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'Schuld' (guilt, debt, ...)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I noticed that we use the word 'schuld' in several compositions, but that there is no equivalent in English containing one and the same 'root word'.

    (a) schulden - debts (de schulden van Griekenland, of Greece)

    (b) schuld, schuldig - guilt, guilty (hij voelt zich schuldig, he feels guilty - het is zijn schuld, he is to blame)

    (c) zich verontschuldigen - to apologize, lit. 'ex-cuse' oneself

    So: do you use the same root word in those contexts ? (Thanks)
  2. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Yes. It's the same in German:
    a) Schulden (f. pl.) - die Schulden Griechenlands
    b) Schuld (f.), schuldig (es ist seine Schuld)
    c) sich entschuldigen
  3. apmoy70 Senior Member

    Not in Greek, different roots. Debt is «χρέος» ('xreos, n.) from the ancient Greek «χρέος» ('xreŏs, n.-->duty). It is cognate with obligation in modern Greek. We say «έχεις χρέος» ('exis 'xreos), "you have debt" and we mean "you're obliged to". Or we say «είσαι υπόχρεος/υποχρεωμένος» ('ise i'poxreos/ipoxreo'menos), "you're under debt/debt-bound" and we mean "you're obliged/beholden".
    De schulden van Griekenland is «το χρέος της Ελλάδας» (to 'xreos tis E'laðas-the debt of Greece)

    [x] is a voiceless velar fricative, known as the hard ch
    [ð] is a voiced dental non-sibilant fricative
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  4. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    The parallel with German seems perfect indeed, whereas it is often not the case.

    Debt and obligation: interesting connection, but as far as I can see we don't have it (only: Hoeveel moet ik u ? [Lit. how much must I you (do I owe you)], but that is no longer considered standard Dutch).

    But how about (c), apologizing ? (Thanks)
  5. apmoy70 Senior Member

    To apologize-apologizing in Greek is «ζητώ συγγνώμη» (zi'to siŋ'ɣnomi: lit. "to ask for fellow feeling/forbearance"-->preposition συν-, sūn-, meaning "with, together with" + feminine noun γνώμη-'ɣnōmē, meaning "thought, opinion, intelligence), or «ζητώ συγχώρεση» (zi'to siŋ'xoresi: lit. "to ask to come together/meet"-->preposition συν-, sūn-, meaning "with, together with" + verb χωρέω/χωρῶ-xō'reō [uncontracted]/xō'rō [contracted], meaning "to fit in, get into").
    In Standard Greek, «απολογούμαι-apolo'ɣume» means "to speak in defence, defend oneself", the verb retains its ancient meaning.
    In Cypriot Greek however, apolo'ɣume means to apologize, probably after English influence.
    You're most welcome

    [ɣ] is a voiced velar fricative
    [x] is a voiceless velar fricative, known as the hard ch
    [ŋ] is a velar nasal
  6. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Oh yes, as in Socrates' famous Apologia. It is funny to these semantic evolutions (I liked 'apo-logize' and interpret it as 'talk away my guilt/ mistake/...', but that is some kind of popular etymology, I suppose...).
  7. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    In the meantime I thought of this: so far there seem to be three different roots involved :)
    - some obligation, as in debt/debet/ dette, as in xreos, duty, as in schuld (shall/ zullen/ sollen, which is close to the first: Thou shalt do that),
    - 'causa'/ cause (as in excuse)
    - maybe paying (guilt: origin is not clear, I am told)
  8. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF

    a) debt - долг /dolg/ (also means "duty").
    It is related with the next words:
    - "должен" /dolzhen/ (a short masculine form of adjective "должный"), which means "must", "should", "ought"; "owes" (money).
    - "должник" /dolzhnik/ (a debtor)
    - "должность" /dolzhnost'/ (a job, a post, a position, duties)
    - "должный" /dolzhnyi/ (due, proper - adj., formal)

    b) guilt - "вина" /vina/ (also "a fault"); legal "виновность" /vinovnost'/
    guilty - "виноватый" /vinovatyi/; legal "виновный" /vinovnyi/

