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Etymology: man, woman and human

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Abu Bishr, Oct 16, 2007.

  1. Abu Bishr Senior Member

    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hi everybody

    What is the etymology of these 3 words? I read somewhere that "man" used to mean "human being" - whether male or female - such that "woman" actually means 'a female human'. It was only later on that "man" acquired the narrow meaning of 'male human being'.

    In this regard, then, the early designation of "man" corresponds to the Afrikaans "mens" . Based on this "woman" would mean "vroumens". However, in Afrikaans we also use "man" to refer to a male human being and "vrou" to a female human being. It would then seem to me that "man" in (later) English and Afrikaans refers to a male human being in both languages. "Man" with a capital "M" appears to be the equivalent of "mens" in Afrikaans, and "Mankind" the equivalent of "mensdom". Because of the connotations of "maleness" in "Man" and "Mankind", there is a preference for the word "Humanity" which appears to be neutral. However, both "human" and "woman" contain the word "man" which in early English meant a human being (male or female). In other words, "woman" and "human" have nothing to do with "man" in the sense of "male human being".

    What are your thoughts on the etymology of "man", "woman" and "human", and maybe we can also add "person" and the Afrikaans "mens"?
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    My recollection is that "woman" is derived from "wife-man" (corresponding middle English forms of course) "wife" here meaning woman (cf. German "Weib" and "man" for human beeing (cf. German "Mensch"). I am quoting German because those are the closed cognates I know off hand.

    I think I saw something like this in the OED but I am not sure.
     
  3. Macnas Junior Member

    English and Russian, United States
    I'm going from memory here, so I'm not 100% sure about the forms:

    Old English used the word mann (modern English "man") to refer to any human being of either sex. It had completely separate words for "male" and "female" - wer "man" (no longer used in Modern English, except it can be seen in the compound werewolf "man-wolf") and wíf "woman" (modern English "wife"). Frequently these would be compounded: wermann and wífmann. The latter eventually evolved into modern English woman, while the former gradually fell out of use. Mann then came to be used as a term for males as opposed to females instead of all humanity.

    Modern English human has separate origins. It comes from Latin hûmânus "human". The -man portion is coincidental.

    Person comes from Latin as well, from persôna. I believe this originally referred to the part a person played in a play, as well as personality (somewhat like Modern English persona, which I think is a re-borrowing of the Latin term). This in turn is believed to come from Etruscan phersu "mask".


    I don't know much about Afrikaans, but mens looks like it's just a doubly-marked plural (ie, it takes the plural men and then reinforces it by adding an -s). This is just a guess, though.
     
  4. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I refer you to the Online Etymology Dictionary's entries on "man", "woman", and "human". Here's an excerpt:

     
  5. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Some extra links.
    * 'man': Pokorny gives "[PIE *]manus oder monus" and especially the German meanings "Mann, Mensch" are helpful here, while Watkins only gives the (English and hence ambiguous) meaning 'man'.
    In Dutch and Afrikaans this general meaning is found back in words as 'iemand' and 'niemand' (<ie+man, the d (or t) is a later addition).
    * 'human': we have to go back to Latin homo (human being, man < PIE *(dh)ghom-on-, < *dhghem-, Watkins). It's a completely different root, but there seems to be some sort of a parallel what the meaning 'human being / male person' is concerned...
    * 'woman', I just give this and this link in addition to the explantions by other members.
    * Afrikaans and Dutch 'mens' (Middle Dutch mensce, mensche and mensch) comes from the PGm. adjective *manniska- < PIE *manus. The -e- in 'mens' is due to the i-Umlaut (so it's not a double plural).

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  6. Abu Bishr Senior Member

    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Thank you, everyone, for your very informative replies.

    So is there a link between "man" and "Mann" on the one hand, and "mens" and "Mensch" on the other? Am I also right in assuming that English does not seem to have the equivalent of "mens" / "Mensch" in terms of a common root?
     
  7. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Definitely yes :).

    Not anymore. Old English did have 'mennisc' (adj. human, n. mankind, folk, race, people). Modern English does have 'mannish', in which the effects of the Umlaut are undone, if I may believe that dictionary. A quick look seems to indicate that this only means 'manlike', 'masculine' in modern English, though it used to mean 'human' in the ol' days (e.g. Chaucer).

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  8. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hi Frank,
    Seeing that Watkins gives *dhghem- as the etymon of "human" and "chthonic" inter alia, I begin to wonder if Lithuanian žmogus (man, human) and Latvian zeme (earth) share the same root. Can you see anything that immediately supports or falsifies this idea?
     
