Words of Dacian Origin in Romanian (+ Examples)

Hi! Most of us who study Romanian know that most of its vocabulary comes from "Vulgar" (i.e. medieval) Latin, and the rest comes from Slavic languages, Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, and others. But there is also a source indiginous to Romania, the Dacian language. The Dacians were a nation what was formed around 2000 years ago and lived in what are today Romania and Moldova (and quite a substantial territory around them). They were an Indo-European people. The Dacian language has long been lost; all we have from it is one inscription, as well as some personal names, plant names, and a mere 160 (!) Dacian words that have survived into modern Romanian. These Dacian words occur only in Romanian. Here are some examples I have found and thought would be of interest o other learners. I am sure you will recognize at least some of them. Many Dacian words have to do with the human body (buză = lip; ceafă = nape; grumaz = neck; guşă = goitre); the family (copil = child; prunc = baby; zestre = dowry); food/agriculture (brânză = cheese; mazăre = peas; baci = shepherd making cheese; mînz = colt; strungă = small gate through which sheep are passed to be milked; ţarc = enclosure, gard = fence; barză = stork; balaur = dragon); landscape (măgură = standalone hill; mal = bank); the flora (brad = fir-tree; copac = tree). Enjoy the sounds of Dacian!

May 22, 2018


Please keep in mind that these are presumed to be dacian words. Unfortunately written examples of the dacian language have not survived so we can only speculate about it.

May 22, 2018

Right! But it's a reasonably sound speculation.

May 23, 2018

We have some of them in Bulgarian, too:

  • buză (but it means cheek), guşă, zestră (both the same)
  • copile/-ele (same, note the final -e, but mostly used as an offensive word nowadays; still used with the generic meaning in some dialects)
  • brânză, măgură (same, but nowadays mostly dialectal in various regions)
  • ţarc (may be related to our main word for ‘church’ – ţărcva)
  • mal (may be related to our – val – which can overlap semantically to various extent in some of its meanings)

I guess the last one/two may be pure coincidence since on the first sight there seem to be more probable etymologies for them (but things in languages aren't always as obvious as we would like them to be). The others are, as far as I know, not to be found in non-southern Slavic languages, some of them maybe not even in Serbian/Croatian.

However, this doesn't disprove them being Dacian or maybe Daco-Thracian words. Bear in mind that there is probably a similar Thracian layer in our language, and that all three macro-designations for various parts of the Paleo-Balkan inhabitants (Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians) are relatively modern inventions in the way we use them today. We have next to zero knowledge on how many languages those people actually spoke, or how much those languages overlapped or differed from each other.

May 27, 2018

Great article!

May 23, 2018

Doesn't ceafă sound a lot like cepa, the Latin word for onion? And guşă sounds sort of like goto, the vernacular Portuguese word for the glottis (or the larynx in general).

May 24, 2018

I was right but not as I had imagined it.

Uncertain. Possibly a substratum word. However, the relation to Turkish kafa (“head”) is evident, and the more likely etymology. Compare also Albanian qafë (“nape”).ă#Romanian

From Vulgar Latin gusia (compare Aromanian gushi, gushã, Albanian gushë, Italian gozzo ‘gizzard’, Friulan gose ‘id.’, French gosier ‘gullet’), from Late Latin geusiae < Gaulish geusiae (compare Welsh gewai ‘glutton’).șă#Romanian

May 24, 2018

So interesting!

February 17, 2019
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