    Related words:
    винить /vinit'/ - to blame, to accuse
    обвинять /obvinyat'/ - to accuse, to charge, to blame
    извинять /izvinyat'/ - to excuse, to pardon

    c) to apologize - "извиняться" /izvinyatsa/; literally "to out-accuse oneself", "to excuse oneself".
    Very close to German "sich entschuldigen", Dutch "zich verontschuldigen". A calque is possible, since the word is quite formal.
    P.S.: a more colloquial variant is "просить прощения" /prosit' proshcheniya/, literally - "to ask for forgiveness".
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Great! So you have the same root in b and c in Russian, don't you ? Or could you analyse vinyatsa further ? Vina is fault, guilt, but is the /y/ a denominative verb infix ?
  10. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    It is not an infix; it is rather a defect of transliteration, since Roman alphabet isn't good when one tries to represent somehow different palatalized consonants. :) Here it just means that "n" is palatalized (and, hence, the next /a/ phoneme automatically turns into the allophone [æ]).

    As for the change in suffixes, "-nit" turns into "-nyat'" here just naturally. In Russian, when you add a functional prefix to some elementary imperfective verb, it automatically becomes a perfective verb; to make it imperfective (keeping the new meaning), you should make some changes in the verbal suffixes.

    Actually, the most of Russian verbs have imperfective and perfective variants; I usually give only those of imperfective aspect (to make things simpler, and since all perfective verbs have imperfective analogues - but not vice versa).
    vinit' (elementary, imperfective only)
    obvinit' (perfective) -> obvinyat' (imperfective).
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  11. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see, I am sorry, it is due to my inexistent knowledge of Russian. Thanks !
  12. ampurdan

    ampurdan Modstachioed modnster

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    In Spanish:

    a) Debt is "deuda", akin to English "debt", from Latin "debitum, -i", which meant both "debt" and "obligation".

    A related word in Spanish is "deudo", which means "relative" (because these were thought to be the people one is "naturally" under obligation to, I guess). It's not a common word.

    El "débito conyugal", from Latin "debitum coniugale" is, according to Canon Law (the Roman Catholic Church Law): a mutual sexual obligation between husband and wife.

    b) Guilt is "culpa", from Latin "culpa, -ae", which meant "fault".

    Culpa and debt are unrelated.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  13. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I'll use Ampurdan's post to provide Portuguese:

    a) Debt is "dívida", akin to English "debt", from Latin "debitum, -i", which meant both "debt" and "obligation".

    The "débito conjugal", from Latin "debitum coniugale" according to Canon Law (the Roman Catholic Church Law): a mutual sexual obligation between husband and wife.

    b) Guilt is "culpa", from Latin "culpa, -ae", which meant "fault".

    Culpa and debt are unrelated.

    It should be debitum conjugale or coniugale, by the way. Is adjectives have e in the neuter.
  14. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Great. I should have known: culpa is another root for guilt, indeed. Are you quite sure the word guilt is related with it? (From /p/ to /t/ ?)

    Deudo and divida then. I would have thought divida had to do with to divide, but you will certainly be right.

    (I am looking forward to some Scandinavian, Finnish, Hungarian, Central or Eastern European and other contributions now)
  15. ampurdan

    ampurdan Modstachioed modnster

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    I don't know. I only meant to say that "culpa" means "guilt". I did not want to imply that they are etymologically related.

    Deudo: relative.

    Deuda: debt.
  16. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see, sorry !
  17. szivike

    szivike Junior Member

    It's not the same in Hungarian. You would use:

    (a) adósság - root word adó, meaning taxes

    (b) hiba, hibás - guilt, guilty. Root word is fault, lit. "to be at fault"

    (c) bocsánat or elnézést - apology. Elnézést literally would be asking someone to look the other way, to not notice the mistake.