  9. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Both Watkins (who mainly concentrates upon English) and Pokorny make the link between 'earth' and 'human'. This link should(*) bring you to the article on *g^hðem-, *g^hðom- (Root #620). It mentions Lettish zeme and Lithuanian žmogus.

    Groetjes,

    Frank

    (*) "Should", because the database is often not working. Good luck :).
     
  10. zpoludnia swiata Senior Member

    chile english, spanish, german
    The indoeuropean root *dhghem also appears in the English "groom" and German "Brautigam".
    English "man" or German "Mensch" is of indoeuropean origin, and appears in Slavic languages. Russian "mushchina" (man), Polish mezczyzna (man), Russian "muzh" (husband). I don't know about other Indo European languages...
     
  11. Funihead Junior Member

    USA, English
    Anthropos is human while woman is gynos and man is viros - Hope this helps ;)

    -=~Funihead~=-
     
  12. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    In which languages?
    Anthropos I recognize as Ancient Greek.
    Gynos and viros I don't recognize. Could you clarify, please.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Gynos: He obviously means γυνή (gyne).
    Viros: I think he means 'ανήρ (aner), probably confused ny and v.

    Bernd
     
  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Vir is "man" in classical Latin.
     
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    And Viros? That would be the accusative plural (Viros video., I see the men). In the context of two Greek words?
    But you are probably right. Confusion of Greek and Latin with a Greek second declension suffix.
     
  16. elpoderoso

    elpoderoso Senior Member

    English
    Is this ''Viros'' related to the ''Wer'' mentioned in post three and the Spanish ''Varón''?
     
  17. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
  18. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Vir/wer: yes
    varón/vir: yes (see below).

    The very same source you quote mentions that they are related, that vir and varón are cognates.
    More information on PIE *vir (actually *wiro-) can be found here.

    [edit]But I still have a lot of doubts...[/edit]

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  19. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Also, "werewolf" etymologically means "man-wolf".
     
  20. elpoderoso

    elpoderoso Senior Member

    English
    I knew that one, there was also the term ''Wergild'' used in Saxon times for the fine payed to a victim or their family by someone who had killed or harmed them (The amount varying according to the injured party's social status)
     
  21. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English
    Going back further, in Mesopotamia, "Man[kind]" was mannan, and hu-mannan [human] was mighty man.

    Does the Latvian term zeme mean earth [ground, soil], or Earth [planet Earth]?

    Linguist/historian Zecharia Sitchin translated the creation of The Adamu (a generic term meaning primitive worker; the Biblical Adam) as mixing red clay or earth [adama] with blood [dam]. Adamu and adama are obviously related. I'm not sure how Adamu became hu-mannan, although they came to mean the same thing [Adamu "primitive worker" became Adappa "priest-king" when (according to Sitchin) humans were allowed to have their own monarch.]
     
  22. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Sitchin is neither a linguist, nor is he an historian.

    From Wikipedia I quote:
    Yeah, right.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  23. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English
    Also from Wikipedia:

    To the mods: sorry that this is off topic, but I don't want my earlier post to be dismissed as unfounded. I recognize that any idea or theory must be backed up by fact, and believe only such.
    Sorry to any who found my post offensive, as did Frank06.

    raptor
     
  24. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    I'll ask it another way.
    In which of the languages spoken in Mesopotamia? My first reflex was to look it up in a Sumerian lexicon (where I couldn't find it back), but Sumerian wasn't of course the only language spoken in that region. The closest I could get was Akkadian mannum/mannam, which is the interrogative pronoun "who?". I searched here (for Akkadian), here for Aramaic and here (for Sumerian, pdf).
    But maybe I am searching the wrong dictionaries (or even languages). So, I am stuck here, but that doesn't mean a thing.

    Could you please help me out and give an independent source for the words 'mannan' and 'hu-mannam', so, preferably not from Sitchin or any of his supporters?

    The reasons why I don't think that Sitchin c.s. is an appropriate source may become clear from this, this, this, this (pdf file, p.43). Both his interplanetary theories on how ET's cloned or created human beings [edit] and his so-called 'translations' (see here) of almost any language written down in Mesopotamia to 'prove that theory' [/edit] are many lightyears beyond the scope of this forum.

    But lets' skip the discussion on Sitchin himself and concentrate upon the language(s).

    Thanks in advance,

    Frank

    [edit]PS:
    May I also draw your attention to the WordReference Mission Statement (to be found here):
    And to the EHL rules (to be found here):
    [/edit]
     
  25. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English
    Hi,

    Actually, I did not get hu-mannan from Sumerian, Akkadian, or Aramiac. From the book: "In old languages such as Vedic, the word hu relates to 'mighty' and the proto-linguistic term hu-mannan (whence, 'human') identifies 'mighty man'." Unfortunately, Laurence Gardner does not give a source to these terms, and I have been as yet unable to find a Vedic lexicon to verify them.

