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Medieval Grammar and RhetoricLanguage Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300 -1475$

Rita Copeland and Ineke Sluiter

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199653782

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199653782.001.0001

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Etymology Dossier

Etymology Dossier

(p.339) Etymology Dossier
Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric
Rita Copeland, Ineke Sluiter
Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on etymology, whose goal is to gain a grasp on the present rather than establish historical origins. As a form of thought, speech, and communication, etymology is not restricted to usage in literature. The chapter considers etymology in relation to ancient grammar and lexicography, along with its intellectual functions. It also presents texts such as Augustine's De dialectica, Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, Magnae derivationes by Hugutio of Pisa, Joannes Balbus's Catholicon, Petrus Helias's Summa super Priscianum, Derivationes by Osbern of Gloucester, and the glosses Promisimus and Tria sunt.

Keywords:   etymology, grammar, lexicography, Augustine, De dialectica, Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, Catholicon, Summa super Priscianum, glosses


Etymology is a central tool for any ancient and medieval thinker or writer. From classical antiquity onwards, we encounter frequent examples of etymologies of proper names or other words in literary texts.1 Like genealogy, etymology is a way to ground thinking or interpretation in a tradition. The goal is not to establish historical origins, but to gain a grasp on the present. Not restricted to usage in literature, etymology is a form of thought, speech, and communication. With the development of the discipline of (Greek) grammar, it becomes one of the six canonical tasks of the grammarian, as e.g. in the opening section of our first western European grammar, the Tekhnê grammatikê attributed to Dionysius Thrax (second century BC). This task is defined as “the invention of etymology,” which is at the same time a prefiguration of the later role of etymology in rhetoric.

In ancient grammar and lexicography, etymology is mainly used to get a better grip on the meaning of a word, because it helps one understand why the word should have that particular meaning, or, put in different words, why the thing has been given that particular name, especially in relation to other expressions in that language.2 Many etymological formulas will typically feature causal language: a thing has a particular name, because x (quod, quia). The reason (ratio) or cause (causa) for a particular name is x. The relationship between the name or word whose etymology is in question and the explanation may take many forms—which is one of the main reasons why etymology has often come in for modern ridicule. The connection between word and etymology is primarily a semantic one, usually connected with similarity of some kind in form. Letters may be added, taken (p.340) away, their order may be inverted, or they may be changed into something else entirely.3 Some syllabic etymologies compose the word in question out of parts of the words that form the explanation.4 The semantic relationship can be of different kinds. The relationship a contrario has often been received very critically: these types of etymologies are based on opposites, as in the famous lucus a non lucendo (“a sacred grove [lucus] is called that because it is not light [lucere] there”).5 However, such cases can more profitably be related to the phenomenon of euphemism, where a favorable word is chosen to avert evil, as in the more common name of the Furies, the “Eumenides” (“Benevolent Ones”).6 Avoiding words of bad omen (which does suggest a semi-magical relation between name and thing) may then lead to a contrario usage. In any event, etymology is a highly flexible tool, with little formalized theory.7

Etymology has various intellectual functions. It serves a heuristic function: for example, in the case of obscure poetical words it may be a clue to meaning and orthography.8 It also serves mnemonic purposes by turning words into epistemological archives.9 The combination of these two turns etymology into a dynamic tool of interpretation and argumentation, which in the course of history subsumes large parts of the language disciplines. In grammar, as we will see, it becomes the locus for teaching morphology and lexicon. In rhetoric, it forms part of inventio, and in approaching literature it becomes an interpretive tool, which helps both to find a certain interpretation, to remember it, and to persuade others of its correctness. In dialectic, it is a way to look at the relation between signs and the world.

The most important classical texts on the topic are Plato’s Cratylus (fourth century BC), Varro’s De lingua latina (esp. books V–VII) (first century BC), and Augustine’s De dialectica (fourth/fifth century AD). Plato’s dialogue raises the question of whether the etymologies are to be taken seriously, (p.341) or whether they are meant humorously or as parody. In fact, this may be a false dilemma. Since both in its heuristic and mnemonic forms etymology is not about correct historical derivation, its ends may be equally well served by both. Humor may serve an ultimately serious purpose.10 Ancient critics of arguments from etymology include Aristotle and Galen.

In this section we present texts by Augustine (De dialectica), Isidore of Seville (Etymologiae), Petrus Helias (Summa super Priscianum), Osbern of Gloucester (Derivationes), the gloss Promisimus, the gloss Tria sunt, Hugutio of Pisa (Magnae derivationes), and Joannes Balbus (Catholicon).

Augustine’s De dialectica circulated widely in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It was used in the curricula of monastic and cathedral schools as well as universities, especially in the context of logic.11 The treatise opens with a discussion of simple words, combined words, and simple and combined statements (propositions). In the section dealing with speaking (loqui) rather than with “making propositions” (proloqui), Augustine distinguishes the concepts of verbum, dicibile, dictio, and res (chapter 5):12 verbum is a word (-form); dicibile is the semantic content of a word; dictio is the combination of verbum and dicibile, i.e. a word considered as a meaningful expression; res is “whatever remains beyond the three that have been mentioned” (the referent). Chapter 6, reproduced in its entirety here, is devoted to the origin of words.13 It develops a double theory of etymology: names/words are either given on onomatopoetic principles, imitating and reproducing sounds; or they are based on (a) a relationship of similarity between form and content (sounds and things); (b) a relationship of similarity between things among themselves; (c) proximity; or (d) contrariety. It is widely assumed that this chapter mainly goes back to Varro, and it is sometimes listed as one of his “fragments.” The last part of De dialectica 6 shows etymology in action, both as a constructive tool that uses the force of sounds as building blocks to get a grasp (both heuristically and mnemonically) on the meaning of words, and as an analytical tool that breaks a word into the smallest components that contribute to its meaning. To an ancient etymologist working in this (p.342) Stoic tradition, such a “smallest component” would again be the sound of the “letter,” and the associations it carries. After the chapter on the origin of words, Augustine takes up the effect of words, obscurity and ambiguity, and equivocation. Etymology is here fully integrated in a dialectical context.

Isidore of Seville (ca. 560–636) turned “etymologies” into the organizing principle of his sprawling presentation of the encyclopedic knowledge of his day.14 In the first book of his Etymologiae or Origines, devoted to grammar, he reserved a separate chapter for “etymology” itself, in this case therefore a part of grammar. By linking etymology to the dynamic practice of interpretatio he not only made it a suitable instrument for any reading practice, including that of the Bible, but made it a vehicle for commenting on any aspect of a concept that catches the attention of the analyst. As a central intellectual tool, it could be used to ground all practical knowledge of the world.15

Etymology usually functions within the same language; that is, a Latin word, for example, is explained by means of a Latin etymology. At later points in its history, etymology might incorporate the procedures of translation (between languages), and derivation, where all word-forms deriving from the same base word are listed.16 The latter concept may be considered a pedagogical device related to the teaching of Latin to non-native speakers. In many medieval grammars, the section devoted to ethimologia became the locus for discussions of morphology.17 An excerpt from the Summa super Priscianum by Petrus Helias (ca. 1150) presented here shows a scholar in whose work derivatio comes up in connection with ethimologia; with the following texts in these selections the distinction between and connection of the two concepts becomes a constant and explicit issue.18 When a distinction between ethimologia and derivatio is made, derivatio refers to “the method of creating etymologically related families of words, in which one is the principal, the others its derivatives,” while ethimologia remains the discipline of the interpretation of words.19

Beginning in the late eleventh century, etymology comes to be closely linked to lexicography. Important texts in this respect are the Elementarium of Papias (ca. 1063), (p.343) Osbern’s Derivationes (third quarter of the twelfth century), the Magnae derivationes by Hugutio (Hugh) of Pisa (end of the twelfth century),20 and the Catholicon by Joannes Balbus of Genoa (end of the thirteenth century). Strikingly, Osbern and Hugh adduce words from the vernacular to explain the Latin lemmata.21

Osbern’s work comes between the commentary of Petrus Helias on Priscian’s Institutiones and later glosses on Priscian. In this period there is a growing “vogue for derivationes,” of which Osbern’s work is a result.22 Language is presented as a stream from which rivers and rivulets branch off. The metaphor of streaming and flowing, both for thought processes and for products of language, is prominent in Osbern’s work as well as in that of Joannes Balbus (see below).

The gloss on Priscian known as the “Promisimus gloss” (last quarter of the twelfth century; so-called from its opening word) presents two views of etymology. In one ethimologia, interpretatio, derivatio, and compositio are distinguished, with increased prominence for derivatio and compositio. The alternative view presented by this glossator is that ethimologia and derivatio are the same.23 The Tria sunt gloss on Priscian (similarly named for its incipit), which was composed slightly later, is also concerned with the relationship between etymology, translation, and derivation.

