"Mêl"

Translation:Honey

January 26, 2016

63 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/nolothot

Mêl comes from the same root that is common to many languages: the Greek word for honey is μέλι (méli), from which we get mellifluous, something that sounds as smooth as honey. Most Romance languages' word for honey is related too (miel in French and Spanish, miele in Italian).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwasson

What gets me is that the Mandarin for honey, 蜜 mì, is a loanword from Tocharian and thus a distant and old cognate to all these words.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sarah-Cheung

That's something Chinese do not even know.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Huy_Ngo

And Vietnamese borrowed this from Chinese - In Vietnamese, it is "mật". Can't believe that the there could be relation between these far languages.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dim-ond-dysgwr

Japanese, too, borrowed 蜜 (which can be read as mitsi or michu; meaning "mead, honey") from the Tocharian-derived Chinese!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JustusRobi3

Tocharian -- an extinct branch of Indo-European. Don't let Celtic become another extinct branch of Indo-European!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Windrammer

Also, "мед" is honey in Russian. From which there is "медведь" - bear.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

мед in Ukrainian too, and ведмідь. And it's similar in Polish, though I can't remember exactly. med/medvjed in Croatian...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Grendel88

Apparently the Slavic 'honey-eater' etymology for bears stemmed from popular taboo - it was feared that speaking the proper name for a dangerous animal would cause one to appear, so euphemisms were coined instead. It's similar in Germanic languages (including English) whose names for bears normally stem from words meaning 'brown'.

The original Indo-European name for bears can be seen reflected in Greek ('arktos'), Latin ('ursus') and - coming back full circle - Welsh ('arth')


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Glabisia

"miód" in Polish :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/quinnine

It's "med" in Czech as well.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fr224

And apparently the Hungarian word "Méz", cognate with Finnish and Estonian "Mesi" comes from a Proto-Uralic word that was a loan from the Indo-European root. Amazing!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pau_B

Yep, and actually in Catalan and Occitan it's even more similar: "mel".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AguaMenri

In Portuguese it's "mel"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AbbyJ96

In Spanish is "Miel".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pau_B

True, I see you're also learning Catalan ;) Gai i ofyn shwmae? ("may I ask how it is going?", if I'm not mistaken)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AbbyJ96

Oh yes :) , I'm going fine because it's seemed to Spanish and I speak Spanish. And you?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pau_B

Sí, el castellano es mi segunda lengua ya que vivo en Cataluña ;) ¿Y tú cómo lo has aprendido?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AbbyJ96

Because there are some phrases that don't appear in English part :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AbbyJ96

Porque también soy de España jeje


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pau_B

Ah vale jajaja ¿de dónde si lo puedo saber?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AbbyJ96

Jaja de Madrid


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fr224

Apparently Turkic and Mongolian languages have the word bal (or бал, for those that use Cyrillic) meaning honey, just like in IE languages. Considering that these language families aren't usually held to be related, it's interesting to think how they have similar words (/b/ and /m/ are both labial consonants- and lots of Altaic (Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and sometimes Korean and Japanese) words for "I" or "me" start with a /b/, just like many IE words for "I" start with or contain a /m/).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NattKullav1

Yes, Sanskrit has मधु madhu from the same root.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jogaman

Not that duolingo is about threads. But this is the best thread I ever read on here. A thread about the thread of words and honey. Meta :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mochi_Rice

With so many languages sharing words similar to mêl, how did the English word 'honey' develop?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/balbhan

It also seems to come from Indo-European, although it's not clear from Wiktionary what it meant. Cognates in other languages tend to refer to bees and honey though.

The cognate in English to mêl is "mead" though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AJ72T

Typical of us English not to follow suit, like us being one of few languages not to call a pineapple 'ananas'!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Robert_Andersson

I know that you probably know this, but in case you don't: Cymraeg is a Celtic language and not a Romance language. ☺


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/nolothot

Not sure if it was for me or someone else, but of course ;) - I'm a linguist by training. But I also recognise that a lot of people here will be familiar with Romance languages and thought I'd make the etymological connection. It helps me learning the much more unfamiliar vocab of Celtic languages to find recognisably shared Indo-European roots.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Robert_Andersson

Yes, it was for you. Thank you for responding! Gracia! Tack så mycket för ditt svar! Tusen takk! Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Antwort! Diolch!

PS. Vad trevligt att du studerar svenska, det är nämligen mitt modermål och dessutom så bor jag för nuvarande i Sverige (I am glad to see that you are studying Swedish. It is my native language and I currently live in Sweden). Bara fråga om du behöver hjälp i dina studier av svenska (I will be happy to help you in your studies of Swedish. Just ask)! Jag vill även passa på att uttrycka min stora beundran för er lingvister, det är verkligen en fascinerande vetenskap (I also want to say that I admire linguist like you, it really is a fascinating field of science). ☺


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

It's not a Slavic language either, but it still shares the root for honey with many of them: miód, мед, med... :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ledformentini

It's almost the same as in Portuguese "mel".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwasson

This seems very foreign to the English ear, until you recall "mead." Old Proto-Indo-European word.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zinthak