    Adama is is quoted as "earthling" [of the earth/red clay] in E A Speiser's work "The Anchor Bible - Genesis".
    Gardner does quote Sitchin in some areas, but I don't know if he is "one of Sitchin's followers".

    Sorry for bringing this whole argument about. I'll be sure to follow those rules Frank06 reposted.

    raptor
     
  26. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi again,

    Thanks for the reply.

    First of all, lest we forget:
    1. In which Mesopotamian language? Where in Mesopotamia? When? If not Mesopotamia, from where? Those are quite basic questions, no?
    2. Can you guide me to a dictionary, lexicon or word list in which this word is mentioned?

    More questions :)
    1. "In old languages such as Vedic". In which other languages?
    (By the way, I take it he means Vedic Sanskrit?)
    2. What is a "proto-linguistic term"? Does it mean 'related to proto-language'? If so, what do you mean by this and if so, how do you arrive at the reconstruction?
    2b. Can you explain the connection between "old languages such as Vedic" and "proto-linguistic term"? I don't understand this.
    3. Do I read this correctly? Do you or the author connect 'hu-mannan' with 'human'??

    Try a Sanskrit dictionary. Maybe you have more luck than me. I searched 5 of them, without a result. But maybe I searched in a wrong way.

    Any which way, pseudo-scientists such as Gardner and Sitchin are outside the scope of this forum. BIS.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  27. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English
    Hi again,

    Here I was referring to Gardners book which I quoted from on my last post.
    So 1) It was Vedic (yes, Vedic Sanskrit, I imagine), other than that, I don't know, but believe Sumer. 2) I found:manu = father of the human race; maanava = human (http sanskritdocuments org dict dictall txt [dots colons and dashes omitted]; from http www ibiblio org sripedia ebooks mw 0800 mw_0817 html : manu = 'the thinking creature(?), man, mankind'; from http en wikipedia org Sumerian_language : "Composites like lugal (from lu "man" and gal "big") are also common"; and from http psd museum upenn edu epsd nepsd-frame html : "humanity: lulu [Man] "man, humanity" [Akk. amēlu; lullû]".

    1) I don't know, this is a verbatim quote. 2)a I think proto-linguistic term is a word that is the source of others (proto I think being the ancestral bit) b) I don't know, either. 3) The author connects them (verbatim quote).

    I'll be more careful in future to make sure what I say makes sense and is backed up by real evidence!

    Thanks for the directions to the dictionaries!

    I hereby remove myself from this thread and retract my initial post.
     
  28. Asgaard Junior Member

    usa, english
    Hi,

    The link between 'human' and 'earth' can be seen in many languages:

    In Romanian and Bulgarian, Huma= Type of clay ( Argila-rom).
    (latin - humus = earth)

    Also Vår(m) , Varå(f) - cousin ( Lat. [consobrinus] verus, [consobrina] vera. ) -> Var(u)(Romanian, Bulgarian)= Hydrated Calcium (soft calcium clay - Calcium Hydroxide )
    גבר (Ge'ver ) - man (Hbr) ( Coincidence??)
    Celtic - fer
    Latin - ver

    Any connection between Erde (earth) and Persian word for man?
    مَرد (mærd) (1); مَردُم (mærdom) (2)) = man
     
  29. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The root consonants of Gever are GBR. I think the similarity of Gever and Ver is an artefact of the Latin transcription.
     
  30. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    In Sanskrit "manu" means man (thinking creature).
    Most likely the oldest IE root.
     
  31. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Welcome to this forum!

    How do you mean?

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  32. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    Indo-European (not proto) for "man".
     
  33. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Interesting, but what could be the reason for this connection? In Latvian the closest I can think about is zemnieks which means a farmer but in the past it included practically all common people. Still, seems to be very far-fetched idea.

    Also iezemietis, citzemietis (a native, a foreigner) could be attributed to zeme, but here it means land, country.
     
  34. Asgaard Junior Member

    usa, english
    Hi karuna,

    Could it be the Bible? Genesis2-7?

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, Swiss, Geneva, Sans Serif]"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

    I have no idea really, but this could lead to a fiery debate.

    Regards,
    Asgaard
    [/FONT]
     
  35. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    In this case, it is obvious. The Hebrew word for man (=human being) used in this passage is adam (aleph-daleth-mem) and the word for dust is adamah (aleph-daleth-mem-he).
     
