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Gray/grey, gra/eyish...

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Apr 28, 2013.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    How do you translate 'grey' in your language, this mixture of black and white? Does it also refer to a lack of vitality, lack of youth, etc. ?

    - grijs (just grey)
    - grauw (grey and unpleasant - grauwe armoede, grey poverty)
  2. apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi TK,

    Grey (noun, name of colour): «Γκρι» [gri] (neut.) < Fr. gris.
    Grey (adj.): «Γκρίζος, -α, -ο» ['grizos] (masc.), ['griza] (fem.), ['grizo] (neut.) < It. grigio.
    Greyish: «Γκριζωπός, -πή, -πό» [grizo'pos] (masc.), [grizo'pi] (fem.), [grizo'po] (neut.): hybrid word, Fr. gris + productive suffix for forming adj. in both ancient & modern Gr. denoting attribute «-ωπός» -ōpós (PIE *okʷ-, to see)

    Ancient Greeks used different names for the various shades of grey, i.e.
    «Μύϊον» múiŏn (neut.) --> mouse grey < masc. noun «μῦς» mûs --> mouse (PIE *mūs-, mouse).
    «Τεφρόν» tĕpʰrón (neut.) --> ash grey < fem. noun «τέφρα» tépʰră --> ash (PIE *dʰegʷʰ-, to burn).
    «Μολυβδοῦν» mŏlubdoûn (neut.) --> lead grey < masc. noun «μόλυβδος» mólubdŏs --> lead (with obscure etymology prossibly an Anatolian loan)
    «Ὀνάγρινον» ŏnắgrinŏn (neut.) --> ass grey < masc. noun «ὄναγρος» ónagrŏs --> wild donkey (equus onager); compound, masc. noun «ὄνος» ónŏs --> donkey, ass (with obscure etymology, probably a Pre-Greek word) + masc. adj. «ἄγριος» ắgriŏs --> wild < PIE *h₂eǵ-ro-, field,
    In general, grey refers to dullness, dimness, sluggishness, neutrality, lack of vitality & energy
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Quite surprised that the adjective seems based on the noun though. We do not really have a noun for colour (just determiner plus adj., I think: het rood).

    The association with dullness, lack of vitality, might be fairly general. Let's have a look whether it has some such meaning in non-Indo European languages...
  4. apmoy70 Senior Member

    Modern Greek has many stranded adjectives turned into nouns i.e. adjectives that have in time replaced the noun they modify, and are considered in the modern language as nouns, e.g:
    «νερό» [ne'ro] (neut.) --> water < «ὕδωρ νεαρόν» --> fresh water.
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    How interesting... I cannot think of such an example in Dutch right now, but it is not impossible there is something like that in Dutch as well...
  6. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic:

    ash = رماد /ramād/
    grey/greyish = ashy = رمادي /ramādi/. It can also be used to mean "intermediate" , "unclear" , "neutral".

    We don't use it to refer to lack of vitality/youth.
  7. arielipi Senior Member

    grey (color) - אפור afor.
    greyish - אפרורי afruri - something that is not special,boring.
    greyish (grey like color) - אפרפר afarfar.
    ash - אפר efer
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    So in both meaning the name of the colour refers to ash, does it? The origin of grey/ grijs in Dutch does not seem clear though...
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  9. arielipi Senior Member

    I cant tell, since ash is grey, which came first
  10. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, we do say asgrijs, from time to time, as opposed to muisgrijs (mouse), but the basic word is grey/ gray. Can you then say 'afor hair'? Or something like a grijsaard, a grey-haired person, i.e., an elderly person, even very old?
  11. arielipi Senior Member

    Yes indeed.
    שיער אפור se'ar afor (colloquial). correct speech - sey'ar afor.
  12. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    In Russian the color is серый /seryi/; I believe some Slavic languages have cognates. We do not use серый for “grey haired” though, we have a separate word седой /sedoy/, which is not a cognate.

    Cерый can indicate lack of intelligence, talent and/or personality when talking about a person, or lack of brightness when talking about weather/day.
    Cедой is associated with age/ageing, but in rather positive sense (experience, wisdom...)
  13. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see... So the colour is a word "in its own right", isn't it? It does not refer to ashes, does it?
  14. Ёж! Senior Member

    Apart from those cited by Rusita, it refers to lack of life and differences as well.
  15. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Portuguese the general word for grey is cinzento, an adjective formed from cinza, ash.

    This word is mostly associated with dreariness (um dia cinzento, a gloomy day) or with shade (céu cinzento, overcast sky).

    It is not directly associated with old age. Grey hairs are either called "white" (cabelos brancos), or described by the specific phrase cabelos grisalhos. Although grisalho derives from gris, which is another word for grey, this one is uncommon nowadays, and I dare say the connection between gris and grisalho has been lost to most people.

    I can't think of a direct connection with poverty, either.

    For "greyish" there's also the participle acinzentado, a + cinzento + ado.
  16. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)

    No, серый and седой are not related to “ash”, but we also have пепельный /pepelnyi/ (ashen – from пепел (ash)). I can’t think of any meaning of пепельный other than simply a shade of gray (light gray / salt and pepper).
  17. arielipi Senior Member

    Also in hebrew:
    מאפר me'afer is the action of tipping a cigarette to make the ashes fall.
    מאפרה ma'afera is the thing your supposed to put in the ashes of a cigarette.
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    As for the association with poverty, Sr Outsider, I think this 'dreariness' might be the link. But I suppose it is not associated with poverty in Portuguese...
  19. francisgranada Senior Member


    szürke (of Finno-Ugric origin)

    In a figurative sense, someone who is average, not extraordinary, nor very interesting etc ... (but not "lack of vitality or youth").
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    So you can refer to hair and to persons, not to poverty, so I gather.
  21. mataripis Senior Member

    The Tagalog word for Gray is "Abuhin" from Abo (ash color).
  22. francisgranada Senior Member

    Also to the life, in the same sense of average, not very interesting. To hair yes, but for the color of old(er) people's hair there is another word: ősz.
  23. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The dreariness, or shabbiness, could certainly be associated with poverty, though it's not an association that immediately springs to my mind.

    The sense of "average", which other posters pointed out, would also be possible, though not entirely obvious, in Portuguese.
  24. ancalimon Senior Member

    Turkish: boz & kır (we also use the more general-universal "gri" when talking about the colour itself )

    From Proto-Turkic: *boŕ

    "boz" (bor~phor among Ogurs) is related with courage and earth and wolf.. It's also related with North and ice.

    "kır" is related with the steppe and to get hoar (kırağı), to get a little whiter, greyish.
    Last edited: May 2, 2013

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