Hugutio of Pisa (ca. 1190) was bishop of Ferrara and a famous teacher of canonical law. In his Magnae derivationes, he deals with a Latin characterized by its bold use of neologisms, which Hugutio connects and groups in fanciful ways in order to make them qualify as derivationes. This is a way to turn what Hugutio calls the “natural poverty” of Latin into the flexibility of a modern language.24 His enthusiastic use of Greek betrays a virtually complete lack of knowledge of that language.25 Hugutio uses the grammatical and rhetorical tradition (Cicero, Priscian, Martianus Capella), as well as other classical authors (Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Plautus, Terence, Juvenal, Persius, Statius, Lucan, and the church fathers). He probably used Osbern of Gloucester directly.26 He was very influential: for example, some of Dante’s Italian words must be explained with the help of his lexicon.27

(p.344) The Catholicon of Joannes Balbus (John of Genoa) dates from 1280. Any biographical information we have for Balbus comes from his own work (e.g. provenance from Genoa in the lemma with etymology of ianua). Balbus is mostly dependent on Papias and Hugutio, whom he cites regularly;28 he also uses Eberhard of Béthune.29 His grammatical sources include Priscian and Donatus, but also Isidore and the church fathers. The Catholicon is divided into five parts. The first four follow the division into four parts that replaced the structure of Donatus’ Ars maior in the Middle Ages: ortographia, prosodia, ethimologia, diasintastica (“syntax”). However, the parts as listed in the “list of contents” do not quite correspond to these four. Rather, the first part deals with orthography and letters; the second with matters such as accidents and the syllable; the third part treats de ethimologia and the question an translacio faciat derivacionem, and goes on to list different kinds of nouns (e.g. adjectives, relatives, collectives, complexives, patronymica, etc.) followed by a section on the verb and the other parts of speech, and further sections on construction and regimen. Here ethimologia has become the heading for traditional grammatical teaching on the parts of speech. Part four is dedicated to barbarism, solecism, and figures. The fifth part returns to etymology with a lexicographical turn by adding an alphabetical word list (not just alphabetized according to first letters, but throughout), which gives etymologies for every entry. Joannes Balbus provides a good example of the way glossaries and grammatical works merge: the grammatical part deals in explanations of words, and the lexicon contains grammatical (morphological) rules.30

Augustine, De dialectica31

Chapter VI. The Origin of Words

Any word [verbum] whatsoever though not its sound [sonus]—since its sound belongs to the exercise of dialectic to dispute well about but does not belong to the science of dialectic, just as the speeches of Cicero belong to the exercise of rhetoric but rhetoric itself is not taught by means of those speeches—every word, I say, apart from its sound, (p.345) necessarily raises questions about four things: its origin [originem suam], force [vim], declension [declinationem], and arrangement [ordinationem].32

We ask about the origin of a word when we ask why it is called such and such; but in my opinion this is more a matter of curiosity than necessity. And I do not feel that I am bound to say this because it is the opinion of Cicero.33 For who needs authority in such a clear matter? Even though it is a great help to explicate the origin of a word, it is useless to start on a task whose prosecution would go on indefinitely. For who is able to discover why anything is called what it is called? Discerning the origin of words is like the interpretation of dreams; it is a matter of each man’s ingenuity. Let us take as an example verbum itself. One man thinks that verba are so called because, as it were, they verberent [“strike or reverberate on”] the ear; another man says no, they reverberate on the air. But what difference does this make to us? Their dispute is not great, for in either case the word is derived from verberare.34 But a third man introduces a dispute. He says that we ought to speak what is true [verum…loqui]35 and that the judgment of nature finds a lie hateful; therefore verbum is named from verum [“true”]. And there is a fourth piece of cleverness, for there are those who agree that a verbum is named from verum, but think that attention should not be directed to the first syllable to the neglect of the second. For when we say verbum, they surmise, the first syllable signifies what is true, the second sound. And this latter they decide is bum. Thus Ennius calls the sound of hooves bombum pedum; and in Greek “to shout” is βοη̃σαι‎ [boêsai]. And Virgil says reboant silvae [“the woods resound”].36 Therefore, verbum is derived, as it were, from verum boare, that is, from a sounding of what is true. If this be so, this word verbum certainly forbids us to lie when we produce a word. But I am afraid that those who say this are lying. Consequently it is up to you to judge whether you think verbum comes from verberare or from verum alone or from verum (p.346) boare or whether its origin is a matter of indifference so long as we understand what it signifies.

Nevertheless I do wish for you to consider for a little while this topic which we have indicated briefly, namely, the origin of words, so that we might not seem to neglect any part of the work we have begun. The Stoics, whom Cicero ridicules in this matter, as only Cicero can, think that there is no word whose definite origin cannot be explained. Because it would be easy to refute them by saying that this would be an infinite process, for by whichever words you interpret the origin of any one word, the origin of these words would in turn have to be sought, they assert that you must search until you arrive at some similarity of the sound of the word to the thing, as when we say “the clang of bronze,” “the whinnying of horses,” “the bleating of sheep,” “the blare of trumpets,” “the rattle of chains.”37 For you clearly see that these words sound like the things themselves which are signified by these words. But since there are things which do not make sounds, in these touch is the basis for similarity. If the things touch the sense smoothly or roughly, the smoothness or roughness of the letters will produce names for those things in accordance with how smoothly or roughly the letters touch the hearing. For example, lene [“smoothly”] itself has a smooth sound. Likewise, who does not by the name itself judge asperitas [“roughness”] to be rough? It is gentle to the ears when we say voluptas [“pleasure”]; it is harsh when we say crux [“cross”]. Thus the words are perceived in the way the things themselves affect us. Just as honey itself affects the taste pleasantly, so its name, mel, affects the hearing smoothly. Acre [“bitter”] is harsh in both ways. Just as the words lana [“wool”] and vepres [“brambles”] are heard, so the things themselves are felt. The Stoics believed that these cases where the impression made on the senses by the things is in harmony with the impression made on the senses by the sounds are, as it were, the cradle of words [cunabula verborum]. From this point they believed that the license for naming had proceeded to the similarity of things themselves to each other. For example, take the words crux [“cross”] and crura [“legs”].38 A crux is so called because the harshness of the word itself agrees with the harshness of the pain which the cross produces. On the other hand, crura [“legs”] are so called not on account of the harshness of pain but because their length and hardness as compared with other members is more similar to the wood of the cross. Next we come to the transferred use [abusionem] of words, when a name is borrowed not from a similar thing but, as it were, from a nearby thing. For what similarity is there between the signification of parvum [“small”] and the signification of minutum (p.347) [“diminished”], since something can be small which is not only in no way diminished, but has even grown somewhat?39 Nevertheless we say minutum for parvum according to a certain proximity of signification. But this transferred use [abusio] of a name is within the discretion of the speaker, for he has the word parvum and need not use minutum. This bears more on what I now wish to show, namely, that when piscina [“fish-pond,” “swimming pool”] is applied to baths, in which there are no fish and nothing like fish, the baths are, nevertheless, named from pisces [“fish”] because they contain water, in which fish live.40 Thus the term is not applied by any similarity but is borrowed because of a certain proximity. But if someone should think that men are like fish because they swim and that the term piscina comes from this, it is foolish to oppose his theory, since neither explanation is incongruous with the thing and each is obscure.41 It is fortunate that we can see by means of this one example the difference between the origin of a word drawn from proximity and the origin of a word derived from similarity. We can thus move on to contrariety. It is thought that a lucus [“sacred grove”] is so called because minime luceat [“it has little light”];42 and bellum [“war”] because it is not bella [“pretty”]; and a foedus [“alliance”] has that name because the thing is not foeda [“dishonorable”].43 But if, as many think, foedus is named from foeditas porci [“the filthiness of the pig”] then its origin is based on the proximity we were talking about, since that which is made is named from that by which it is made.44 Proximity is a broad notion which can be divided into many aspects: (1) from influence, as in the present instance in which an alliance is made through the filthiness of the pig; (2) from effects, as puteus [“a well”] is named, it is believed, from its effect, potatio [“drinking”]; (3) from that which contains, as urbs [“city”] is named from the orbis [“circle”] which was by ancient custom plowed around the area after taking auspices at the place (Virgil mentions where “Aeneas laid out the city by plowing”);45 (4) from that which is contained, as it is affirmed that by changing a letter horreum [“granary”] (p.348) is named after hordeum [“barley”]; (5) or by transference [abusionem], as when we say horreum and yet it is triticum [“wheat”] that is preserved there;46 (6) or the whole from a part, as when we call a gladium [“sword”] by the name mucro [“point” > “sword”], which is the terminating part of the sword;47 (7) or the part from the whole, as when a capillus [“hair”] is named from capitis pilus [“hair of the head”]. Why continue?48 Whatever else is added you will see that the origin of a word is contained either in the similarity of things and sounds, in the similarity of things themselves, in their proximity, or in their contrariety.49

We cannot pursue the origin of a word beyond a similarity of sound, and at times we are unable to do even this. For there are innumerable words for which there either is no origin that one could give an account of,50 as I believe, or for which it is hidden, as the Stoics maintain.

