Etymology of Romance 'tirare'

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Ригель, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. Ригель

    Ригель Member

    Does anyone have information about the etymology of this word common to all Romance languages (except Romanian?), e.g. fr. tirer, sp. tirar, it. tirare etc. The etymonline entry declares 'origin unknown' and suggest a connection with martyr. I remember reading from a spanish etymology book an interesting explanation that it descends from roman military jargon from times of campaigning against the Parthians (famous for their archery) and hence an ultimate iranian source but I haven't been able to find verification for this elsewhere.
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This is one of those words of which one says “etymology unknown”. The derivation from martirier goes back at least to von Wartburg; see this:

    It is true that in (New) Persian tīr means “arrow”, but in Middle Persian and Parthian it is still tigr or tiγr. So the perhaps attractive Iranian etymology of *tirare does require some explanation for the loss of the –g- at so early a date.
  3. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Some other dictionary entries to get you started:

    Meyer-Lübke (8755 tīrāre):
    OED (tire, v.2):
    TLF (tirer), mentioned above by fdb:
  4. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    This Catalan text, written by Joan Coromines, defends the Iranian origin of the root tir-, among other things.
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    An interesting article. It says it is a translation. Do you know where the original (presumably in French?) can be found?
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Looking again at the CNTRL site one really gains the impression that the primary, historic meaning of tirer is “pull” and that it only secondarily takes on the meaning “pull an arrow (and release it)”, “shoot”. This too speaks against a derivation from a word for “arrow”.
  7. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    I'm afraid I have no idea. :(
  8. Spontaneously I would say there must be a connection with Latin trahere, traho traxi tractum; tract- can give French le trait, trahere can give French traire.
    But tirer might be a new formation out of traire, to avoid the irregular forms. In other Romance languages the situation might be the same.
    But this is a spontaneous idea and I have to verify what is said about verbs such as tirer in French and the corresponding verbs in Italian and Spanish.
    And this will take some time.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  9. Well, Dauzat (nouveau dictionnaire étymologique, Larousse) in his article tirer really tells something about martirier, martyriser. Of course, he says: 'probablement', probably. Then he says: See martyr (ultimately Greek martur, more often martus meaning witness.

    In my view this is a fairy tale, an invention when one has no idea about the origin. In older etymological dictionaries this was a common habit. One didn't like to say: We don't know anything about the word. And then they told you stories.
    Today dictionaries of etymology are much more careful and much more honest. The Oxford dictionary of etymology very often says: Origin unknown.

    If you reflect a bit about tirer, it is a very common word and a Latin verb trahere /tra.erre - trarre in Italian - is already there and if you want a new variant to avoid the clumsy irregular verbforms, then I ask you why should one go back to a Greek word martur/martus that means witness. What has witness to do with to draw ?? Or to take an unknown Persian word for a very common verb. Such a thing would be unnormal.

    By the way the basic meaning of tirer is to draw/to pull: Oxen drawing a cart.
    Etymonline has a PIE root and all Germanic languages, but not Latin trahere.Probably because Latin trahere does fit into the rules for the change of Latin t in Germanic languages.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  10. I'm just looking into the etymology of Italian tirare.

    In I find funny things:
    1.derived from French tiroir. Derived from the Latin *tirare (hypothetical form)
    As if Italians had a need to go to France and get the source for tirare.
    And hypothetical forms can be made quickly.
    But it could be possible that in popular Latin such a new formation from trahere came up.
    But the dictionary should say: Perhaps a formation of popular Latin.

    2. cognates:
    French larme ??
    French tirer
    German Zähre (an old literary word for Tränen, when you are weeping) ??

    This dictionary seems to mix up some things.

    My old Italian etymological dictionary by Tristano Bolelli (Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana,1989 is more honest:
    tirare: etimo oscuro - origin unknown
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  11. In no. 3 we see what authorities as Meyer-Lübke, Hatzfeld-Darmester, Wartburg said about tirare or tirer.
    Obviously they had difficulties with the vowal i in tirare/tirer.
    For French tirer I wouldn't have so much difficulties: From traire one could make a new formation trai-er and as this is not very optimal, the i could hop between t and r: tiraer>tirer. Just an idea. In popular new formations the rules of consonant and vowel change, developed by comparing words in time steps of about 500 years probably won't apply to spontaneous new formations.

    But I take it that tirare developed first in the Italian area. From trahere/tra.ere one might expect traare (not good) or trae-are >treare, triare and then tirare to get a formation without vowel clash of i + a which would again result in irregular forms.
    Of course, that's just an idea as well.

    I would assume the coming up of tirare was in the popular language. And as far as I know that is an area where dictionaries, text-collections and so on are not existing in a scale that would allow to clear such questions.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  12. This is what the Pons dictionary Italien - German says about Italian tirare.

    Pons has under point Roman I nine areas of meaning. 8 areas are the basic meaning of to draw (oxen drawing a cart)
    or composite verbs thereof as to draw out/off/away/in etc or figurative use of to draw.
    No. 5 has the meaning to shoot - which is a development of to draw via to draw the string of a bow or to draw the cock of a rifle/gun.

    If 100 percent of the meanings are nothing but the normal basic meaning of to draw I would ask myself why there should be a need for an unknowno word for arrow from an exotic language as etymological source. In my view that doesn't hold water.

    In no. 4 a link to a Spanish article about the persian origin of to draw is given. I had a look at it. In twelve pages the author Coromines
    defends the theory that to draw derives from a Persian word.
    But the theory doesn't get better even if it is twelve pages long. Sometimes people believe what they want to believe.
    For me such a theory indicates that the author lacks experience with language processes and word formations.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013

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