1. mojobadshah Senior Member

    There seems to be a discrepancy as to whether the word guitar is rooted in Persian or Greek. The Greek etymology points to kitara, but if I'm not mistaken the affix -tar doesn't have Greek cognates or am I wrong? In any case according to the historical evidence the long neck stringed instrument traces back to Susa. From what I understand tar means "string" in Persian. There is the yektar "one string," dotar "two string," cetar "three string," chartar (cf. Sp. quatro) "four string," sheshtar "guitar (minus the hollow body)." Where could the prefix gui- have derived from in Persian?
  2. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Actually, the more I think about it a borrowing from Persian sitaar is very unlikely despite what the reference* says. The Ancient Greek word dates from the 5th century BC if not earlier. There is no evidence that an instrument such as sitaar existed in Persia at this time and the word sitaar certainly didn't exist in Old Persian. It's safe to say the Greek term was borrowed from somewhere, but linguistically it can't be derived from the word sitaar or its hypothetical Old Persian antecedent. The (Old/Middle/or New) Persian word for "three" wouldn't be borrowed into Greek as ki-, and the Old Persian equivalent of taar would be something similar to tantra-.
    *Moderator note: Meant is this; contained in deleted post above.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 20, 2013
  3. origumi Senior Member

    There's a musical instrument (probably) mentioned in the Bible (Psalms), called guitit (gitit). Its exact nature in unknown, string instrument is reasonable. So guitar (and its variants) may be an old and ubiquitous name, not necessarily of Greek or Persian origin.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Old Iranian word for “three” is ϑri- : ϑray- : ϑrāy- (depending on the ablaut). There is no reason for ϑr- to become k-.
  5. sotos Senior Member

  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    There is no reason to believe that the -thar- of κιθάρα or of κάνθαρος, or the -dar- of γάδαρος, are affixes. All of these words are of obscure etymology.
  7. sotos Senior Member

    My hypothesis: The suffix seems to be -ara (not -thara) and is probably a variant of the common diminutive in ancient and new Gr. -arion, -aris etc. The stem kith- can be a form of the root that means "box" (from which κυτ-ίον), referring to the sound-box of the instrument. Many instruments take their name from their shape, e.g. Gr. αυλός (lit. "tube"), tuba, άσκ-αυλος ("sack + tube"), corno etc.
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    κιθ- and κυτ- have only one sound in common in ancient Greek.
  9. sotos Senior Member

    Expanding on the hypothesis of "κυτίον", there are some more words and toponyms which may support the connection with κιθάρα. There is the mountain Κιθαιρών, of unknown etymology, which sounds like the place with "κίθαιρα" whatever "κίθαιρα" might mean (similarly Marathon = place with Μάραθα (plant's name)). Also there's the island Kythera. For the latter, it is assumed that it comes from the v. κεύθω, which also has the stem κυθ- (http://lsj.translatum.gr/wiki/%CE%BA%CE%B5%CF%8D%CE%B8%CF%89 ) and the meaning of "close, cover, hide", obviously related to κυτίον. The difference in formal spelling (iotta vs. ypsilon) probably didn't reflect in pronounciation, in ancient as in new Greek. For the relation between the sound "ki-" and "close" compare with the roman chi- (chiudere etc), originally from clu-.
  10. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    What?:confused: Iotta any Ypsilon don't even sound remotely similar. You're really confusing classical and modern Greek here.
  11. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    In fact upsilon was, if I'm not mistaken, the last to have its pronunciation changed to what it is today. Somewhere around the 11th century if I'm not mistaken?
  12. nwon Senior Member

    Northwestern Ontario
    Inglés canadiense
    From wiki: "The English word guitar, the German Gitarre, and the French guitare were adopted from the Spanish guitarra, which comes from the Andalusian Arabic قيثارة qitara, itself derived from the Latin cithara, which in turn came from the Ancient Greek κιθάρα kithara, and is thought to ultimately trace back to the Old Persian language Tar, which means string in Persian."
  13. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    "is thought" means: this bit is nonsense.