But now consider for a moment the way in which the Stoics think they arrive at that cradle or root [stirpem] of words, or more precisely the seed [sementum] of words, beyond which they deny that the origin can be sought or that anything can be found even if someone wishes to search. No one denies that syllables in which the letter V functions as a consonant produce a dense and powerful kind of sound, for example, in the first syllable of the words vafer [“clever”], velum [“sail”], vinum [“wine”], vomis [“plough”], vulnus [“wound”].51 Thus ordinary usage approves our removing this sound from certain words lest they oppress the ear. For this reason we say amasti [“you loved”] more readily than amavisti [“you loved”] and abiit [“he went away”], not abivit [“he went away”]. There are innumerable examples of this. Therefore when we say vis [“force”], the sound of the word is, as I said, in a way powerful, congruous with the thing signified. We can see that chains are called vincula from a proximity with that which they do,52 that is, because they are violenta [“forcible”] and that a vimen [“withe”] is so called because by it something vinciatur [“is bound”]. Then, vites [“vines”] are so named because they seize the stakes which they press upon by entwining. On account of this Terence called a bent old man vietum [“withered”] by similarity.53 Further, the ground which is winding and worn by the feet of travelers is called via [“road”]. If it is thought to be called via more because it is worn by the vis [“force”] of feet, then the origin of the word returns to the realm of (p.349) proximity. But let us derive it from a likeness to a vine or a withe, that is, from its winding. So someone asks me: “why is a road called via?” I answer, from winding, because the ancients called what is wound or bent vietus [“withered”]. For this reason they called the woods of wheels which are encircled by iron vieti. The questioner pursues: “Why is something bent called vietus?” And to this I answer, from the similarity to vites [“vines”]. He insists and wants to know why a vitis has this name. I say that it is because it vincit [“binds”] that which it lays hold of. He inquires why vincire itself is called that. We say, from vis. He will ask “why is it called vis?” He will be told the reason is that the word, with its robust and powerful sound, is congruent with the thing that is signified. That ends his questions. It is useless to inquire about the number of ways in which the origin of words is varied by the alteration of utterances, for such an inquiry is long and it is not as crucial as these matters of which we have spoken.

Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae (from Book 1, on Grammar)54

xxix. Etymology55

1. Etymology is the origin of words, when the meaning of a word or a name is established through interpretation.56 Aristotle called this symbolon, Cicero annotatio (p.350) [“annotation”],57 because it makes names and words for things nota “known” by giving an example. E.g. flumen [“river”] is called that from the word fluere [“to flow”] because it increases fluendo [“by flowing”].58

2. Knowledge of this fact often has a necessary use in interpreting. For once you have seen what the origin of a word is, you understand its meaning more quickly. The examination of anything is clearer once its etymology is known.59 It is not the case however that all names have been imposed by the ancients according to nature; some have also been given arbitrarily, just as we too sometimes give names to our slaves and possessions just as we please.60

3. This explains why an etymology cannot be found for every name, since some things have acquired names not according to their quality, how they are by nature, but on account of a decision of the human will. The etymologies of names are either given on the basis of their cause, e.g. reges [“kings”] from recte agere [“acting correctly”], or on the basis of their origin, e.g. homo [“man”] because he is ex humo [“made of dirt”], or on the basis of the contrary, e.g. lutum [“mud”] from lavare [“to wash”], whereas mud is not clean, and lucus [“grove”] because it is darkened by shadows and hardly luceat [“shines”].61

4. Some are made by derivation of nouns, e.g. prudens “prudent” from prudentia “prudence”; some also because of the sounds [ex vocibus], such as “chattering” [garrulus] (p.351) from “loquacity” [garrulitate];62 some originate from a Greek etymology and are made into Latin forms, e.g. silva [“wood”], domus [“house”].63

5. Other things have acquired their names from the names for places, cities, or rivers. Many are called whatever the language of different peoples calls them.64 That means their origin can hardly be seen. For a great many names are foreign (barbara) and unknown to Latins and Greeks.

Petrus Helias, Summa Super Priscianum I 265

Now, since it remains to give the etymology [ethimologiam] of this word vox, we will first briefly deal with the matter of what ethimologia is. Ethimologia, then, is the expounding of a word through either one or more other words which are better known,66 in accordance with the characteristics of the thing designated [secundum rei proprietatem] and the similarity of the letters, e.g. lapis [“stone”] as if it were ledens pedem [“hurting the foot”],67 fenestra [“window”] as if it were ferens nos extra [“taking us outside”].68 For in (p.352) this case attention is paid to the character of the thing designated and to the similarity of the letters. Ethimologia is a compound word, from ethimo, which is translated “true” and logos, which means “speech,” so that it is called ethimologia as in “true speech” [veriloquium]. For he who etymologizes assigns the true, that is, the first, origin of the word. It differs from interpretatio,69 which is translation from one language into another. Etymology however mostly takes place within the same language.

The word vox, then, either comes a vocando [“from calling”], because etymology also sometimes follows derivation [derivationem], or apo toy boo, that is from the Greek verb boo [“to call”], with a change of the letter b into the consonant u, and of the o into x.70 Note that apo is Greek for ab in Latin; toy is the article, and means the same as hoc [“the,” “this”]. Hence apo toy boo, that is, from [ab] that [hoc] which is boo, which is translated “sound.” Hence we find the compound reboo, reboas, resono, -nas, as in the hymn: Glory resounds [reboat] in the whole world.

Osbern of Gloucester, Derivationes71


Greetings to the venerable father Hamelinus,72 through the grace of God abbot of Gloucester, from his devoted Osbern.

The book which they call Derivations, which you, too, dearly beloved Father, have frequently worked through in the service of learning in order to instruct those without much understanding, I started writing as a young man. But only as an old man did I put the last touch to it, though not because I spent so much time in constant work on this text. Good and bad fortune took turns in necessitating breaks from it, and I also devoted attention to other work in the meantime, when that was necessary.

Of course you know that as different people pursue different studies, so different people have different ways of approaching the advancement of this science, as long as they are all competent in deriving forms. Some follow the standard methods, but yet come up with (p.353) subtle and very rare words to teach to the young. Others definitely perceive more important things in their studies and seem to have a better grasp of this science; they extend themselves in manifold ways into the manifold channels of deriving.73 It is a sound and very useful discipline, extremely conducive to the formation of the minds of beginners. The best ancient minds exerted themselves over its many lessons [institutiones]; it leads along certain steps upwards to the highest perfection in the knowledge of Latin [latialis scientie]. And just as it is impossible for anyone to be vigorous without art, or perfect without virtue, so it is hard to know the deep secrets of Latin without knowledge of this art.

Our forefathers acknowledged this, prominent because of their antiquity and eminent through the perfection of their wisdom. They show us the discipline of learning and the form of wisdom. For just as in building a tower the biggest stones are used as the foundation to shore up the whole weight, the rest of the construction progressing more openly and directly through this,74 so they also established the art of this science as the first foundation of Latin instruction, so that it becomes easier to arrive at the top of the tower of Latinity once this science has been fully grasped in one’s studies. They set the standard of such an excellent art and they were its mirror, they extolled it with the highest praise, and they gave over this science in many different ways to the common instruction of all.

However, most of our contemporaries, who think they are knowledgeable, are completely foolish and do not follow them at all. They imitate themselves rather than the authority of these great predecessors, and talk in an incomplete and imperfect way about this art. Confusing everything, they often lapse into error. Therefore, I decided to revise my Derivations anew and perfect it in accordance with the copiousness of all words. In this I did not just follow the ancients, who were the keys to them and helped me judge them, but also some moderns, who through their knowledge of this important science were influential in the progress of Latinity.

As far as we are concerned, the ancients are Donatus, Cornutus, Probus,75 and Priscian, and the many others who took over from their learned predecessors the suitable inductions, natural origins, proper forms, and true analogies expressed in the regular way, and bequeathed them to the army of their successors.76 The “moderns,” so to speak, that is, (p.354) those who lived close to our own time in the recent past, and as it were a little while ago, are Servius in his commentary on Virgil,77 Remigius in his commentary on Donatus, Isidore,78 Rabanus in his book on Etymologies,79 and John Scotus on Martianus.80 There are others as well, the younger the brighter,81 through whose learning the science has been perfected. In their time they made an enormous effort to instruct us, who are almost deprived of knowledge of Latin. These I emulate, and innumerable others too, whose names I have left out in order not to bore my reader. I imitate them as closely as possible and have excerpted from the books of each of them, which I have often reread and worked through, all the most useful things. I have also added everywhere the different derivations given by different authors, insofar as they had appropriate and sound views on this art. And I have presented to the reader whatever flowed forth out of my own ingenuity in such a way that in no way did I omit any good suggestions from others. I focused on this work’s usefulness and necessity in consolidating those parts82 which form the subtle usage [tenues] of the more serious scholars of our time, and of the less commonly read authorities among the authors and philosophers, including the authoritative usage of the divine books, and of those historiographers who often talk about these things, in the hope that when these words are read and dealt with more frequently, these authors will create a common usage of what was not usual to them at all, and that the book may be the more welcome and accepted to the degree that it truly blossoms with the attested usage of all authors [auctores].83

Let it not escape the reader that I had composed another book of Derivations as soon as I had left behind the whip of the schoolmaster and had joined a monastery, in order to correct those who were wrong in their explanations of words, and who were so confused that they made their understanding in all aspects incongruous and absurd. It was an outstanding work, prepared with the greatest care, but it was stolen from me by someone suffering from the pest of jealousy.84 To prevent the charge of the competition that I had (p.355) given my words to the wind and so that it would not seem I had started such a great and useful work for nothing, I started again with the same book and did not just restore it to a state of much greater perfection than it had before, but even doubled its size. I did this both because those closest to me who were aware of my most intimate thoughts urged this labor on me, and because I knew that this would be welcome and very necessary for those who keep consulting different volumes.

