Aurora Borealis - Bora (etymology)

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by ancalimon, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. ancalimon Senior Member

    I have been trying to find out whether there is a link between these two words.

    In Turkic dialects, Bora means "Northern Wind" ~ "Northern snowy whirlwind". Might or might not be related with the verb "bur" meaning "to twist, wind round"

    What is the etymology of "Aurora Borialis"?
    Is the "Borialis" part related with the Turkic word Bora (Bora is also a common given name. It's a common practice to give babies names of nature)
    Is there any possibility that the name Aurora is related with the Turkic root "*or-" meaning "shine". Or maybe *jar- meaning "shine, dawn, light"

    Then again, there is the word "Bura" I talked about earlier meaning "the spirit horse that takes a holy person to Northern Star" so it could also be related with the direction itself. I'm not sure.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012
  2. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    No, the borealis in the name of the natural phenomenon comes from the Greek «Βορέας/Βοῤῥᾶς» bŏ'rĕās [uncontracted]/bŏr'rhās [contracted], Homeric «Βορέης/Βορῆς» bŏ'rĕēs [uncontracted]/bŏ'rēs [contracted] --> the North, north wind from PIE *gʷer-/*gʷerh₃-, mountain, hill (cf. proto-Slavic *gora, Lith. gire, Skt. गिरि (gi'ri), Lat. Boreas > It. bora).
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Can you give a reference for this? I have not found it in a dictionary.
  4. Phosphorus Senior Member

    Apparently in the given link,, and under the Turkic group it cites Turkish "bora(k)" in that sense.

    But any connection between the Greek word and, according to the above link, a Proto-Altaic "poru*" sounds far-fetched. Perhaps specially when it is heeded that the Greek word, as well as its development, appears long before any recorded touches between Turks and Greeks.
  5. Phosphorus Senior Member

    Here it cites another variant, "boran" ( Seemingly the Turkic etymology is itself disputed, regarding an assumable Iranian influence (note: Persian "baran").
  6. sotos Senior Member

    Certainly a loan from Greek or accidentally similar. The "bora" wind from the Alps is also mentioned by latin authors.
    In order to avoid many questions on turkic words sounding like greek, may I remind you that many "turkic" words actually come from persian or arabic, i.e. from a world that was either IE-speaking or anyway in touch with the greek language from hellenistic time till at least 8th c. AD, that is almost 1000 years. Add the turkification of the greek-speakers or christians of Anatolia and you can explain many such cases.
  7. ancalimon Senior Member

    Are you sure that it's not borrowed from the Trusc? Alp is probably an Etruscan word itself.

    Also the Greeks probably did not influence for example the Kazakh Turks or Mongolians like they influenced the Anatolian Turks.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  8. Phosphorus Senior Member

    But we are not certain at all if the Greek word is ever borrowed. That is its Indo-European etymology is not disputed, at least up to the present time.

    I agree too. Although the bulk of the Turkish speakers in today Central and Western Turkey are for sure of a thick Greek background (along with other backgrounds of course), but the Greek language cannot be safely regarded in this case as a source for Turkic "bora(n)".
  9. aeneas dardanus Banned

    Of course there is none.
  10. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    what is the meaning of Bhur in Sanskrit. for me it is praise and show/become visible. and the term Aurora Borialis may mean The lights that become visible.
  11. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    Personally, I have it so far as:
    124 буря būrya bhur भुर्
    burya storm to move rapidly or convulsively
    Quite correctly linked to bhur भुर् by VAS. See буран buran, бурав burav, бурен burjen. BG бура; буря; SLO búrja; CZ bouře; PL burza VAS 4

    118 буран burān burāna bhuraṇa भुरण
    buran snow-storm quick, active
    Believed to be a Turkic loan. Cp. TR buran ‘twisting, penetrating, piercing’, Tartar buran ‘snow – storm’, Mongolian borugan, Kalmyk borān. The connection with the Sanskrit bhur भुर्, bhuraṇa भुरण is evident and this fact puts the Turkic origin theory in doubt. See also бурав burav, буря burja. Probably a Nostratic root. GUS 4

    122 бурун burūn - burunā bhuraṇa भुरण
    burūn breaker, bow-wave quick, active
    See буря burja, буран buran N 4

    17 бур,бурав būr - a, burāv - ā bhur भुर्
    bur - a, burav - a auger, gimlet to move rapidly or convulsively, stir, palpitate, quiver
    Vasmer noted a particular difficulty of explaining the etymology of this word. There is a seemingly easy connection with the Swedish borr ‘drill’, which has a direct Russian cognate бур bur but it can not explain the Russian бурав burav. Vasmer was inclined to seek its origin in the Turkic languages. Most likely, the words бур bur, барав burav, буран buran, буря burya, as well as the relevant Turkic and Altaic words and also the Sanskrit root bhur भुर् are all cognates descending to a common Nostratic root (ISV, 186). The SA bur भुर् 'to move rapidly or convulsively, stir, palpitate, quiver' quite explicitly describes the nature of the movement of a drill. The SA bāra बार ‘an opening, aperture’ is also worth consideration and may be a direct derivative. UA бурав N 4
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
  12. Maroseika Moderator