    An etymology that only explains half of a word is not an etymology. The experts on Greek etymology all agree that kithara does not have a convincing explanation in any language and consign it to the vague category “pre-Greek”.

    It is true that tār means “string” in Modern Persian. We do not know what it was in Old Persian, but the Sanskrit cognate suggests that it had an n in it (see no. 2).
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  14. ancalimon Senior Member

    Could there be a connection with Turkic "sāz" ? (some think it's from Persian while others think it's from Turkic)
  15. sotos Senior Member

    You are possibly mistaken. Here says that about 1st c. AD the Y and I were indistinguishable for some. http://archive.org/stream/historygreekalp00sophgoog#page/n117/mode/2up

    This probably was happening earlier in some places (not necessarily in Greece) that's why U corresponds to I in some european languages (lux/licht).
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    There war a gradual process in Greek of Ypsilon fronting from via [ʉ] to [y]. The classical pronunciation was most likely [ʉ]. This is a sound somewhere in between French tout and tu. In some English accents the oo as in food is pronounced this way. The complete fronting from [ʉ] to [y] happened as far as I know in Koine Greek. Unrounding from [y] to indeed started quite early but the process was completed only in the Byzantine period; in this respect ireney was right. In Vulgar Latin the pronunciation of <y> also changed to but not in educated pronunciation. In Old English the letter <y> was used to transcribe the sound [y] that existed until the 10th or 11the century.

    Lux vs. Licht is not an example of the process which led from to in Greek. The PIE origin was *lewk- and -ew- developed differently in Italic and Germanic languages. In German the original diphthong still exists in the related verb leuchten.

    Unrounding of [y]/[ʏ] to /[ɪ] happened in other languages as well, not only in Greek. E.g. Old English hyll became hill in modern English but the process of creation of [y] was different than in Greek. In Germanic languages, like Old English, it originated from a process called i-mutation where <back vowel>+<consonant>+<i> became <front vowel>+<consonant>. I-mutation explains, e.g., why the causative of to fall is to fell: In Proto-Germanic the causative suffix was -i- and you had *fallanaN = to fall and *fallianaN = to cause to fall. In English we find *fallanaN > fallan or feallan > fallen > fall and, through i-mutation, *fallianaN > fellan > fellen > fell. -- Back to u > y > i: we have PGm *hulliz becoming hyll in Old Englishthrough i-mutation which then became hill in Middle & Modern English through [y]-unrounding.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2013
  17. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    Moderator note: Two threads on the same topic merged here.

    guitar (n.) [​IMG]1620s, ultimately from Greek kithara "cithara," a stringed musical instrument related to the lyre, perhaps from Persian sihtar (seesitar); the name reached English several times, including early 14c. giterne, from Old French, in reference to various stringed, guitar-like instruments; the modern word is directly from Spanish guittara (14c.), which ultimately is from the Greek. The Arabic word is perhaps from Spanish or Greek, though often the relationship is said to be the reverse.
    Sanskrit gita / githa means song, singing. Skr g(h) = Greek ch / k (h).
    Could Indian songs include guitars?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 3, 2014
  18. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    O yeah. I remember the persian word Tarang!
  19. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
  20. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    A minor correction to
    The doubled letter is R, not T, in all periods of Spanish.
    It is typical of Spanish to avoid double consonants. The only exceptions: rr, ll, and—in Old Spanish—ss.
    Well, also cc, when the letters represent different sounds, as in "acción".
    P.S.: I see that the spelling error is from the Online Etymology Dictionary, not from our colleague john welch.
    PPS: I notified the editor of the above dictionary, and—shazamm!—he made the correction.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
  21. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    I am not de-flated by a minor note.
    Clearly, a Greek hearing a sitar githa would pronounce kitara kitha-r-a ( as in Skr hima = Gr kima-r-a).
    So a horn-pipe is a dance and instrument. Bass is instrument and singer. Ensemble is a loan-word for existing instruments and players. Greeks knew brahmins singing the Bhagavad.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  22. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    English guitar is borrowed from Spanish guitarra, which comes ultimately from Greek kithara, either via Latin cithara, or via Arabic qītār or qītāra. The origin of the Greek word is not clear (Beekes considers it pre-Greek), but it cannot possibly have anything to do with Sanskrit gīta- ‘song’, with which it has only the –ī- in common, nor with Persian si-tār ‘three strings’ (as suggested in etymonline).
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  23. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    Setar .. originated in Persia before the spread of Islam.[1]