So I wrote two elegant treatises, each in alphabetical order. In the first I describe the origins, forms, compositions, and proper understanding of all words from which anything originates through derivation. In the second, I present separately, and clearly ordered, all the words that are considered more difficult, and I set out in how many ways they are used in Scripture. So anyone who entertains doubts about the nature of these words or has any hesitation about their meaning will have them ready and, so to speak, at hand in this work. However, if anyone who is quick of understanding and motivated to study finds many things in this work that he has never come across in reading or has never heard, let him not be surprised. Nor let him abhor whatever is offered here as frivolous or fictive, but let him remember that many things are worth narrating that were important to the ancients: they may be unknown to the lazy and the lax, but that does not mean they should be held cheap by reasonable people. For if I have read in school only some books by modern authors (themselves few and far between), and have not become familiar with the pursuits of the ancients, if I have not noticed the wisdom of philosophical doctrine, have not read either the contents of the divine books or the various histories or the manifold commentaries by many authors—what criterion do I have then, if I’ve never seen those, to reject what I don’t know, and to think that because they are no part of my own active usage, they should not be used at all and must not be taken up by anyone else? No: it behooves a sound head and an alert mind to call everything that is not known back to mind and rehearse it in one’s head. By going over it many times we will make it known to us, and whatever has lapsed from use through laziness will be worked over again and again in reading and hearing it, so that it is not just not new anymore, but even familiar, and we can give it back to ourselves to use.

Most sincere father, to your censure I have given over this work. Although it is the product of my labor over which I have exerted myself such a long time, it is up to your commendation, to whom it is given, for I have finally perfected it to honor you. I followed Martianus Capella in introducing grammar herself as a speaking character. Just as he speaks about the liberal arts and brings on the individual ones as individual characters speaking in their own voice, so I, too, in dealing with good Latin, for the greater part of the work have made mother Latinity herself hold forth from the depths of knowledge itself, as if from a greater authority.

(p.356) s.v. Amnis85

Amnis, -is [“river”], that is, “water”; hence the diminutive amniculus, [gen.] -li [“rivulet”], and amnicus, -a, -um [“of a river”], and masculine amnenses, [gen.] -is, that is, “a villa situated close to a river.”86 And through composition feminine interenna, [gen.] -ae, that is, “a rope which often gets into water,” as in fishing or on boats, and feminine antenna, [gen.] -ae, that is, the main rope on ships, which pulls the sail up, [“sail-yard”], and it is called antenna because it has the water “in front” [ante] of it. Hence Ovid in the Tristia: “no favorable wind carried my antennas [‘sail-yards’].”87 From amnis the compound amnicola, [gen.] -ae [masculine: “river-dweller”] is formed.

Glosses on Priscian

From the Gloss Promisimus88

Some people point out the following difference between ethimologia, interpretatio, and derivatio: etymology is the expounding of a word through one or more others which are better known, in accordance with the characteristics of the things designated and the similarity of the letters,89 e.g. oratio [“speech”] as if it were oris ratio [“oral account”],90 lapis [“stone”], ledens pedem [“hurting the foot”],91 fenestra [“window”] ferens nos extra [“taking us outside”],92 cadaver [“cadaver”], caro data vermibus [“flesh given to the worms”],93 amicus [“friend”], animi custos [“guardian of the soul”]. These people say that amicus is derived [derivatur] from the verb amo [“to love”] and gets its etymology from animus [“soul”] and custos [“guardian”].94 Interpretatio is the explanation of one language through another, (p.357) e.g. antropos, that is homo [“man”]. Derivatio is the bending [detorsio] of a word to resemble another one that was invented earlier.95 Compositio is the joining together of more words to make one. They say that these four also proceed from. [sic]96 Etymology is sometimes produced with the help of a word which does not signify, e.g. imago [“image”] as if it were imitago [“imitage”],97 sometimes with the help of one that does signify. M[aster] says that etymology is the same as derivation. Wherever there is etymology, there is derivation and he proves it through Strabus who says in his commentary on Genesis: “Just as issa comes from is in Hebrew, so does virago [‘(manly) woman’] trace its etymology, i.e. its derivation, from vir [‘man’] in Latin.”98 Etymology is so called from ethimos, “origin” [origo] and logos, “speech” [sermo].

From the Gloss Tria Sunt99

Lux a lucendo This is a simple similarity. Apo is translated ab [“from”] toy is hoc [“the”], boo, -as is sono, -as [“to sound”]. Hence the compound reboo, -as, which is resono, -as [“to resound”]. Reboat in omni gloria mundo [“His Glory resounds in the whole world”].100 Yet it seems that the author has not assigned an etymology, but a derivation, when he says vox a vocando [“sound comes from calling”] or a translation [interpretatio] when he says “or apo tou boo [‘from calling’].”101 For the difference between etymology and translation is this, that translation is the explanation of a word in a different language, whether the similarity of the words is preserved or not. However, as some say, etymology is the simple expounding of a word through one or more other words in accordance with the characteristics of the thing designated [secundum rei proprietatem] and the similarity of the letters.102 The addition of “simple” is meant to exclude compounding or derivation, e.g. fenestra [“window”], ferens nos extra [“taking us outside”].103 But in a wider sense etymology is taken like Isidore takes it, to include also the explanation through composition or through derivation (p.358) or through a different language as long as the letters are similar. For sometimes it is done through composition, as celebs [“bachelor”], celestium vitam ducens [“leading the life of the heavenly ones”],104 cadaver [“cadaver”], caro data vermibus [“flesh given to the worms”].105 Sometimes it is done through derivation, either with affinity of both sound and meaning, or with affinity of sound but not of meaning, but through a likeness with the opposite, e.g. dux [“leader”] from ducere [“to lead”],106 lux [“light”], from lucere [“giving light”]; sometimes through both, as lapis [“stone”], ledens pedem [“hurting the foot”],107 homo [“man”] ab humo from humus [“dirt”].108

Hugutio of Pisa, Magnae Derivationes109


1. When through the devil-induced transgression of our first-created110 the human race fell very far from its high dignity, and was much oppressed by a threefold trouble, namely poverty, vice, and ignorance, God offered us a threefold remedy for this threefold trouble, namely commodities, virtue, and knowledge [scientia]. For commodities remove the inconvenience of poverty, virtue the corruption of vice, and knowledge the blindness of ignorance.

2. Men approached Knowledge from a great distance, tore a small piece off her clothing, and believed she had been joined to them in marriage completely.111 If at some point they possessed a certain part of her, they behaved like animals: thus not only did they not redeem the aforementioned triple misery through any kind of virtue, so that through the exercise of the honorable arts112 they would finally manage to advance to the heavenly honor of their former dignified state, but they even tried to increase their misery from day to day.

(p.359) 3. For they made no effort to polish irregularities off their teeth, or scrape off the eruptions on their stuttering tongues,113 nor to stimulate the slowness of their mind or to attack the forgetfulness of their weak memory,114 to refute negligence, punish bad language,115 and repel filth and vice. No, they rather wallowed in the hog-pool of vices,116 strove to amass money and be the slave of what they amassed, or to ignore all decent duties and gorge their hollow bodies on food. Learning, life, and death: for these people they should be considered the same.117

4. But we strove upwards, in order that we may not be patently convicted, if we buried the talent that God had granted us,118 of secreting it away. We worked hard to expand what the favor of nature was not automatically giving us, by spreading the word, so that the totality of all flesh119 might not completely allow that learning (however insignificant) to dissolve together with the body.120

5. So we decided to compose a work, with the favor of divine grace, in which mostly the different significations of words, the origins of derivations, the assigning of etymologies, and an expounding of translations [interpretationum]121 will be found. Latin is naturally poor122 in these and is much constrained by a certain laziness of the teachers [of grammar].

6. And we will not try to achieve this only in order to acquire the glass-like fragility of empty fame [cenodoxie] but also in order that the common good of all serious students of literature may flourish because of it.

7. And let no one put it in his head that we are making the suggestive [insinuatim]123 promise of perfection in this work. Nothing among human inventions can be found to be polished to the last detail,124 although we may rightfully seem capable of surpassing (p.360) through a singular perfection others dealing with the same subject matter.125 For here the little boy will find sweeter milk,126 here the adult will eat more richly,127 here the full-blown scholar [perfectus] will find more abundant delight, here the learned doctors [gignosophiste]128 of the trivium will make progress, and so will the teachers of the quadrivium, and so will the professors of law, and so will the researchers of theology, and so will the leaders of the church; here will be supplied whatever up to now has been passed over through a lack of knowledge, here will be polished away whatever mistakes have been in use since a long time.

