Thursday, April 12, 2018

Language of Confusion: Bodies of Water, Part I

Inspired by run being related to the flow of water last week.

Ocean showed up in the late thirteenth century from the Old French ocean and classical Latin  oceanus, ocean. It’s not really surprising to learn that the Romans ripped off the Greeks, as oceanus is from the Greek okeanos, which also just means ocean. Where that word is from no one knows but there is the Greek Titan Oceanus. Who knows how they came up the name for that?

Sea comes from the Old English sae, which means sea, big shocker. It’s from the Proto Germanic  saiwaz, but there isn’t anything before that. Well, that was a quick one.

Lake showed up in the early twelfth century from the Old French lack and classical Latin lacus, which meant lake, pond, cistern and other similar words. That can be traced back to the Proto Indo European laku, body of water, and the origin for a lot of other languages’ lake equivalent. Fun fact, there are two other definitions for lake I hadn’t heard of, one meaning “to play” and the other “Deep  red coloring matter”. Neither of them is related to the other lake.

River showed up in the early thirteenth century from the Anglo French rivere and Old French riviere. Those words are from the Vulgar Latin riparia, riverbank, from the classical Latin riparia, embankment. Also related to this word are riparian, rift, and riven, which… I’ve heard of riparian, but riven???

That’s it for this week, but there’s plenty more water words to look at. Well, enough for another post anyway. This isn’t going to be another -leg saga. Thankfully.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Riven would be quite obscure.

    Everything else doesn't feel convoluted.

  2. I don't think I have anything appropriate to say to this.

  3. I just saw your complaint on Twitter that you hadn't gotten any comments. I guess we're all late risers? (I'm at work, so that's my excuse.)


Please validate me.