Etymology: Berlin - swamp?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Jana337, Feb 3, 2006.

  1. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Hello! :)

    The origin of the name Berlin is supposed to be Slavic. "Berl" (sometimes spelled "br'l") should mean something like "swamp", "swamp meadow" and even "fishing village" according to one resource (google Berlin Slavic swamp to get a plethora of links).

    I cannot find any Czech word for swamp that would come close.

    Suggestions? :)

  2. Prstprsi New Member

    V mojom byte
    French, France
    In Slovak, we've got word "barina" (=bažina po česky).... :cool: A podľa mňa, to môže byť pôvod tohto slova.
  3. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Well, I am not an expert in etymology but I find the change from BRN to BRL a bit unlikely.

  4. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    Hmm, Russian has got the word "берлога" (berloga) - a den, a lair (most typically a bear's den). I know, it has nothing to do with swamps - but, on the other hand, it certainly refers to a dwelling. ;)
  5. skye Senior Member

    Slovenian also has the word "brlog", which means a den.

    But there's no similar word for a swamp. "Močvirje"? Not very similar. On the other hand we also have the word "barje" - it's a swampy terrain where the remains of plants change into turf.
  6. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12
    Neither me.
    But the Slavs seem to have had a rich vocabulary regarding "swamps". I've just found out the etymology of Brandenburg, coming from Slavic "brenna" (= swamp). :)

  7. skye Senior Member

    This last word seems much closer to the previously mentioned barina.

    The change from ber- to bar- or br- wouldn't be that unusual, would it? So I think that ber-, br- or bar- could be the beginnings of words which would mean swamp in (ancient) Slavic languages. And the sounds which follow after the beginning seem to have evolved in different ways.

    I'm no expert either, I just think there's a pattern here.
  8. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hi Jana,

    The first word that occured to me after reading your post was berlinka. It has two meanings in Polish:
    - barge
    - kind of sausage (similar to those served in hot-dogs).

    I dunno how much they have in common with a swamp :) but tracking down the etymology of it I found out that the word comes from the name of the city so probable this fact rules it out.

    Secondly, after reading the above posts to your enquiery I thought of barłóg which means den/ lair or a shakedown (meaning#4) but I wouldn't have associated it with Berlin if not for the above posts.
  9. martini_ New Member

    Polska, polszczyzna
    I knew theory, city name is get from word: "Berło" - eng.- Sceptre, so it coudl mean - royal city... but I'm not sure.
  10. AOL New Member

    French France
    In Russian "berloga" means : the dwelling of a bear. So I can see a relationship with the Berlin emblem which is a bear.
  11. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Wiki says it's old Polabian, "berl" or "birl" meaning swamp, but then the bear coat of arms actually makes no sence. Maybe it was adopted by later Germanic inhabitants because the first three letters resemble the Germanic word for a bear?
  12. Seana

    Seana Senior Member

    I have found it in various Polish sourses. According to them the ethymology name Berlin is Indo-European language - reconstructed old Slav
    • bьrlъ means puddle, swamp, mud
    Many researchers think that our ancestors were inhabitants of swamp they even joke about them as "anthropoids from bogs", so the "boggy" lexis was reputedly in language of Slavs exceptionally developed.
    • burlas- dirt, mud in Lithuanian
    • burlungis - boggy in Lithuanian
    • brljaga - puddle in Serbian and Croatian
      [*]brljati to dirty, to stain in Serbian and Croatian
      [*]бъ'рлок puddle in Bulgarian
    I have found also the other surmises .
    • Berl diminutive from Bratosław -Berlin as a name coming from the master formerly there ruling.

    • Bär - bear - Berlin - German.
    • berło word in Polish language very similar sounds means sceptre.
    • berlin perhaps literally meant in old Slav some sort of ski, but what it could be related with Berlin?
  13. USAMATRIX New Member

    Hey ! Why don`t you people look at ir Berlin flag ! It is BEAR. Dwelling bear always build behind what? Right tree called birch.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2008
  14. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    As Übermönch pointed out before, the bear in the flag and in the coat of arms is probably due to a misinterpretation by later German speaking inhabitants of the area.
    It is a commonly accepted assumption that the bear in the flag and in the coat of arms has nothing to do with the etymology of the name of the city.
  15. Ander Senior Member

    There is another etymology that says the name Berlin may come from the Sorbian Slav word berlen/barlen for wooden nettings that were put in the Spree River to capture fish.
  16. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Brückner relates bьrlъ with bara (puddle, swamp), via supposed root bьr. Also, amongst many Serbian toponyms derived from bara, I found one more interesting: Barlovo.
  17. werrr Senior Member

    It could be variation of passive and active participles.
  18. Il Reine Member

    Jena (DE)
    In serbocroatian there is the word "brlog/брлог", same meaning as in slovenian and russian, and for me it's a convincing etymology, since I'm from BERLIN ! ; )
  19. Il Reine Member

    Jena (DE)
    Völlig richtig.
  20. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Bellan is a swamp in Old Prussian, also baltan, but Old Prussian is a Baltic language. It looks like these words could be cognates. It is błoto or błota in Polish. Bolota in Russian. Bala in Lithuanian. According to the Polish Wikipedia, Berlin comes from Braline, which according to this article comes from Bral, a short form of a Slavic name Bratoslaw. There are also Baltic words similar to braline, brolis, bralis - brother (brolis in Lithuanian). It could come from something totally different.