8. If one were to ask who is to be called the author of this work, the answer must be: God. If one asks who was the instrument in producing this work, the answer must be: native from Pisa, by name of Ugutio [Hugutio], as it were Eugetio, that is bona terra,129 not just for our contemporaries, but also for future generations, or Ugutio [Hugutio], as it were Uigetio, that is virens terra,130 the “flourishing land” not just for himself, but also for others.

9. So with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit, may the Dispenser of all goods deign to supply us richly [auctim] with an abundance of words: let us then take the beginning of what we have to say from the word “increase” [augmentum].

Joannes Balbus, Catholicon131

[fol. 1ra: from the opening of the work]

Ethymologia is so called from ethymon, which is “true” and logos “speech” [sermo]. Hence etymology, i.e. a discussion of the truth of all parts of speech, not considering construction [absolute].

[fol. 1ra: the contents of the fifth part of the work is described as follows]

(p.361) In the fifth part we will deal with orthography, prosody, origin, and meaning of certain words, which are often found in the Bible and in the words of Saints and also of the poets. I will add these in alphabetical order.

[fols.17rb–18rb: to the beginning of the section on the adjective]

Ethimologia, as I said above at the beginning of this work, is so called from ethimon, which is “true” and logos “speech.” Hence etymology, i.e. a discussion of the truth of all parts of speech, not considering construction. Under it are comprised the eight parts of speech and their accidents.132 I will discuss a couple of these. And particularly on the noun, verb, and participle. First about the noun. At the end I will also add something on construction and regimen.

The noun, then, as Priscian says in the second book of his Maior,133 is a part of speech that assigns a common or proper quality to each of the underlying (subiecta) bodies or things. The noun has six accidents: species,134 quality, gender, number, form,135 case…

[fol. 17va: Having raised the question whether derivativa should count as one of the species, Balbus continues]

In the first place I raise the question where these words “primitive” and “derivative” come from. I reply that these words are taken metaphorically [transsumptive]. For “primitive” is taken from a spring [fons] where water coming through hidden channels first [primus] appears. “Derivative” is taken from the stream [rivus] that flows forth [de-] from the spring itself. Hence just as a stream can be deduced from another stream, so one derivative originates from another. But spring and streams [rivi] flow down to produce a river [flumen]. And both primitives and derivatives produce speech [oratio],136 which may be called a river [flumen]. For all rivers come out of the sea, and finally return to the sea. And the sea does not overflow [redundat]. Similarly, all sentences [orationes]137 take their origin from grammar, and they return to the same, and yet grammar is not redundant [redundat]. Because, just as a sentence takes its origin in the parts, and the parts in the syllables, in accordance with the material of sound, and the syllable takes its origin in the letters, so they may be resolved into the same. Nor can there be any redundance (“overflowing”) in this sea. For nothing can be added to grammar in as far as the integrity of the art is concerned [quantum ad integritatem artis]. [The notion] to call grammar a “sea” [pelagus], we have from Priscian, who said in his (p.362) prooemium: “Although in comparison with the sea of writings of Herodian, etc.” Horace too speaks about this spring, when he says, “be sparing in the use of words derived from the Greek spring” [greco fonte cadent parce detorta].138 The same author also speaks about the river of this art: “He will also acquire new words, which the fertile stream will have brought forth, vehement and liquid and most like a pure river.”139 For words too have “flow.” And sometimes they are arid, depending on whether common usage accepts them or disapproves of them.

I also raise the question whether etymology is a species of derivation, as cadaver is as it were caro data vermibus [“flesh given to the maggots”].140 But it seems not, for if this were the case, every word could be called derivative, since every word is capable of being etymologized, as long as someone is willing to be creative. My reply is that etymology is not a species of derivation, but a quasi-species. For it alludes to the signification, extracting an argument from elsewhere by using letters or syllables.141 For example, bos [“cow”] as if it were bonus operatur soli [“he is useful for the soil”]. And mons [“mountain”] as if it were moles opposita nascenti soli [“a mass of earth facing the rising sun”]. And taurus [“bull”] as if it were tuens agmina vaccarum robore virium suarum [“protecting through the strength of his powers the herds of cows”]. And deus [“God”] as if it were dans eternam vitam suis [“giving eternal life to His people”]. And Roma as if it were radix omnium malorum avaricia [“greed is the root of all evil”]. And homo [“man”] as if it were hominis omnia manu omnipotentis [“everything belonging to man is [given] by the hand of the Almighty”], because the Almighty created everything for the sake of man. And sincerus [“sincere”] as if it were sine carie [“without corruption”], etc. And yet we should not say that they are derived or compounded from the words through which their etymologies are formed.

[Balbus discusses whether compounds are “derived” from the constituents of the composition (he follows Priscian in answering in the affirmative), and whether principalia (like “whiteness”) are derived from sumpta (like “white”). Again Balbus follows Priscian in this idea. He then proceeds to “derivation in meaning,” 17vb]

(p.363) Furthermore the question is raised whether there is such a thing as derivation in meaning only. Priscian says there is, for example, semel [“once”] from unus [“one”].142 That seems rather strange, for along the same line of reasoning “mountain” could be derived from “high.” Solution: I say that a true and proper derivation should bear the image of the sound [vox] and meaning [significatio] of its primitive word, just as a river recalls the water and the taste of its source. However, sometimes derivation is degenerate, just like a son of a father, because it only imitates its primitive form in its sound [vox], e.g. fere [“approximately”] from ferus [“savage”], and sane [“indeed”] from sanus [“healthy”]. For these adverbs come from these words, but are much removed from their meaning. Sometimes there is derivation in meaning only, and with this it is as with an adoptive son, as semel [“once”] from unus [“one”]. But “mountain” is not derived in the same way from “high.” For the art of grammar requires that numeral adverbs derive from numeral nouns, as ter [“three times”], quater [“four times”], etc. But those cannot exist without their “principals,” namely unitas [“unity”] and binarium [“doubleness”]. So once we had the nouns, we had to have the adverbs for the same numbers, and that is how unus adopted semel [“once”] and duo adopted bis [“twice”]. But the art of grammar only requires that a “principal” derive from its adjective, “height” from “high.” Thus the derivation of “mountain” from “high” is not part of the art of grammar. So, just like there are natural and legitimate sons, and sons who are only natural, and sons who are only sons for the law, similarly there are three types of derivation: the derivation in sound and meaning is like the natural and legitimate son, born from legal marriage. Derivation in sound only can be called “bastard” [spuria], just like a son who is only a natural son is called a bastard. Derivation in meaning only may be called adoptive, just like a son for the law only, who is called an adoptive son.

[After a short exploration of the relation between formatio (as of genitive from nominative or passive from active) and derivatio Balbus turns to the problem of antiphrasis.]

There is also doubt about that form of derivation that takes place per anthifrasim, i.e. through the contrary [per contrarium], e.g. lucus a lucendo [“a sacred grove” (lucus) from “being light” (lucere)],143 Parca [“goddess of fate”] from parcere [“to spare”], Libitina [“goddess of funerals”] from libere [“to please”].144 I say that this is a rational form of derivation because it occurs through sound and meaning. Just as there is a double goal in (p.364) nature, consumens [“consuming”] and consummans [“perfecting”] (consumens is the one that destroys; consummans is the one that perfects), so there ought to be a double goal in species.145 So when a derivative imitates the meaning of its primitive positively, such a derivation is consummativa [“perfective”]. But when it imitates the meaning of its primitive through destruction, such a derivation is consumptiva [“destructive”], e.g. libitina [“goddess of funerals”], because it is not pleasing [quia non libet]. For it is certain that both ends obtain for any substance plus quality, like consumens [“consumer”] and consummans [“perfector”]. For it is finally destroyed, just as it is perfected.

About Translation

About translation a further question is whether it always creates derivation, as theos into deus [“god”], patir into pater [“father”], matros into mater [“mother”].146 Some people say this is the case. According to them ego tu sui [“I, you, of himself”] are derivatives, because they are translated into Latin from the Greek, as Priscian says.147 Further, according to them one and the same word is both primitive and derivative, like etherem or ethera [“aether” (acc.)] because the Greek accusative should be primitive and the Latin accusative should be derivative. But every Latin noun will be derivative when it can be declined in the Greek way and be derived from a Greek noun, e.g. Martinos, hence: Martinus, and Priamos, hence: Priamus. I reply to this that since the Latin has completely the same meaning as the Greek or Hebrew noun, there is no derivation, but only a certain bending [detorsio]148 of one language into another, for example, Jacob, hence: Jacobus; Joseph, hence: Josephus. So deus [“god”] is not derived from theos nor pater [“father”] from patir, nor mater [“mother”] from matir, for they are the same. They are not derived in meaning nor in their mode of signifying [modus significandi]: we shouldn’t say that one is a different man when speaking Greek than when speaking Latin. Similarly, we shouldn’t say that the Greeks have different gospels than the Latins, although they contain different words or pronunciations. However, if Latin derives from Greek or Hebrew by a subtle change in meaning in the mode of signifying so that they would not be the same, then if there is transfer into the Latin language, there is without any doubt derivation. For example gigno [“to create”] from geos, which is earth, and olor, oloris [“swan”] from olon,149 which is “whole,” because it is “wholly white.”150 And Paraclitus from (p.365) paraclisis, which is “consolation.”151 And Spirit from pir,152 which is “fire.” And thus one has to judge with circumspection. That is the opinion of Master Bene,153 and he takes derivation in the strict and proper sense, and I follow him. If you will find something else below in the fifth part, know that I don’t assert what it says there, but am rendering the opinion of Hugutio,154 who takes derivation in a very wide sense.

