All Slavic languages: šváb (cockroach) - Swabian

Orreaga

Senior Member
USA; English
Dobrý den!

I wonder if anyone knows the origin of the word šváb in Czech (cockroach), does it have cognates in other Slavic languages? Does it refer to Swabians? In some languages the word cockroach is used as an insult to refer to certain nationalities or ethnic groups, but it is usually slang and not considered standard.

Děkuji.
 
  • Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Dobrý den!

    I wonder if anyone knows the origin of the word šváb in Czech (cockroach), does it have cognates in other Slavic languages? Does it refer to Swabians? In some languages the word cockroach is used as an insult to refer to certain nationalities or ethnic groups, but it is usually slang and not considered standard.

    Děkuji.
    Hi,

    In Polish we have the word Szwab, which is a pejorative way of referring to a German person. I don't know whether it is a cognate to Czech šváb and to the best of my knowledge it doesn't mean cockroach in my mother tongue.

    For what it's worth, this is what my dictionary gives in its entry:


    Szwab
    m
    1. (Npl Szwaby)


    pot., pejor. (Niemiec) Kraut pot., pejor.; Boche pot. przest., Jerry GB pot., przest.
    2. (Npl Szwabi a. Szwabowie) (mieszkaniec Szwabii) Swabian


    (PWN)

    I have expected it is also used as a name for a person from Swabia, bu I have never come across it in this context.

    Tom


     

    cajzl

    Senior Member
    Czech
    The word šváb (Šváb with upper case Š means an inhabitant of Swabia) came from German:

    cockroach = die Schabe, der Schwabe
    Swabia = Schwaben
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    The word šváb (Šváb with upper case Š means an inhabitant of Swabia) came from German:

    cockroach = die Schabe, der Schwabe
    Swabia = Schwaben
    "Der Schwab" in the meaning of "cockroach" still is known and used in Austrian dialects (that is, German language); in former times this use was more widespread and obviously that's the origin of the Czech word.
    As for etymology, yes, this is derived from the people of Svabia, the "Schwaben", and there are other ethnic names for the same insect - in Austria, "Russ" = Russian, and according to Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch similaryl in Russian "prusák" (Preuße - Prussian) and polish "francuz" (French) plus "prusak" (Prussian) for the same meaning.
    Kluge offers no explanation for cockroaches being named after nations.
     

    cajzl

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Kluge offers no explanation for cockroaches being named after nations.
    The cockroaches are obviously not named after nations but after their soldiers who were numerous and vexatious like an insect.
     

    Orreaga

    Senior Member
    USA; English
    Thanks to you all for the rapid reply, I got more than I bargained for. Sokol, the words you supplied from other languages, are they "dictionary-definition" words for cockroach, or considered slang?

    Always wanted to combine entomology with etymology. :rolleyes:
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    ...similaryl in Russian "prusák" (Preuße - Prussian)
    In Russian, while tarakan is considered the generic term for cockroach, прусак (prusak) is indeed a widely used word for those large orange beasts that live in your kitchen and resist any type extermination.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    [...] polish "francuz" (French) plus "prusak" (Prussian) for the same meaning.
    Kluge offers no explanation for cockroaches being named after nations.
    Thanks to you all for the rapid reply, I got more than I bargained for. Sokol, the words you supplied from other languages, are they "dictionary-definition" words for cockroach, or considered slang?
    [...]
    Prusak is a generic word you can hear everywhere, I wouldn't be surprised if it came up in an article too. Prusak has also one more meaning--a haughty German, I didn't know it.
    Francuz I have never heard this word in this meaning too--I have looked it up in a dictionary and it is listed there as a name for a cockroach, it isn't labelled at all.
    Another word for a cockroach is karaluch, the most common I would say (prusak is almost similar in this regard).

    Tom
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Thanks to you all for the rapid reply, I got more than I bargained for. Sokol, the words you supplied from other languages, are they "dictionary-definition" words for cockroach, or considered slang?
    I can speak only for the German ones: "Russ" and "Schwab" both are non-standard and usually not listed in dictionaries.
    At Thomas1: your Polish meaning 'Prusak = haughty German' also works in German although it's mostly used in Bavaria and differs slightly in meaning (it means 'haughty German from the north', or if you like 'Non-Bavarian considering himself superior to the Bavarians').
     

    Orreaga

    Senior Member
    USA; English
    Thanks again to all...

