firmament - how it sounds

Discussion in 'English Only' started by a-postrof, Apr 14, 2015.

  1. a-postrof New Member

    Hi everyone,
    the word 'firmament' is Biblical and can only refer to the sky, as I understood. While in Russian, my native language, the same Biblical term can be literally translated to English as 'firmness [of the sky]', and there is also the possibility to use this word as 'firmness [of the earth]'.
    The point is, would it sound natural if we use the English word 'firmament' for the earth, e.g. in some fantasy-like setting, not connected to our world, or wouldn't? Perhaps, if the word describes a kind of an element of the nature?
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Hullo A-po. As far as I'm aware, firmament only means 'sky', either literally (as in the Bible) or sometimes metaphorically (Every star in the Hollywood firmament was at the party).
    I don't know what you mean about 'firmness'. And expecting people to understand that a word which means 'sky' now means 'earth' is much the same as expecting them to understand that black now means 'white'.
    Could you give us an example of exactly how you intend to use the term, in a sentence or two?
  3. a-postrof New Member

    okay, maybe I just explained it wrong, sorry :)

    I used the word 'firmness' because of the similar etymology between English words 'firmament' and 'firm'. What I tried to explain was that the Russian equivalent of 'firmament' is твердь небесная (tverd nebesnaya), with the archaic noun твердь having the same root with the commonly used adjective твердый (meaning 'solid', 'firm' or 'hard') and the second word indicating the reference to the sky (adj. 'nebesnaya' - 'of the sky'). If we use the word combination твердь земная (with the second word meaning 'of the earth'), it will also sound quite natural and is sometimes used in non-biblical sources.

    So, for example we have some fantasy people, let's say, dwarves, living underground. Would it sound natural if they use the word 'firmament' for the solid stone masses that surrounds their cities (similarly to dwarves from the Dragon Age videogame calling it 'the Stone')? I mean in some religious-like sense, e.g. 'Welcome to our glorious city carved in the Firmament'.
  4. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I suppose it would sound as natural as anything else that fantasy people might say! And in using it, you'd bring to an English reader's mind the previously unnoticed similarity between firmament and firmness.

    However, these biblical terms need treating with care. The original Hebrew probably meant expanse, and has been translated through Greek ('solid structure') and Latin using less-than-perfect synonyms, until now when the link has been broken and firmament has no real connection with firmness.
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Do these dwarves live underground - either now or in the past?
    It seems to me possible that English-speaking dwarves living in a cavern underground might well refer to the surrounding rock as "the firmament". And if you were writing fantasy you could introduce the term in such a way that English-speaking non-dwarves would clearly understand that meaning, and the extension of the meaning to rocks surrounding their cities.
  6. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    How about calling the dwarves' thing the permament (firmament + permanent ... oh and there's the geological era known as the Permian, after Perm in Russia)?
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  7. a-postrof New Member

    Thanks to everyone! :)

    Ewie, quite interesting, I suppose references to the Permian are redundant but the word itself is great.

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