[fol. 65ra]

With the help of God we have given information about the four main parts of this work. What remains is to speak about the fifth part, which is on orthography, prosody, signification, origin, and etymology of certain words which occur frequently in the Bible and in the words of saints and poets. In accordance with the poverty of our knowledge and the weakness of our brain let us explain a few matters for our own use and that of our friends. Other information will be given here about etymology beyond what was provided in the third part, as will be clear when we discuss it in its proper place.155 In this fifth part I will proceed everywhere according to the order of the alphabet.

[Balbus now offers an explanation of how a strict alphabetical order works, i.e. one that does not just look at the first letter, and then proceeds to the alphabetical part itself. As an example, we translate the entries related to amnis, namely amnensis, amnicola, amniculus, amnicus, amnis (fol. 74v).]

Amnensis, [gen.] -nensis. Of feminine gender. Any villa situated close to the river [amnis]. Comes from amnis.

Amnicola, [gen.] -l(a)e. Of common gender.156 The penultimate syllable is short. Colens amnem [“living on the river”]. A compound from amnis and colens.

Amniculus, [gen.] amniculi. Diminutive, that is, little amnis [“river”]. Has a short penultimate syllable.

Amnicus [fem.] -ca [n.] -cum. The penultimate syllable is short; i.e. “of a river” [fluvialis]. Comes from amnis.

Amnis. From amenus [= amoenus “lovely”] is said hic amnis [“river, m.”], huius amnis [gen.], i.e. “river” [fluvius]. Because of the loveliness [amenitas = amoenitas] of its banks. According to Hugutio,157 Papias says the following: Amnis is river. Named from (p.366) am(o)enitas [“loveliness”] because it is surrounded by foliage. And the ablative ends in E and in I.

[fol. 155ra: the entry Ethimologia gives the following information]

Ethimologia: ethimo [Greek] is called verum [“true”] in Latin; logos is sermo [“speech”] or ratio [“reason”]. Hence ethimologia, as it were “true speech” [veriloquium]. By etymologizing this word, too, we proclaim its true origin. It is defined as follows: Etymology is the explanation of one word through either one or more other words that are better known, within the same language or in different ones, in accordance with the characteristics of the things designated and the similarity of the letters, e.g. lapis [“stone”], l(a)edens pedem [“hurting the foot”], piger [“lazy”], pedibus (a)eger [“sick in one’s feet”]. Hence ethimologicus, [f.] -ca, [n.] -cum, figurative, either “pertaining to etymology”, or “he who etymologizes.” Ethimologizo, [2nd pers.] -as, to explain thus according to Hugutio.158 Whether etymology makes derivations I discussed in the third part, near the beginning in my discussion of the species of the noun. You must also know that etymology is conceived differently when it is taken as one part of grammar. For grammar is divided into four parts, namely orthography, etymology, diasintastica [syntax], and prosody. In that case etymology is so called from ethimon [“true”] and logos [“speech”]. Hence “etymology,” i.e., a discussion of the truth of all parts of speech, not considering construction [absolute]. That’s how the third part of this book is conceived.

[in list of contents cxxxiiii]

The fifth part of this work deals with etymology [ethimologia], according to the correct order of the letters of the alphabet.


(3) For these four categories of change, see Usener, “Ein altes Lehrgebäude der Philologie,” and Ax, “Quadripertita ratio: Bemerkungen zur Geschichte eines aktuellen Kategoriensystems (adiectio-detractio-transmutatio-immutatio).” They are also at work elsewhere: for example, they shape the systematic explanation for all forms of barbarism: see section on Donatus, above, pp. 93. Ultimately, they derive from Aristotelian physics, in which they exhaust the possibilities for change in matter.

(4) One of the examples from the texts below is cadaver, which is said to stand for caro data vermibus “flesh given over to the worms.”

(5) Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.34; Augustine, De dialectica 6 (see below) and De doctrina christiana 3.29.41; Martianus Capella, De nuptiis 4.360. See also the section on antiphrasis, one of the species of “allegory” in Donatus, Ars maior 3:6, GL 4:402 (and see p. 98).

(7) Augustine’s De dialectica (see below) represents an unusually systematic treatment.

(10) See below on the etymology of fenestra (from Petrus Helias onwards). Whereas earlier etymologies had emphasized the fact that “windows” allow light into a room, Petrus Helias’ suggestion treats it as an emergency exit (probably for bored students). That makes it a memorable (as well as funny) illustration of the use of syllabic etymology.

(11) The ascription to Augustine has been disputed. Jackson discusses this question and concludes that the ascription is authentic; see his introduction to Augustine, De dialectica, ed. Pinborg, trans. Jackson, 30. On its use in the Middle Ages, see ibid., 18ff.

(14) See introduction to section on Isidore of Seville, within, pp. 232.

(16) Hunt, “The ‘Lost’ Preface to the Liber derivationum of Osbern of Gloucester,” 270. In all such cases, there are (late) ancient examples (e.g. Jerome’s attention to Hebrew and Greek), but this approach is now systematized. Priscian himself also sometimes collects words with the same stem, and in that sense may have served as a source of inspiration for the practice.

(18) Teeuwen, The Vocabulary of Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages, 266–7 credits Petrus Helias with the first explicit distinction between derivatio and etymology, referring to R. Klinck, Die lateinische Etymologie des Mittelalters (1970), 17ff. and Olga Weijers, Lexicography in the Middle Ages (1989), 147–8.

(20) Or Thesaurus novus latinitatis, cf. Marigo in Hugutio of Pisa, Magnae derivationes, ed. Marigo.

(21) Marigo, 99 n. 5, gives examples involving Italian, French, and German.

(22) Hunt, “The ‘Lost’ Preface,” 273. On the alternative title Panormia, see Hunt, 269. Osbern himself refers to his work as “Derivations.”

(24) For the origins of the idea that Latin is naturally less rich than Greek, see Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas. We have encountered this idea in Terentianus Maurus (Part 1, p. 79).

(25) Cf. Marigo in Hugutio of Pisa, Magnae derivationes, ed. Marigo, 100, 106f.; notice however the two etymologies of his own name at the end of the prologue (8).

(27) Marigo, 107.

(28) Marigo, 100.

(29) On Joannes Balbus, see also Della Casa, “Les glossaires et les traités de grammaire du moyen âge,” and on Joannes’ sources, 43f. (with n. 43).

(31) Translation reprinted (with minor adaptations) from Augustine, De dialectica, ed. Pinborg, trans. Jackson, by permission.

(32) Augustine uses declinatio for “changes in both the inflection and the function of words” (De dialectica, 127 n. 2 [Jackson]). Three of these topics (origo, declinatio, and ordinatio) are the organizing principles of Varro’s De lingua latina. In Varro, declinatio is grammatical inflection and other forms of word change. Ordinatio (the actual term used in Varro is coniunctio) is syntax. See Jackson’s note 2, cited above, which also refers to Barwick, Probleme der stoischen Sprachlehre und Rhetorik.

(33) Cicero, De natura deorum 3.24.61–3.

(34) Jackson prefers to render constructions like a verberando as “from verberans”; we have substituted the infinitive throughout. For the etymology from verberare, see e.g. Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.34; Priscian, Institutiones 8.1, GL 2:369.6; Isidore, Etymologiae 1.9.1 and saepius. Cf. Maltby, Lexicon, s.v. verbum.

(35) Note that this also seems to allude to the etymology of etymologia as veri-loquium. For the derivation of verbum from veritas, cf. Varro apud Donatus, commentary on Terence, Andria 952: verbum dixit veram sententiam, nam verba a veritate dicta esse testis est Varro.

(36) Virgil, Georgics 3.223. Cf. also the etymology of vox, where there is recourse to Greek boaô: see Priscian, Institutiones 1.1, GL 2:6.4–5.

(37) I.e., analysis should go on until an onomatopoetic principle is found. This principle is then extended from sound to qualities that affect the other senses.

(38) Jackson (De dialectica, 128) notes that the similarity is particularly obvious in the singular: crux (cross) and crus (leg).

(39) Translation slightly adapted.

(40) For the relationship between piscina and pisces, cf. Augustine, De doctrina christiana 3.29.40 and Donatus, Ars maior 3.6, GL 4:400, on tropes, where it is an example of abusio or catachresis: a word is not used in a “literal” or “proper” sense, but on the other hand there simply is no more proper term to designate the thing (the word for “swimming pool” is always piscina).

