Estonian: Surnuvaik

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New Member
English - American Northwest
I am a music composition major and have begun working to set a text by Juhan Liiv, an Estonian poet. I've been able to get a general understanding of most of the words, but I have been unable to find a translation for one of them: Surnuvaik. I have found an English translation of the poem, and I'm guessing the word is analogous to "Still as Death," probably most directly translated as "Quietus," but this is just a hunch. I'm hoping one of you can help me out.

Here is the context of the word:

Mets härmatises surnuvaik;

The English translation of that line is:

The white-furred woods are still as death.

So, after some research, my hunch is that "Mets" translates to "Woods" and "Härmatises" translates (roughly) to "Frost." So that only leaves "Still as death," which I would suppose "Surnuvaik" is supposed to represent, but I have been unable to find the precise translation.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
  • You're right. The Dictionary of Estonian (Eesti keele seletav sõnaraamat) gives vaik (genitive form: vaiga) with the meaning 'quiet', 'still'. Surnu- (from surema 'to die') occurs in many death-related words like surnuaed 'cemetery', lit. "death-garden" and surnukeha 'corpse', lit. "death-body".

    Despite the apparent similarity, it's not related to vaik (genitive form: vaigu), which means 'resin' or 'earwax'.
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