    In Romanian it goes like this:

    (a) datorie - debt

    (b) vină, vinovat - guilt, guilty

    (c) scuze, scuză-mă - apology, this comes from "ex-cuse" I think.
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Quite interesting, Szivike. Let me ask some extra questions:
    - adó: could it be literally 'charges' (things that way on you: belastingen with us, are like 'lasten', you have to carry them, or even bear them)
    - hiba: how heavy do these faults weigh ? Do they have a moral connotation ? In what other contexts could you use the word?
    - bocsánat (forgive me for not adding the accents): does it have a meaning (elnézést - reminds me of apo-logize (talking away)
    - vino...: could that be of Slavic origin ?
  19. szivike

    szivike Junior Member

    Adó, adósság - I guess that could be interpreted as "charges" too. It's used with "to have" - Adósságom van, meaning you have a debt towards someone.

    Hiba, hibás - It has a moral connotation as well in certain contexts, but a stronger word would be "bűnös" as in sinful.
    Hiba can be used to refer to a faulty machine or equipment as well, example: Ez az óra hibás. - This clock is faulty/broken/not working.
    If you say "Ő volt a hibás!" you mean "He did it, he was the guilty one!"

    Bocsánat - I can't think of a meaning similar to one elnézést has. However I can tell you that you have to ask for it and when someone forgives you they grant it to you. "Bocsánatot kérni" - To ask for forgiveness / pardon. "Megbocsájtani" - To forgive.

    Vină, vinovat - I couldn't tell you the origins but since it resembles an example above, I'd say you're right.
  20. sakvaka

    sakvaka Moderoitsija

    In Finnish:

    Let's start with the word syy. It has three paraller meanings: 1) cause 2) reason 3) fault, blame

    1. Syy ja seuraus = cause and effect
    2. Mikä on syy käytökseesi? = What's the reason/motive to your behaviour?
    3. Se on minun syytäni. = It's my fault.

    When we derive the word with the suffixes -llinen and -UUs, we get the words syyllinen (schuldig) and syyllisyys (schuld). You can sense all the base meanings in them, more or less.

    Schuld, -en is translated with another word: velka. However, I can't detect any familiar words in it.

    Zich verontschuldigen is, on the other hand, simply pyytää anteeksi -- to ask for an apology. No clear stems.

    In Swedish:

    - schuld, -en = skuld
    - schuld(ig) = skuld, skyldig
    - zich verontschuldigen = (something else since they don't use the word skuld)

    Note too: Han tog på sig skulden för det. He took the blame on himself for it.

    Here skuld is used as a paraller of the Finnish syy, 3rd meaning. Hän otti syyt niskoilleen siitä. I notice some similarities with your third Dutch example, ThomasK. Does your phrase contain the idea of taking the blame or accusing oneself? That may be one missing ring...
  21. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Great, this syy word, it seems to me.

    My expression does not so much imply taking the blame, although implicitly anyone who uses the phrase and thus apologizes, implicitly takes the blame indeed... But this seems tricky to me! (Thanks !)
  22. bibax Senior Member


    a) debt - debitum (also creditum);

    b) guilt - culpa; vitium (fault); peccatum (sin);

    c) to apologize - (se) excusare (from ex + causa): habe me excusatum! (excuse me!);
    to forgive - dimittere, remittere, ignoscere, condonare (pardon is from per-donare);
  23. bibax Senior Member


    a) debt - dluh

    b) guilt - vina; provinění; hřích (= sin);

    c) to apologize - omluvit/omlouvat (se); mluvit means to speak;
    to forgive - odpustit/odpouštět; pustit means to release, to dissmiss, ...;
  24. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    "Hiba" has a cognate in Czech: chyba means mistake, as for all I know Translate.google.com gives the following meanings:
    However, chyba in Polish, although written exactly in the same way and pronounced almost alike, has a completely different meaning.