(41) I.e., the truth of neither can be demonstrated.

(42) Cf. introductory note to this section.

(43) Translation slightly adapted to bring out the opposition between nomen and res.

(44) The explanation of the origin of foedus is deemed obscure by Jackson, De dialectica, trans., 128. However, the idea is clearly that through the foeditas porci (i.e. by means of a filthy pig), treaties are concluded: reference is to the customary sacrifice. Cf. Varro, De re rustica 2.4.9, where the Greek word for pig, ὑ̃ς‎, is derived from θύειν‎, “to sacrifice.” Varro claims pigs were the oldest sacrificial animals. A trace of this is to be found in the fact quod initiis Pacis f<o>edus cum feritur, porcus occiditur “that at the beginning of Peace, when a treaty is concluded, a pig is sacrificed.” Cf. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.24.7–9 for such a sacrifice.

(45) Virgil, Aeneid 5.755.

(46) Where the name of the storage facility seems to indicate a different kind of grain than is actually being stored there.

(47) The topic of the “origins” of words extends beyond what we would consider “etymological” in a stricter sense to encompass a notion of “part and whole” here.

(48) Translation adapted.

(49) Translation slightly adapted.

(50) Translation slightly adapted.

(51) In this section, Augustine first explains the development of several words on the basis of the properties of the sound V and the procedures of similarity and proximity. He then imagines a dialogue with someone who pursues the way back from the most complex word to the letter V. Translation slightly adapted to reflect this dialectical process.

(52) I.e., the first category distinguished above.

(53) Terence, Eunuchus IV 4.21.

(54) Translated from Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum libri xx, ed. Lindsay, by permission. For further information on Isidore’s grammar, see the introduction to the section on Isidore, within, pp. 232.

(55) On this chapter, see Amsler, Etymology and Grammatical Discourse, 133–72; Fontaine, “Aux sources de la lexicographie médiévale,” and “Cohérence et originalité de l’étymologie isidorienne”; Schweickard, “‘Etymologia est origo vocabularum’”; Codoñer Merino “‘Origines’ o ‘Etymologiae’?”; Valastro Canale, “Isidoro di Siviglia: la vis verbi come riflesso dell’ omnipotenza divina,” 149ff. The sources for this chapter are (ultimately) Aristotle and Cicero (Topica 35), Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.28, and Boethius’ commentary on Cicero’s Topics. Disciplinary influence comes from grammar (technical), rhetoric (use in argument), philosophy (epistemological connection of etymology), folk-linguistics, biblical exegesis, and pedagogy (in that etymology serves the purposes of clarification and memory).

(56) Vis verbi vel nominis: this could, of course, also be rendered: the meaning of a verb or a noun (cf. just below in the same section). For the more general translation, cf. Amsler, Etymology and Grammatical Discourse, 139f. Interpretatio is the dynamic moment which establishes the static origo in a process of inventio, Schweickard, “‘Etymologia est origo vocabularum,’” 3; Valastro Canale, “Isidoro di Siviglia,” 160. Schweickard’s proposal to change origo into originatio in order to make both halves of the definition dynamic is unnecessary. The opening of Etymologies, book 10 seems to protect the traditional reading (cf. Magallon, review of Barney et al., Etymologies, TMR 07.05.30, 2007). Fontaine, “Aux sources de la lexicographie médiévale,” 100–1 emphasizes the importance of the etymological process rather than the results.

(57) Cf. Cicero, Topica 8.35 (where the term used is notatio, not annotatio; from this passage the reference to Aristotle’s sumbolon is also taken): Multa enim ex notatione sumuntur. Ea est autem, cum ex vi nominis argumentum elicitur; quam Graeci etumologian appellant, id est verbum ex verbo veriloquium; nos autem novitatem verbi non satis apti fugientes genus hoc notationem appellamus quia sunt verba rerum notae. Itaque hoc idem Aristoteles sumbolon appellat, quod Latine est nota. “Many things are taken from the etymology (notatio). Etymology is, when an argument is derived from the meaning of a word. The Greeks call it etymologia, the literal equivalent of which is veriloquium ‘true speech.’ However, we prefer to avoid the unusualness of a word which is not quite fitting, and call this kind notatio ‘signing,’ because words are the signs of things. That is why Aristotle calls this symbolon [cf. Aristotle, De interpretatione 16a; rendered very freely], which in Latin is nota.” Isidore derives this passage from Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.28. The change of Ciceronian notatio into annotatio turns etymology into the central intellectual activity. Whereas notatio refers to the designating (or connoting) power of words, annotatio is a “commenting” procedure that allows any kind of observation to be subsumed under the practice of etymology (so Fontaine, “Aux sources de la lexicographie médiévale,” 101; and Fontaine, Isidore de Séville: genèse et originalité, 186–7).

(59) In fact, this is the hermeneutic principle on which the Etymologiae was composed.

(60) The philosopher Diodorus Cronus tried to prove that even sundesmoi (“conjunctions,” particles, and some adverbs) could have (lexical) meaning. He therefore gave his slaves the names of conjunctions. This is also an example of the arbitrary imposition of names. Cf. e.g. Ammonius on Aristotle, De interpretatione, ed. A. Busse, CAG IV.5:38, 17–20; Simplicius on Aristotle, Categories, ed. K. Kalbfleisch, CAG VIII:27, 18–21; Stephanus Alexandrinus on Aristotle, De interpretatione, ed. M. Hayduck, CAG XVIII.3:9, 21–4.

(61) See the introductory note above, p. 340 for such etymologies a contrario.

(62) The sentence is very imprecise, but reference here is to onomatopoetic formation, with both garrulus and garrulitas somehow being related to graculus “jackdaw,” whose name is related to the noise it produces, as is clear from Isidore, Etymologiae, 10.114 and 12.7.45. In that latter passage, the etymology of graculus from “gregarious flight” is rejected (it was defended by Varro, De lingua latina 5.76): “graculus [‘jackdaw’]…not, as some claim, because they fly in formation [gregatim volent]; for it is manifest that they get their name from their sound [ex voce].” Cf. also Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.37.

(63) Varro, De lingua latina 5.160, domus Graecum: “domus [‘house’] is a Greek word”; Priscian, Partitiones, GL 3:505.32; Isidore, Etymologiae 9.4.3; 15.3.1 “the word domus [‘house’] comes from a Greek name; for the Greeks call houses dômata”; for silva, see Sextus Pompeius Festus, De verborum significatu quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome, ed. Lindsay, 290 (hulas); Isidore, 17.6.5 where it is derived not from Greek hulê “material, wood,” but from Greek xulon “wood.”

(64) A reference to loan words.

(66) Petrus Helias’ view of etymology demonstrates both how the technique functions as part of inventio and as a pedagogical tool. He sees it as a clarificatory procedure, reminiscent of the technique of substituting something more familiar to explain something obscure. In the Greek rhetorical tradition, starting with Aristotle’s Topics (e.g. 111a8), this technique was known as metalêpsis, and it was adopted by the grammarians (notably Apollonius Dyscolus) in order to ascertain the meaning of a word. Aristotle explicitly warns against using something less familiar (Topics 149a5ff.). The commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias (2nd cent. AD) subsumed the etymological procedure under this technique of substitution (in Aristotelis Topica, ed. M. Wallies, CAG II.2: 175.18). “Substitution” could also take the form of a definition. See on this topic Sluiter, Ancient Grammar in Context, 111–13, with n. 274.

(67) Cf. Isidore, Etymologiae 16.3.1 lapis…dictus quod laedat pedem, an example of syllabic etymology.

(68) This etymology has no ancient pedigree, and given the unorthodox use of a window, it looks like an effective use of schoolboy humor for mnemonic purposes.

(69) Note that here a distinction is drawn between interpretatio and ethimologia, whereas in Isidore, Etymologiae 1.29 they formed part of the same technique.

(70) See Priscian, Institutiones 1.1, GL 2:6.4f. for this double etymology a vocando, and cf. Augustine, De dialectica 6, above.

(71) Translated from Hunt, “The ‘Lost’ Preface,”, 275–7, by permission.

(72) Abbot of Gloucester, 1148–1179.

(73) in multiplices se derivandi rivos multipliciter extendunt. The verb derivare, “to derive” is itself derived from rivus, “river,” and refers to diverting streams of water. The derivatores here “branch off” into all kinds of “channels of derivation.” For the importance of the metaphor of the river, see below (Osbern on amnis, and Hugutio of Pisa.)

(74) “Openly” because the superstructure will be more visible than the foundation.

(75) Hunt, “The ‘Lost’ Preface,” 274, warns us not to take these as the first-century AD African grammarian L. Annaeus Cornutus and the Syrian M. Valerius Probus, but the glossators on Persius and Juvenal, Lucan and Virgil, to whom these names are attached in the medieval manuscript tradition.

(76) For the notion of scholarship as military service, see also the beginning of Osbern’s letter.

