Air & oxygen


Powietrze i tlen = air & oxygen

Inherited from Old Polish powietrze, from Proto-Slavic *povětrьje. Cognate with Belarusian паве́тра (pavjétra), Czech povětří, Lower Sorbian pówětš, Russian пове́трие (povétrije), Ukrainian пові́тря (povítrja) and Upper Sorbian powětr. By surface analysis, po- +‎ wiatr (“wind”) +‎ -e.

This is a very old word, recorded as early as the second half of the 14th century, but certainly much, much older, used in the Proto-Slavic period and derived directly from the prepositional phrase po wietrze (in Proto-Slavic: *povětrьje < *po větru). At first people used to say powietrze (air) for an open, uncovered place, i.e. a place where the wind was blowing.
Later, powietrze came to mean weather: so there was good air and bad air - just as today there is nice weather (pogoda) and ugly weather. From this meaning, another meaning arose: powietrze (air) as sky - hail or stormy air - as today there is hail or stormy sky.

tlen = oxygen

Coined by Polish physician Jan Oczapowski from tleć, tlić się (“to smoulder”) +‎ -en. Displaced earlier kwasoród.
  • Very interesting story. I just wondered: does the word happen to be used to refer to the Holy Ghost in Old Slavic? Roeach is spirit, ghost, but also wind, breath, in the very same way that anima refers to breath, etc.