    According to Max Vasmer, Russian бора (bora - specific gale-force wind at the northern coast of Black Sea) is loaned from Turkish bora < modern Greek μπόρα or Italian bora, which is the primary source for all of them.
  13. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    Yes, he thought so but this is just an opinion. Generally, linking a word to another word in a different language does not amount to "etymology" in its primordial meaning: ἔτυμος étymos, "true, genuine (meaning of a word)" and λόγος lógos, "account, explanation". Of all languages only Sansktit can offer an insight into the possible meaning of this word "to move rapidly or convulsively" which exactly conveys the nature of the word "gale". Phonetically, bhur is fully compatible with bora. I think fdb would not object from a purely phonetic side.
  14. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I am sorry, I don't understand your reasoning. Association via semantic "exegesis" is at least as shaky. In the case of the wind the Turkish loan hypothesis seems more plausible to me.
  15. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    The first part of the initial question was
    I do not see any reason why the Sanskrit bhur भुर् "to move rapidly or convulsively" can not be associated with
    and also with "strong (gale) wind, storm". Semantically, it is quite compatible. Definitely, more compatible than the presumed
    Phonetically and semantically Skr. bhur भुर् , Tartar buran ‘snow – storm’, Mongolian borugan, Kalmyk borān etc. and Rus. burya, buran "storm, snow sorm" are compatible. The Russian evidence is particularly interesting because burya, buran "storm, snow sorm" can not be separated from Rus. burūn "breaker, bow-wave" and burit' "to bore" and this serves as an additional link to Skr. bhur भुर् and bhuraṇa भुरण. As a theory, mine is quite sound and intelligible. Byond this we enter the field of subjective preferencies. You may like the "the Turkish loan hypothesis" more. That is your choice which I respect. After all, etymology is not an exact science.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2012
  16. ancalimon Senior Member

    Is there a possible link between Sanskrit word bhur which means to move rapidly or convulsively and the Arabic word burak which is related with lightning (I talked about the word burak. The horse that supposedly was ridden by some prophets)?
  17. origumi Senior Member

    Why would they be cognates? One is native IE, the other is native Semitic.
  18. ancalimon Senior Member

    Yes I know. That's actually why I was asking about a possible proposed link. :)
  19. XiaoRoel

    XiaoRoel Senior Member

    Vigo (Galiza)
    galego, español
    Hay dos grandes problemas en todas estas suposiciones.
    La primera es la aparición de la palabra en Homero, que aleja toda posibilidad de un étimo turco. Además Chantraine que estudió la palabra habla claramente de una etimología desconocida y que toda conexión entre la palabra griega y los posibles cognatos indoiranios y eslavos son sólo suposiciones y especulaciones sin ninguna base real.
    La segunda es el pseudo étimo etrusco para alp-/alb- 'montaña', que es una palabra "antiguo europea" (que según muchos estudiosos designa las palabras protocélticas de la toponimia europea bien conocidas: Alpes, Alba, etc, que designan montes (desde mi casa en Galicia se divisa el monte Alba, denominación tautológica).
    La etimología es difícil a veces, y más con topónimos, nombres de vientos, etc., pero no una cadena de suposiciones basadas en parecidos fónicos de palabras a veces muy distanciadas en el espacio y en el tiempo y por eso no comparables.
    Es más lógico y fácil suponer un préstamo del griego al turco (que es una lengua de superestrato con respecto al griego anatólico).
  20. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    Sorry, but the assertion
    is just another 'especulacione'.
  21. XiaoRoel

    XiaoRoel Senior Member

    Vigo (Galiza)
    galego, español
    Sí es otra especulación pero más verosímil y más sencilla (recuerda la navaja de Ockham). El principal escollo a tus suposiciones (las mías también lo son) es explicar la aparición del término en Homero.
  22. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    "Occam's razor" adds nothing conclusive to the the proof. As for Homer, there may also be many possible explanations. Just a word without at least some intelligible explanation of its origin and etymology does not prove anything. Can you offer this for the "término en Homero"?
  23. XiaoRoel

    XiaoRoel Senior Member

    Vigo (Galiza)
    galego, español
    Si no la pudo ofrecer Chantraine, mucho menos yo.
  24. themeek New Member

    This makes me wonder if that is where the term "burrrrrrr" or "brrrrrrr" comes from meaning "it is cold!" When I look up the term I keep finding "etymology uncertain". Interesting.
  25. stevelogan Member


    Fascinating, ancalimon. But I don't get the first question: practically in every language Bora means northern wind. So is it a circular question?

    I think a bit historical context could help us in here, because we are talking of a word that stands for a wind name, but it was also used to indicate a direction of navigation.
    We have to remember to us that every mediterranean culture shared a common knowledge to exchange, to trade and to...navigate.
    The windrose indicated the directions of navigation, and winds was used as synonims of directions for North South West East NE NW SE SW NNW NWW etc.
    At the time, you might use Tramontane to indicate North, Scirocco to indicate SouthEast.

    Borea(s) was used in the Greek compass to indicate NNE
    And we all know how much important Greek language was in the east and west areas as an exchange language (koine): so the term Borea surely was diffused by greek language all over eastern and mediterranean areas and regions. And being a navigation term it did a long journey.
    Of course Greeks did not invented navigation, so probably they took the windrose from other former and ancient culture we go back very far in the history, arriving to prehistorical (even if evolved) culture that did not leave us any written sign of their language. That's why we call them prehistoric.

    Namely, the origins of the windrose names are largely debated: some names refer to "regions" (Scirocco stand for Syria, Libeccio from Lybia, Mistral from Magister (Rome?)) others are questionable about their meaning or their origin.
    Borea could indicate a region of the mediterranean, as well as it could be so ancient (prehistorical) that we could have lost the original footprint.

    So I am not sure if Turkey is directly involved in the etymology of this very fascinating word (thanks for the thread question, it is very interesting), but probably we can argue that this word passed through centuries and probably millennia with very few modifications because of its particular nature, and we could probably had lost the original sense and etymology of it.... (or maybe not)
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012

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