) who chase/hunts the woman (Serb. žena, ženka). In Russian, knjaz’ (князь) has the additional meaning (possible related to English knave) – bridegroom (!) (Russ. жених; Serb. ženik, mlado-ženja). Now we can see that Slavic knez may be compared to Serbian neženja (bachelor, neženjen unmarried), and it shows that neženja comes from earlier *gnegenja or *gnaganja. What really happened here? Could it be possible that English young (OE geong) is related to king and then to Slavic neženja (bachelor, unmarried young man).

Now we are going to try to prove something what at first sight looks completely impossible. Namely, comparing the Latin word iuvenis (young) with German jung and Russian юный (young) we might have logically supposed that these words are closely related; but the question is how? In our everyday speech the word young can be often replaced with new (Latin novus fresh, joung, new; Serb. nov; Russ. новый;Cz. nový; Serb. pri-nova a newborn child). Is it not amazing? There must be something in it: if Latin novus is derived from novellus (cf. Serb. novajlija a new one, fresh) then juvenis must have previously sounded as *juvelnis (*jubelgnih; from *g(n)-ubelgnih). Hindi navayuvā or naujavāna (youngster; literally “new young”) is a compound word of nāva (new, young) + javāna or yuvā (young; cf. Hind. śāvaka young, jīvana live; Serb. živahan quick, jovial, lively). One of the possible evidences that proposed ur-form *g(n)ubelgnih is correct (or close to correct; Gon-Bel-Gon basis in HSF) is the Serbian noun ob-navljanje (re-newing) and English novelty: i.e. the above-mentioned Latin novellus (young, fresh, new). And the first thing we have to do when we meet a novelty (or a new thing) is… what? Yes, you are right, we must give it a name! In many IE languages the word for name is derived from the PIE root *nomn-. English adverb namely is Serbian naime (namely). Serbian naimeno-vati (to give a name, assign, denominate) is analogous to English naming. Naturally, there is nothing unusual in it, but if we say that English name is at the same time related to the Serbian verb zvati/zivkati/zovnuti (to call, name) it must be totally unexpected. This Serbian word (zvati call), and its numerous forms as zovnuti, zov, zivkati, zvuk (sound) etc., shows in the best way that vowels are of very little importance for the understanding of history of any specific word.

Above mentioned Serbian naimenovati (to name) and naime (namely) are prefixed forms of the noun ime (name; Russ. имя; Cz. jméno; Pol. imię; Slv. meno; OSl. имѩ), na-ime (”on name”). It means that Serbo-Slavic ime lost its “laryngeal”, which from its own side was born from the gn proto-cluster (similar as in Latin nobilis, from gnobilis “knowable”) and sounded like Greek γνώμη; i.e. PSlav. *gnime => *hime => jime => ime (name). Now it becomes clear that Greek γνώμη (the faculty of knowledge, opinion) and Latin gnobilis (noble, knowable; knowledgeable) are cognates and it clearly indicates that “gnome” was born from “gnobe”, probably through the nasalization (gnoMb- => gnom-). Slavic synonym for ime (name) is naziv (appellation, name, term, title; Pol. nazwa, Russ. название, Czech název;OSl. зъвати, зовѫ call; Serb. zvati call; Skt. hava-s/hávatē call, Avest. zavaiti; Hind. āhvana call; Serb. zvanje calling), and that word’s -ziv morpheme (from na-ziv name), as well as its unprefixed forms (zov call, zvanje calling, vocation and zvuk sound) were derived from the same above-mentioned ur-basis *g(n)ubelgnih, just like all the words from different IE languages we were considering here.

The Roman preanomen Gnaeus or Cnaeus sounds like Serbian Knez. Is it just a chance resemblance or is it something more than that? Gnaeus is believed to be derived from Etruscan Cneve (also Cnaive), Oscan and Old Latin Gnaivos, wich preserved the sound /v/ that is replaced in Roman Gnaeus with /u/. Does it not suggest that Slavic/Serbian knez was subjected to the similar process (knez from knevs)? In an attempt to find solution to this “mystery” we started from the ancient Egyptian (“intellectual”) god Kneph (Logos?) or Babylonian Nabu/Nebo (god of wisdom and writing; Roman Neptun?) and then we “visited” the Ethiopian sovereign Negus (probably from Nevgus, with the loss of the initial k/g; Knevgus => Negus). Also we mentioned the Babylonian king Nabunaid whose name is present even today in the Serbian personal name Nemanja (from G/NeMb(l)agna; related to nebo heaven; Goebel; Gnabel, Nabel, Nobel). Finally, why wouldn’t we go to the North of Europe and visit the Danish prince Hnæf whose name reminds us of the Egyptian god Kneph. Hnæf was the prince of the Germanic people of Nibelungs (ON Niflung; Niblung; Hniflung-r). If we now compare the supposed proto-word for “king” – *g(n)ubelgnih we will see that all the above-mentioned words perfectly fit into such an assumed basis. Serbian konjanik (cavalier, horseman) sounds almost the same as Dutch koning or Swedish konung (king) and it happened because konjanik is also derived from *g(n)ubelgnih basis (Gon-Bel-Gon in HSF), from kopljanik (cavalier, gallant, knight5), in accordance with Latin caballus and Slavic *komen (konj horse; from koMbljen; cf. Serbo-Slavic kobila mare; ORuss. комонь). The things are appearing to be clear here; you cannot be a ‘noble man’ (GNibelung) without the lance (Serb. koplje spear) and horse (Lat. caballus) and it shows that horse was named in accordance to his horseman (cavalier; k/noble, kopljanik => caballus, kobila) and not vice versa. In the end, knowledge belongs to elite or g/nobility.

As for queen, her title might have been derived from the word king; i.e. from an earlier form which sounded like kneva (metathesis kvena; kneva => kvena => queen).

Explore posts in the same categories: comparative linguistics, etymology

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