German: Karfreitag


Senior Member
Recht geehrte Damen und Herren

Kar- is related to Latin cura, and has the sense of 'grievous', 'troublous', 'sorrowful', 'mournful'. But I am curious to know when and how this entered the standard German Lexicon. Was this Lutheran? And are there any other compound words with this prefix?

Last edited:
  • eamp

    German (Austria)
    The first attestation seems to be from the early 13th century (mhg. karvrîtac), it occurs several times in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival.
    There is one instance of ohg. garotag, but this a different formation - a calque of parasceve as "preparation day" - which did apparently not catch on.

    Kar- is otherwise isolated and has no transparent meaning in modern German other than referring to the pre-Easter period.
    It is related to the adjective karg 'meager, sparse', but nobody would make this connection without an etymological dictionary really.
    Also, there is no actual relation to Latin cura other than a vague resemblance.


    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Pfeifer writes:

    Karfreitag m. ‘Tag der Kreuzigung Christi, Freitag vor Ostern’, mhd. karvrītac (neben häufigerem kartac). Das Kompositum ist eine Bildung mit im Nhd. untergegangenem ahd. kara (9. Jh.), mhd. kar ‘Trauer, Wehklage’, asächs. kara ‘Sorge, Klage’, aengl. caru, cearu, engl. care ‘Sorge, Kummer’, anord. kǫr ‘Bett’, besonders ‘Krankenbett’, dichterisch ‘Kummer, Schmerz’, got. kara ‘Sorge’ (germ. *karō). Dieses gehört mit ahd. karōn (um 800), asächs. karon ‘wehklagen’, karm ‘Wehklage’, aengl. carian ‘sorgen’, cearm, cirm ‘Lärm, Geschrei’, got. (ga)karōn ‘sich kümmern’, mhd. karmen, karn ‘trauern, klagen’, mnd. karmen ‘wimmern, jammern, seufzen’ und den außergerm. Verwandten osset. zaryn (зapын) ‘Gesang’, zard (зap∂) ‘Lied, Gesang’, griech. gḗrys (γῆρυς) ‘Stimme, Ruf’, lat. garrīre ‘schwatzen, plaudern, plappern’, air. gairm ‘Ruf, Geschrei’, gāir ‘Geschrei’, gāire ‘Lachen’, kymr. gawr ‘Geschrei, Kampf’ zu einer Schallwurzel ie. *g̑ā̌r- ‘rufen, schreien’. Karwoche f. ‘Woche vor Ostern’, mhd. karwoche.

    So it is cognate with "care" but not with "cura".
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