    By the way, it would be quite interesting to see what slavisms there are in Hungarian: a very interesting topic, even more than slavisms in Romanian.

    vină, vinovat: definitely Slavic origin. The last word is the predicative adjective form in Russian and, I suppose, also in Ucrainian and in the West Slavic languages (when there still was something like that - as for all I know, in Czech it was quite old-fashioned already in the beginning of the 20th century). Suppose it goes the same way in Bulgarian.
  25. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    ~20% of vocabulary (mostly nouns), according to Wikipedia. No wonder, taking into account the assimilation of large Slavic-speaking population in Pannonia by ancient Hungarians.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  26. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    (Why don't you start a thread about that? Maybe not here though. ) But what I find most interesting is this 'semantic evolution': one concept (probably) developing into different meanings, sometimes almost opposite... Like here: we are referring to different concept, but are using the same and different terms... Just amazing.

    I wondered: do you see any links between lots of these Slavic words and others via Indo-European 'roots' (not the correct word, but OK) ?
  27. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    Only not in Hungarian, since it is not an Indo-European language. )
    The words sharing the same root as "vina" may exist in other IE languages, but even if it is so, the meaning should be totally different. For instance, another word of the same origin in Russian (!) is "война" (voyna)... "a war".
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  28. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    In BCMS: dug (debt, dugovi debts), zaduženje, dugovanje, all from Common Slavic root *dъlgъ supposedly borrowed from Gothic dulgs

    In BCMS: guilty - kriv (also means "crooked" as in "not straight"). But from Common Slavic vina there is nevin "innocent", nevinost "innocence", vinovnik "perpetrator" (seemingly a Russian borrowing), a legal term vinost "guilt" (as in "degree of guilt" - stepen vinosti) used along with krivnja / krivica. But also nedužan "innocent" with the same root as (a)

    "He is to blame" - Krivnja / krivica je njegova. (lit. "The guilt is his")

    In BCMS: Izviniti se (out-guilt oneself), also seemingly borrowing from Russian izvinít'sja; in Croatian also ispričati se (out-talk oneself)
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  29. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Cantonese (Hong Kong)
    Hi Thomas, I think Nietzsche says something about this in his Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887):
  30. Orlin Senior Member

    (a) debt=дълг;
    (b) guilt=вина, guilty=виновен;
    (c) to apologize=извинявам се/ (да) се извиня (imperf./ perf. aspect).
  31. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    Could it be a calque from Russian "извиняться / извиниться", or this expression is of purely Bulgarian origin?
  32. Orlin Senior Member

    I'm not sure but doubt that it is of purely Bulgarian origin and suppose that this word in Bulgarian and BCMS languages is a calque from Russian.
  33. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    So looks like it is already a double German-Russian-Bulgarian calque. :) That's quite interesting. Such a long way may be typical for loanwords, but I at least don't know another examples of such calques.
  34. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Nietzsche: this is really Wor(L)dreference at its best, so it seems to me, when a young Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong citizen refers a somewhat older Belgian (aaaarrrrrhhhh) to Nietzsche in German and his philosophy ! I love it !

    But I am not so sure Mr Nietzsche ;-) is right. I mean: Schulden refers to shall (and should), so I have read, and so I think that refers to essentially human relations, where one person trusts (credit) another person and therefore expects things from him/ her, which in some respects can be considered a debt, an obligation 'imposed', no, required by (the very human need for) bonding...
  35. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    A cognate of guilt does exist in German, connected with the idea of making amends: from the verb gelten/ es gilt (to be valid), we get entgelten,(to recompense /reward/ to pay someone for something)), gelten itself in Middle High German amd geltan in Old High German having formerly had the meaning of to compensate, to indemnify. These words are in the same family as German das Geld (money), and another cognate,ontgelden in Dutch, also means to have to pay for something.

    The American version of the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" also refers to offences and atonement, the word trespasses being used instead in England.
  36. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I remember: those are translations of 'debitum'/ 'debita' in Latin... I can't seem to find whether it refers to money or to offences in Latin... But how about this difference of 'translation' (debts vs. trespasses) to you as a native speaker? They seem quite different to me. Not to you ?