    Just to clarify, that šváb is the official dictionary term for cockroach in Czech, not slang.
     

    dudasd

    Senior Member
    Serbo-Croatian
    In Serbian, bubašvaba (buba = bug) is the "official" word and it means the black cockroach. The dictionary also gives word bubarusa for those orange cockroaches (I guess it has nothing with Russians, "rusa" is just the old word for yellowish-reddish colour). The general word for cockroaches is žohar (rarely used in Serbia, it's much more common in Croatia), but I couldn't find its etimology. But while searching about these ugly bugs in my Zoo encyclopaedia, I found that the Latin name of bubarusa (the yellow one) is Blatta germanica and that bubašvaba is Blatta orientalis. Blatta germanica sounds interesting enough, I think.
     

    Irbis

    Senior Member
    Slovenian, Slovenia
    In Slovenian the name for family Blattidae (cockroach) is "ščurek", "Blattela germanica" is "švab" and "Blatta orientalis" (common cockroach) is "kuhinjski ščurek".
     

    krok

    New Member
    Czechia, Czech language
    In Czech language, there is a difference between "šváb" and "rus", too. Blattella germanica is "rus domácí" ("the domestic russian"), while Blatta orientalis is "šváb obecný" ("the common cockroach") too. Most people won't bother to differentiate between them, though, so "šváb" is commonly used for both.
     

    slavian1

    Member
    Poland, Polish
    In Slovenian the name for family Blattidae (cockroach) is "šèurek", "Blattela germanica" is "švab" and "Blatta orientalis" (common cockroach) is "kuhinjski šèurek".
    Interesting, in Polish also exists the word "szczurek" but has completely different meaning - it's a little rat (a diminutive form of szczur). So we have another false friend.
     

    Orreaga

    Senior Member
    USA; English
    In Slovenian the name for family Blattidae (cockroach) is "ščurek", "Blattela germanica" is "švab" and "Blatta orientalis" (common cockroach) is "kuhinjski ščurek".
    OK, I started this thread and it's starting to disgust me :eek: but now you bring up something I didn't make a connection with before, which is that where I live we do distinguish different varieties based partly on Latin names, the most common being Oriental ("water bug"), American ("palmetto"), and German. I wonder if šváb used for this insect really did originate as an ethnic slur (from certain Austrian dialects) or if the origin is from the Latin nomenclature? According to Wikipedia, Linnaeus named the species blattella germanica in 1767.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I don't see there being a direct connection between blatta germanica and šváb (and the subject is increasingly disgusting me too - but I just can't bring myself to unsubscribe :).

    The only languages which refer to Germans using the name of the Swabians (as far as I know) are South Slavic (especially Serbian) and French (here using Alemannians as denoting term) and the latter is not even derived
    from 'Swabians'.
    (And to my knowledge we do not differentiate in the least between "Schwab" and "Russ" - both, I think, have the same meaning; but then I have to admit that cockroaches are not exactly a preferred topic of small talk, so I just might be wrong here.)

    (By the way, I think that probably Bavarians too use "Schwab" for cockroach, could be other dialects of Germany too - I don't think the word is restricted to Austria only; I'm only quite sure that the Swabians themselves don't use it - I've once met a Swabian who objected against use of "Schwab" for cockroach: which tells us that at least some Swabians know of this use and meaning. It's only natural that they themselves prefer other terms. :D)
     

    Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    In Russian, while tarakan is considered the generic term for cockroach, прусак (prusak) is indeed a widely used word for those large orange beasts that live in your kitchen and resist any type extermination.
    Unlike Czech šváb Russian prusak (прусак) means black cockroach (black beetle, Periplaneta/Blatta orientalis), not red.
     

    Blacklack

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Unlike Czech šváb Russian prusak (прусак) means black cockroach (black beetle, Periplaneta/Blatta orientalis), not red.
    Is it so? We in Kharkov always call the black one 'tarakan' (таракан) and the red one 'prusak' (прусак). The latter can be also referred to as 'tarakan' since this term seems more generic but not the other way around.

    Btw, somebody here explains these 'ethnic' names having been given to cockroaches as a result of military invasions. I don't think it's true. As far as I know German troops didn't set foot on Russian soil from XVth century (after Livonian knights ceased to do so) till XXth (when it was German army already, not Prussian). Of course there were German mercenaries in Russia in that period.
    It seems that this practice of cockroach-naming is quite common. Italian cities of Florence and Siena had a long history of hostilities and I've read in a book once that the Florentines called their cockroaches 'Sienese' and the Sienese called theirs 'Florentines'.
     
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