amber

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desi4life

Senior Member
English
According to Wiktionary, the word amber is ultimately derived from Middle Persian. Is that correct? What is the etymology of the Middle Persian word?

Thanks
 
  • fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    That is what most linguists say. However, apparently also a Germanic etymology is possible (prefix 'an' + ber= burn, see also German Bern-stein).
    Etimologia : ambra;
    The problem with this suggestion is that ambra, ambre, amber is (at least originally) ambergris (a whale product), like Arabic 'anbar, and that this name was only secondarily transferred to Bernstein (a product of tree resin).
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    It is pretty much generally accepted that French ambre, Mediaeval Latin ambra etc. were borrowed from Arabic ʻanbar, meaning “ambergris”. It is also likely that the Arabic word derives from Middle Persian ambar, with, in Arabic, a “parasitic” ʻayn as in some other loan words (e.g. ʻaskar from Latin exercitus). To my knowledge the MP ambar occurs only in one passage in the Bundahišn, where it unambiguously means “ambergris”, not “amber/Bernstein”. The Bundahišn was redacted in the Islamic period, so it is not impossible that ambar is a borrowing from Arabic, rather than the other way around. However, ambar occurs also in Syriac (again, it seems, only once); if Syriac had borrowed the word from Arabic one would expect it to have retained the Semitic ʻayn. Thus, it can be argued that Syriac ambar supports the authenticity of MP ambar.

    The main difficulty, however, is that there does not seem to be any plausible etymology for these words either in Semitic or Iranian. So maybe it is substrate word in both families.
     
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    CyrusSH

    Banned
    Persian - Iran
    I think the second part bar means "fragrant" and it has the same origin of the word fragrant, there is the Iranian-origin word boyr in the Old Armenian language and boy in Persian.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    There's NP انگم/angom for amber which forms on fruit trees.

    Maybe unrelated, but there's انگبین/angabin, honey and انگور/angur, grape, I wonder if the initial ang-, has the same meaning
     
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    CyrusSH

    Banned
    Persian - Iran
    As I found amber was also among goods which were brought down from north Europe to Persia through Volga-Caspian trade way, so a Germanic origin is also possible about this word.
     

    Treaty

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Trade itself is not a sufficient reason for assuming a borrowing. Vikings exported amber not ambergris, while Persian and Arabic 'anbar means the latter. Chronologically, the attestation the word is northward: first Arabic, then Romance, then Germanic.
     

    Treaty

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Please correct me if I'm wrong. Trade itself is not a reason for but a means of borrowing. The reasons are usually like a lack of the (precise) concept of the traded item, and the prestige or prowess of the seller, etc. I don't think any of them fits in the context of amber (with either meanings) regarding Vikings vs Middle Easterns.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The reasons are usually like a lack of the (precise) concept of the traded item, and the prestige or prowess of the seller, etc.
    OK. I got you wrong. I thought you said, trade is not a route for loan words at all. But if the Arabic word had meant amber rather than ambergris then there would have been a reason. Amber comes mainly from the Baltic Sea shore.
     
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    CyrusSH

    Banned
    Persian - Iran
    Trade itself is not a sufficient reason for assuming a borrowing. Vikings exported amber not ambergris, while Persian and Arabic 'anbar means the latter. Chronologically, the attestation the word is northward: first Arabic, then Romance, then Germanic.
    In Bundahishn, ambar is said to be the dung of the legendary three-legged ass, it seems to be clear that medieval Persians didn't know what it is, so the original one could be amber, not ambergris.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In Bundahishn, ambar is said to be the dung of the legendary three-legged ass, it seems to be clear that medieval Persians didn't know what it is, so the original one could be amber, not ambergris.
    The use of ambre in the sense of ambre jaune developed 13th century French. That is much too late and confined to European languages.

    Germanic languages don't use the word amber. The words they use is either from the verbal root of rub (Danish rav) or they call amber "burning stone" (Brennstein, Bernstein, bärnsten, from Low German) or in older High German from agat- (agate). Only English uses amber but that is clearly a French loan (around 1400).
     
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    Treaty

    Senior Member
    Persian
    No one knew what it exactly is until modern times. In Mediaval tiems, they only knew it was probably from a kind of (mythical) sea creature, like the one in Bundahishn.
     

    CyrusSH

    Banned
    Persian - Iran
    The use of ambre in the sense of ambre jaune developed 13th century French. That is much too late and confined to European languages.

    Germanic languages don't use the word amber. The words they use is either from the verbal root of rub (Danish rav) or they call amber "burning stone" (Brennstein, Bernstein, bärnsten, from Low German) or in older High German from agat- (agate). Only English uses amber but that is clearly a French loan (around 1400).
    What do you know about the name of Ambrones? It seems in the ancient time, they were famous for amber gathering.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Just to underline this: Persian distinguishes very clearly between ambergris (MP ambar; NP, Arabic ʻanbar) and amber/Bernstein (MP kahrubāy > Arabic kahrabāʼ; the Greek ἤλεκτρον).
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It seems in the ancient time, they were famous for amber gathering.
    They were famous for their battles when they invaded the Roman empire. They disappeared from history are quickly as they came (the tribe was eradicated in battle).
     
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    CyrusSH

    Banned
    Persian - Iran
    They were famous for their battles when they invaded the Roman empire. They disappeared from history are quickly as they came (the tribe was eradicated in battle).
    But Geoffrey of Monmouth also talks about them in 12th century, in fact he calls the Saxons Ambrones.
     
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