    Added: Bratoslaw means in fact brotherly fame, so the name Berlin can be related to brother in Indo-European Languages.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2012
  21. ancalimon Senior Member

    In Turkish "barınak" is the same thing. Comes from the verb "barın" meaning "to shelter, to get along together, to live in, to survive in, to harbour"

    Today the word usually means a shelter for homeless people or animals. (not in an offensive way like "inn of a bear" though)
  22. Il Reine Member

    Jena (DE)
    Sorry, we're used to report the verbs in the infinitive form and I'm sure that the russian word and the turkish one are not related, simply because it is an old slavic word, and at the time the proto-turkish tribes had no contacs with the Slavs.
  23. ancalimon Senior Member

    Last edited: Apr 2, 2012
  24. Il Reine Member

    Jena (DE)
    I'm aware of the existence of such positions, but how can I read, as a rational human being, read an essay beginning with those words:
    "Türkizm (or Türkism) is a word borrowed from Türkic languages."
    They have a total false concept of language borrowing !
    A turkish substrate for the slavic languages is such a ridiculous thesis, man.

  25. ivo89 New Member


    in Bulgarian a South-Eastern slavic language the word for swamp is "blato", which is сомевхат similiar to the old Slavoni root word "Berl".
  26. skeye New Member

    Greetings and Salutations

    This is my first post yet have often been one to seek reference from here.

    I have a proposal into the intended meaning behind "Berlin". It seems all of the words so far used and their origins have all been intertwined into this very word "Berlin". In my humble opinion through much research into the words Lyn/Lin and its variants, and Ber/BR/Bore,Bear,Bare,Born,Birth and its many variants, it seems that the letter sets of BR and LN have joined to mean something along the lines of "Out of the swamps we created the mighty Bear as our symbol!" or something of this nature. Lyn has everything to do with water. Which would subscribe to the usage of swamp. Ber on the other hand could have multiple meanings as words often come into conception with multi-dimensional meanings and as a result often are presented as compound words such as the word "perimeter". The story in a word is where I look for the meanings here - in this word, Berlin. I have in my own name, each of these words and when placed together as they are here, could mean that there is a : birth, of bear, from the water that is collecting full of life (swamp), and this is our home (den?).

    It would explain both the bear, it being the capitol, and the people of the swamp areas? (perhaps?) and the watery aspect of the word itself in modern definitions. Berlin = ber+lin+brl+brn all birthing together to get the word Berlin ?

    When I Think about it. I can not help but ask, "Who are the makers of words? Who are the makers of letters?" The letters themselves are concepts of a larger picture. I find using this to understand the movement of words from one peoples to the next, sometimes in union, sometimes not, are still a way to get a point across and the peoples meanings. The people who have the power to put a bear on a flag and say with much pride and joy that, "This is our flag and it has a bear on it!"

    In keeping the words' flow,
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  27. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I'd like to point out that there are many city names in Eastern Germany ending in -in (which usually bears the stress), so it's definitely not BR + LN, but BRL + in.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2013
  28. sotos Senior Member

    In addition to the root Ber-, Ver- etc related to swamp, there are medieval and modern Greek toponyms βηρός, βυρός, βιρός (all pronounced viros) which according to one theory mean exactly "swampy area", or according to others a land with shrubs. There is also the med. and modern Gr. word vourkos (swamp). The suffix -lin could be a grecoroman style productive suffix/diminutive. (e.g. signo > signalo, carta > cartollina etc).
  29. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    The suffix isn't Grecoroman and in no way diminutive, but rather Slavic, and it's not -lin, but -in. The morfological division should be ber - l - in or berl - in, not ber - lin, like the pronunciation suggests. There are many toponyms ending in -in in Eastern Germany and also in Poland: Schwerin, Lehnin, Stettin/Szczecin, Koszalin etc.
  30. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
  31. rushalaim

    rushalaim Senior Member

    Slovenian "berloga" and German "Berlin" have the same root BRL. Why "swamp" speech here?
    And Russian "berloga"-word, the place of bear, however the bear's name is not from BRL-root but "медведь". Russians didn't say the name of bear aloud at all.

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