Yea, that's how I remember it myself. Mêl, looks like mead, and mead is made from fermented honey.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/razvan_urbena

In Indonesian and Malaysian we have 'madu'. One step away from mead :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FaizalZahid

I am a Malaysian and I confirm it...probably comes from Sanskrit...which is also Indo-European... :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeMaitre

Yup, it would come from the Sanskrit word 'मधु' (madhu), which is the word for honey in Hindi too :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FaizalZahid

Malay language has a lot of influence from Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese(idk which one, probably Hokkien) and English


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwasson

This is kind of amazing that every Eurasian language mentioned, even non-Indo-European languages as far away from Wales as Malaysia and Indonesia, all use cognate words for such a basic food item--one that's relatively universal, given that the bees do all the hard work. Between this and the person who said that it's used in Hungarian, I guess the challenge is to find a major Eurasian language that doesn't have a cognate word. My guess would be the Semitic languages, given their greater age.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HeruMornie

Well, ancient (Middle) Egyptian has the bit for honey but it is quite unsure—we know only some radicals of their words, let's say, the consonants, and there are different systems of "filling" them with vovels... For bit it seems to be even more hazy, as the written form is the form of the bee with a determinative of a jug. More like a pictogram... But Sir Alan Gardiner and his fellow scholars surely had some reason to transscribe it this way ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sean_Roy

Honey in Turkish: bal


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ploomich

In hebrew we say דבש, dvash, which indeed has nothing to do with the Indo-European root.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FaizalZahid

I think these cognate words came by expansion of empires or just a simple act of colonialism...other would be due to strategic geography or attraction so that people from around the world will come and visit the place to do 'business' maybe...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwasson

While undoubtedly true in some cases, what astounds me is that this simple word (and so should be unlikely to be loaned) was shared in ways that don't mesh up with the usual colonialist account. In my Chinese example, the culture that received the word was the expansive one, and they never really dominated the Tocharians they borrowed it from. In the Malay case, if it did get it from Sanskrit that that doesn't strike me as very colonial, given that the Hindu empires of Southeast Asia weren't actually Indian colonies, but the result of cultural diffusion. (I understand this is simplifying the account and I'm not a specialist, so if describing it as such causes offense my apologies.)

And in each of the cases given, it predates the big wave of modern European colonialism, which itself is to make it interestingly different from when e.g. you have Spanish words in Nahuatl or English words in Igbo.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HeruMornie

To take a twist, in Hungarian (not even Indo-European language!) honey is "méz". I don't know about its ethymology (howd'ya spellit?????) but perhaps a loan word, too... For some other Ugric languages it is "med" and some of our common words show the D -> Z change... If it is loan word, it comes from the deeeeepest well of language history...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lj2932

The word "honey" comes from a different Proto Indo European word, k'neko, which means golden yellow. Through the principles of Grimm's Law and some vowel shifts it became hunago in Proto Germanic, and hunig in Old English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jakinnguaq

English word 'mildew' is also a cognate, literally meaning honey dew.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NoelGoetowski

So I'm growing melons in my shower grout?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jakinnguaq

Sure, why not. I wouldn't recommend eating your shower melons, just for the record.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luke_5.1991

Miel is the French word for honey.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kevinguy19

Spanish as well.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Saman2000

So what's the difference (in pronunciation) between 'e' and 'ê'? Is 'ê' pronounced more like the 'pail'? What about 'w' versus 'ŵ'? I'm having some trouble hearing the difference, but is 'ŵ' more like putting your mouth in the position of 'w', but trying to say 'r'? Pronunciation guides to these vowels would be very appreciated, thanks.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/balbhan

How to phrase the answer depends on your accent, really!

In Welsh, all vowels can be "short" or "long":

a ¦¦ short: "cat" ¦¦ long: "father", or how American accents say the "o" in "pot".

e ¦¦ short: as in "pet" ¦¦ long: roughly as in "pail", but like French "é" is better

i ¦¦ short: as in "bit" ¦¦ long: as in "beet"

o ¦¦ short: as in "pot" (in an English, Welsh, Irish, Australian, accent) ¦¦ long: "rope" (French "eau" is better)

u ¦¦ same as i

w ¦¦ short: "put" ¦¦ long: "poot"

More detail here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_orthography#Letter_names_and_sound_values

Normally vowel length can be told from context: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_orthography#Predicting_vowel_length_from_orthography But where a long vowel occurs where you would expect a short vowel, a circumflex (^) is written above.

y is like i n a final syllable (tyst, yfory). Everywhere else (ydw, yfory) it's sort-of like the "u" in "cup" - but the first "o" in "tomato" is better.

Welsh spelling is really, really regular though, so don't worry too much!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ffwlbart

The Hebrew word translated as honey is 'debash' or 'd'vash' but it is understood to mean date palm "honey" as well as bees' honey, with Biblical references more frequently (but not exclusively) implying the former. In modern Hebrew it means bees' honey but can also mean syrup.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnikaChauhan

In French, honey is miel :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ricardo932370

similar to the portuguese "mel"

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