(77) A surprising and unexplained entry under the moderni.

(78) Also hardly a “modernus.”

(79) Rabanus Maurus (d. 856) wrote an encyclopedic work, De naturis rerum, almost completely dependent on the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville.

(80) The commentary by John Scotus Eriugena on Martianus Capella did not circulate widely (Hunt, “The ‘Lost’ Preface,” 274).

(81) Cf. Priscian’s letter of dedication to the consul Julian, GL 2:1.7.

(82) I.e. in adducing attestations for those words (parts of speech).

(83) We thank Dr Christoph Pieper for helpful discussion of this passage. This sentence is a fine example of Osbern’s lurid style.

(84) Osbern seems to be going one better than his example Priscian here, who merely complains that he had to publish his work more quickly than he would have liked because people were trying to steal it and pass it off as their own: see Institutiones, GL 2:2.16ff.

(86) Cf. Paulus in Festus, De verborum significatione quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome, ed. Müller, 17, where amnenses (plur. f.) is given for towns situated near a river.

(87) Ovid, Tristia, V 12.40, where the text actually has dum rather than non (dum tulit antennas aura secunda meas).

(89) The definition of Petrus Helias, see above.

(90) A common etymology from the third century onwards, cf. e.g. Cassiodorus, Expositio Psalmorum 16.11.10; Isidore, Etymologiae 1.5.3; and cf. Maltby, Lexicon, s.v. oratio.

(91) Isidore, Etymologiae, 16.3.1.

(92) Syllabic etymology without classical pedigree, see on Petrus Helias above.

(93) This etymology is common in the later middle ages, see e.g. the gloss Tria sunt and Joannes Balbus below.

(94) The link between amicus and amor, e.g. Jerome, Commentarium in Michaeam 2.71.174; for the syllabic etymology, cf. Isidore, Etymologiae 10.4: amicus per derivationem quasi animi custos. Note that Isidore uses the term derivatio.

(95) Detorsio, so also Joannes Balbus (see below).

(96) Dicunt autem ista quatuor esse excedentia et ex.

(97) Cf. Paulus in Festus, De verborum significatione quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome, ed. Müller, 112: imago ab imitatione, and Augustine, In epistolam Johannis 4.9, PL 35:2010D, imago in imitatione.

(98) Jerome, Hebraicae quaestiones in libro Geneseos, ed. P. de Lagarde et al., CCSL 72 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1959), 5.1ff. (on Genesis 2, 23) for the link between is–issa and vir–virago. For virago see also Isidore, Differentiae 2.80; Etymologiae 11.2.22.

(100) See Petrus Helias, above.

(101) For the two etymologies (without the distinction between etymology, derivation, interpretation/translation), Priscian, Institutiones 1.1, GL 2:6.4, and Augustine and Petrus Helias above.

(102) Definition from Petrus Helias, see above.

(103) For this syllabic etymology, see on Petrus Helias above (n. 68), and the gloss Promisimus.

(105) Common, but not classical, etymology; see Gloss Promisimus above and Joannes Balbus below.

(106) Priscian can also be used as a starting point for the later derivationes that mostly serve pedagogical goals of structuring morphology. On ducere/dux etc., see Institutiones 8.63, GL 2:421.22–4.

(107) Isidore, Etymologiae 16.3.1.

(108) Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 1.6.34; Isidore, Etymologiae 1.29.3 (cf. 10.1; 11.1.4). Following this passage there is a longer quotation from Isidore, Etymologiae 1.29.

(110) Adam.

(111) Marigo compares Matthew 25:10. For marriage as a metaphor for the acquisition of knowledge, cf. also the title and opening allegory of Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii.

(112) honestae artes, i.e. artes liberales.

(113) For these two activities of Grammar, see De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, 3.226 (translated in section on Martianus Capella, above, p. 152).

(115) Marigo suggests reading male dicta punire rather than maledicta. We have followed this suggestion in translating.

(116) Cf. 2 Peter 2, 22.

(117) Cf. Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 2 (doctrinam [“learning”] is the addition of Hugutio).

(118) Matthew 25, 18ff.

(119) Universe carnis generalitas: i.e. all of humanity.

(120) Presumably primarily Hugutio’s own; but the idea is also that doctrina must not depend on any individual living person being around.

(121) Namely of one word into another, i.e. synonymy, cf. Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.28.38. This is also used for translation between languages.

(122) The “natural poverty” of Latin (when compared with Greek) was a topos already in classical antiquity, cf. Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas. See section on Terentianus Maurus, p. 79.

(123) Marigo, 105 note ad loc. rightly points out that Hugutio may be recalling the rhetorical precepts about two types of proems here, one of which is called the insinuatio. Cf. Cicero, De inventione 1.15.20.

(124) Cf. Priscian, Institutiones, preface, GL 2:2.13f., from the dedicatory letter of the Institutiones to the consul Julian: nihil enim ex omni parte perfectum in humanis inventionibus esse posse credo.

(125) Marigo, 105 note ad loc. refers to earlier glossographers and lexicographers, in particular Isidore, Papias, and Osbern, and the books on derivations or glosses, as sources that Hugutio used.

(126) Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1.

(127) Cf. Ecclesiasticus 15:3.

(128) Marigo, note 105: “‘gigno hec gymnia, -ae .i. exercitatio…et hic gymnosophistae .i. magister gymnasii,’ unde Prudentius [Hamartigenia 404] in libro contra haereses: ostenditque suos vicatim gymnosophistas, Mai, Thes. VIII [Osberni Panormia] ‘Gymnosophista, doctor’[Papias]. Quae auctoritates codicum omnium lectionem graeci sermonis inscitia corruptam esse ostendunt.”

(129) First etymology of the name Hugutio, derived from bona terra (hiding Greek eu “good,” “earth”).

(130) Second etymology of the name Hugutio, derived from virere “to be green, strong,” and terra (probably hiding the Greek ).

(131) Translated from the Mainz 1460 edition (rpt. 1971).

(132) I.e. ethimologia has become virtually synonymous with the core elements of the art of grammar.

(134) Later in the text explained as “primitive” or “derivative”; within these groups there are more distinctions.

(135) Simplex or compound.

(136) Or: a sentence.

(137) Or: speeches.

(138) Reference is to Priscian, preface to Institutiones, GL 2:2.21f. (from the dedicatory letter of the Institutiones to the consul Julian); cf. also preface, GL 2:1.1f. (opening of the same letter): omnis eloquentiae doctrinam et omne studiorum genus…a Graecorum fonte derivatum “the teaching of all eloquence and every kind of study has been derived from the wellspring of the Greeks.”

(139) Horace, Epistle 2.2.119f.: adsciscet nova, quae genitor produxerit usus. / vehemens et liquidus puroque simillimus amni. Joannes has a predilection for using Horace as a source of examples, cf. Della Casa, “Les glossaires et les traités de grammaire du moyen âge,” 43.

(140) For this etymology, see above on the gloss Promisimus and Tria sunt.

(141) The form of etymology used here explains the meaning by considering words as (mnemonic) acronyms, that would make it easy to remember the name because it “stores” the meaning in a variety of creative ways.

(142) Cf. Priscian, Institutiones 15.37, GL 3:88.5ff., et sciendum, quod omnia, quae ab aliis derivantur, illorum significationem vel qualitatem generalem seu specialem servant (example 88.14f.: ab uno semel profertur).

(143) The classic phrase lucus a non lucendo has lost the negative here.

(144) If this example belongs in the category per anthifrasim, the goddess of funerals must be meant. In the classical tradition, it is the other name for Venus, Libitina (or Libentina), that we find etymologized (in which case, presumably, it is connected with libere/libido directly and not per contrarium), cf. Varro, De lingua latina 6.47.

(145) I.e. a species can be “positive” or “negative,” “affirming” or “eliminating.”

(146) The first of each of these forms is intended to represent Greek (theos, patêr, mêtêr).

(148) Cf. gloss Promisimus above.

(149) Gr. holon.

(150) I.e. a swan is wholly white. “Whole” is (h)olon in Greek, so Latin olor “swan” derives from the Greek. Cf. Philargyrius, Explanatio in Bucolica Vergilii, ed. Hagen, Appendix Serviana, 9.36. For olon = totum, cf. Isidore, 12.7.18.

(151) Paraclete, of the Holy Spirit (as intercessor).

(152) Gr. pur.

(153) The text has the compendium BN, which probably stands for Master Bene Florentinus (Bene da Firenze, fl. ca. 1218–1226), a grammarian and teacher of dictaminal rhetoric, who wrote a summa dictaminis and another dictaminal treatise called Candelabrum (ed. G. C. Alessio, Bene Florentini Candelabrum [Padova: In aedibus Antenoreis, 1983]). We thank Dr Olga Weijers and Prof. C. H. Kneepkens for discussion of this passage.

(154) Hugutio of Pisa, see above.

(155) See below, where the entry “ethimologia” is translated.

(156) I.e. may be either masculine or feminine, depending on context.

(157) Reference is to Hugutio of Pisa, see above.

(158) Reference is to Hugutio of Pisa, see above.