  36. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    The Bible (Genesis) being the reason why in PIE there seems to be a connection between the word for earth and the word for human?
    Please, tell me I misunderstood this.

    [edit]
    If you are referring to something as '(made) of earth (which is reflected in e.g. the Bible, even though I cannot find a reason to connect the Bible with PIE, early IE languages etc.), then I understand.
    But for what it's worth: Watkins explains the relation earth/human referring to the locative case of PIE *dhghem-, viz. *dhgh(e)mon, 'on the earth', 'earthlings', 'earth dwellers'. Here you find another explanation. The author is the moderator of the Cybalist e-group.[/edit]

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  37. Asgaard Junior Member

    usa, english
    Hi Frank,
    I couldn't say it any better.





    Thanks
    Asgaard
     
  38. avok

    avok Senior Member

    Hello ,

    Is there any relation between the Turkish word "er" (or erkek) that means "man" and "vir,wer" etc.. and even "earth,erde" etc
     
  39. Asgaard Junior Member

    usa, english
    Hi,
    I've found the following to be significant :

    Old Indian (starling.rinet.ru)
    to become, to be - bhū́man- n. `earth, world, being', bhūmán- m. `abundance, multitude', -bhu- (in comp.) `becoming, being'



    Nice Day,
    Asgaard


     
  40. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Probably not because these words existed before to-be-Latvian tribes had contacts with Christianity. There was a question if zeme means planet Earth or soil earth and the answer is that it means both, and besides it also means "land" and "country". And it is not hard to imagine that one who lives on it can also be named as such. Today "earthman" is called zemietis in Latvian. Don't confuse this word with a Lithuanian tribe who are also called zemieši or žemaiši because this name comes from the word "zems" or "low [ground]".
     
  41. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I have heard the word mensh used in English, presumably from Yiddish, for (personable) human.

    The "man" of "humanus" is just the "m" of "homo" (man) and the "an" of "-anus", to which I believe the "-aans" of "Afrikaans" is related.
     
  42. avok

    avok Senior Member

    Look what I've found. (look at the word "adam")

    Homo: man, Humus:earth apparently says the Dictionary they are related. And also "Hebrew ādām:man ", "adāmah:earth"
     
  43. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Mensch is German (Yiddish is 90% German and spelled with aramaic letters. If you re-translitterate this into Latin letters in English you get mensh). It can be masculin meaning human beeing or neuter meaning woman. The word probably originated from an adjective derived from man. If you tried to reconstruct this in English you would get "manish".
     
  44. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Several people in this thread have implied that man or human are related to Semitic adam. Is there any basis for this idea?
     
  45. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Which implies, if I understand well, that 'man' and 'homo' ultimately go back to the same PIE root. Can you substantiate the claim that 'man' and 'homo' are cognates?
    But that's not the only problem: As written before, the widely accepted etymology for man involves the PIE root *man-, while Latin 'homo' goes back to a completely different PIE root. What's wrong with those etymologies?

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     
  46. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I don't think so. It is only an interesting parallel that the Hebrew word for human being (adam) is also related to earth (adamah).
     
  47. Erutuon Junior Member

    English, USA
    The actual cognate of Latin homō is Old English guma, from which we get bridegroom (brýd-guma).
     
  48. Hoomehr New Member

    Iran
    Persian
    I was searching the Web for root of the word "man", then I ended up my search in this forum and this thread.

    Could any one possibly give me a list of books which I can trust on and read them about etymology of the "man" ?

    cause in Persian there was a word with the exact same meaning and the same pronunciation as the word "man" but it's not being used anymore. in Persian it is written like "من".

    then I found that in middle Persian the word "من" (mæn) was "منش" (mæneʃ) which I think that might be like the word "mansch" in old German language.

    Thanks in advance if anyone could guide me :D
     
  49. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Welcome to this forum. Here everyone can say whatever they like, whether it is true or not. So you should be aware that a lot of what is written in this thread needs to be read with caution.

    Now to your question:

    Persian man “I, me” is not related to English “man”, but it is related to English “me” and similar forms of the 1st person singular pronoun in other Indo-European languages. There is no "mæneʃ" in Middle Persian; this is a mistake.

    English “man” is related to Sanskrit manuṣa- “man”, and to Avestan manuš-, the name of an ancient hero, from which is derived the name manuš.čiϑra- “of the seed of Manuš”, in New Persian Manūčihr (with –ušč- > -ūč-).
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2013
  50. Havfruen Senior Member

    USA
    English - American
    Danish here does make distinctions between male persons and persons in general:
    a man = en mand
    a woman = en kvinde
    one = man
    mankind = menneskeheden
    a person = et menneske
     

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