    Guilt/ gelten/ gelden: great link, and all three seem to refer to PIE *ghel-to- "I pay", if we can believe etymonline.org...
  37. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    @ Thomask
    The way I see it is that you owe a debt to God if you have sinned, and when you trespass (transgress/ cross the line), that also requires compensation, or contrition with a possible penance, in order to obtain absolution/forgiveness. In the version of The English Language LiturgicaL Consultation, whose work has greatly influenced new English translations of the Bible apart from the Lord's Prayer, the words our sins and those who sin against us are used.
    French uses offense and ont offensés, and Greek a word that looks very similar: οφειληματα. Lord knows what the Hebrew or Aramaic was which presumably pre-dates everything else.
    Some biblical translations do indeed seem to differ wildly, for instance charity, which we were told was once a sine qua non for a virtuous life, has now become simply love.
  38. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That seems plausible, indeed, and it would be interesting to hear what other languages use in this context, if there is anything else than debt or trespass.

    (It shows a particular image of God as well, but that is again besides the question here. Your reference to love also reminds me of the fact that 16 different blblical words in the Bible have all been replaced by sin, simply - but that is another thread)
  39. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    it would be interesting to hear what other languages use in this context Thomask
    That would, indeed, be a topic for another thread. But you may satisfy your curiosity by consulting the articles in various languages on the Lord's Prayer/Pater Noster in Wikipedia. Because of its familiarity this prayer is often used as a language sample in descriptions of languages too. I recall having seen even the Pennsylvanian Dutch version, which is, of course, a kind of German. As for the word sin replacing 16 other words, in Polynesia, the natives, who had no word for things like prison, guilt, or sin etc.- though they did have taboo - did not know they were sinning till the missionaries told them so, which somewhat spoilt their lives of innocent dolce far niente. (I have just been reading Melville's "Typee").
  40. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I guess it is indeed a whole 'world of ideas' that causes the feeling of guilt. But did those cultures not know (some) fear with regard to their gods - and would never have felt guilty. Yet, don't the idea of sacrifice and 'penitence' suggest some kind of link (paying [back]) between fear and guilt? This is not a separate thread, I think !

    Do we have a semantic forum around here or do I have to move to the Café for that ? (No, to the University ;-))
  41. indiegrl Junior Member

    Romanian & Russian
    Knowing Russian helps a lot detecting the Slavisms in Romanian.
    As for vinovat,vina ,the Romanian Academic Dictionary states it entered directly from Old Church Slavonic , from the word vinovatŭ.
  42. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I just happened to discover that Nietzsche pointed out this similarity in German ('Schuld/en'):

    Not sure if it is correct, but ...
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
  43. mataripis Senior Member

    Not in Tagalog. 1.) Debt= Utang 2.) Guilt= kaba(h) 3.) Excuse= paumanhin/pasintabi' but if i want words that sounds related. We have 1.) Hiram (debt) 2.) Guilt ( alam ) in direct (alam= know/aware) 3.) paalam= saying good bye as an excuse.
  44. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Could 'hiram' be related to 'haram' ? I don't see what you mean by the excuse (trying to escape from certain obligations ?).
  45. mataripis Senior Member

    Hiram means "borrow" and there is a time to replace or return it in specific time or date. I am not familiar with haram (Bahasa or arab?)
    . In this case , excuse is to escape usually expressed as " may kausap ako, i have to go ( i have appointment , palabas ako). This is not the usual case to express the three words in Tagalog but they exist too not too frequent in everyday grammars/conversations.
  46. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    'Hiram' reminded me of 'haram', forbidden...
  47. mataripis Senior Member

    I see. There is a Tagalog word "HARANG" that has the meanings 1.) An object that serve as blockage. 2.) A sign that prohibit anyone to come closer or to pass through 3.) as a verb "Humaharang" or Harangan = not allowing/not allowed.

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