    1. This tanbur developed from the Saz (Turkey) , Sethar (Iran), ..
      The Indo-Greeks disappeared ..10 AD .. probably remained for several centuries under the Indo-Parthians and Kushans.[7]
    2. The term 'zither' ( kithara) ... the entire family of stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box. .. the hammered dulcimer, psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer, guqin, guzheng , tromba marina, koto, gusli, kantele, valiha,gayageum, đàn tranh, kanun, autoharp, santoor, yangqin, santur, swarmandal, . Pedal steel guitars, lap guitars, and keyboard instruments like the clavichord, harpsichord and piano .. the zither banjo. The earliest known surviving instrument of the zither family is a Chinese guqin [a fretless instrument], found in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng dating from 433 BC.[4]
    3. Could you expand on why Skr githa has only -i- in common with kithara?
      And why does "3 stringed" have nothing to do with "stringed instrument"?
      Is a 12 string guitar not a guitar?
    4. sorry, these numerals refuse to delete.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
  24. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Because, as fdb explained, the words are unrelated.
    Unrelated words can be used for related things and related words can be used for unrelated things. Please don't confuse the two.
  25. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    I will accept advice that this gita , Skr g is not the Gr k(h) of kithara, and the other letters, if that is the case. But fdb mentions the -i- phonetic which is a different topic from semantics. Phonetically is sitar / sethar expressed kithara in Gk? Is gita /githa also Gk kithara, phonetically? Semantically :a wooden pipe is not a sailor but hornpipe musical instrument was chosen for naming the sailors' dance. And human bass singers accompany wooden bass instruments.
    (double bass, also called contrabass, string bass, bass ).
    .."the Greek word.. cannot possibly have anything to do , .. with Persian si-tār ‘three strings’."
    To gloss that : .."the Greek ( stringed instrument)..
    cannot possibly have anything to do , . with Persian si-tār ‘three strings’ ."
    That may be either phonetics or semantics but in both cases it appears wrong.
    At the central meaning, the 3 strings and 2 vocal-chord larynx are similar .

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
  26. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    I read from a certain article that the gimel of Aramaic or Gamma of Greek were the origin of C.That C has the sound of K, Se and th when written as cci as in Lekh- thion of Spanias.The Greeks Don't have C but G and K.The Indian language has C as Ch .Same with Bahasa and Languages near India. If Tarang is string of an instrument, the G and K and S that was become part of it produced Sitar, Kithara,Gitarra and possibly the English Chant was coint from those words. The strings produce sounds and I thing rang in Tarang is sound not the number of strings.strings or whole instrument with strings both produce Rang or sound.And for me that word is about sound producing object or instrument.
  27. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Actually, I was wrong when I suggested that Greek κιθάρα and Sanskrit gīta- “have only the –ī- in common”. κιθάρα has a short /i/; the /a/ is part of the root in Greek, but a thematic vowel in Sanskrit, so actually the two words have nothing in common at all. Let me add that Persian sitār is NEW Persian and cannot be the source of a Greek word that is attested at least from the time of Herodotus. The Old Iranian word for “three-stringed” would have been something like *ϑri-tāra-. ϑr- does not become /k/ in Greek.
  28. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    Sadly for me , in Javanese there is sitar and gita as in Hindi /Skr. No gitar . So the ngurungita tribal headman in Australia would be nagara ne gita country. posessive. singer. No guitar.
  29. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew Guittit גִּתִּית is supposedly a musical instrument of the 1st Temple and appears 3 times in the Hebrew bible (Psalms 8:1, 81:1, 84:1). I don't think its meaning is fully agreed, same about its etymology. So this may be relevant or not to the thread.
  30. john welch Senior Member

    English-Australian creole
    From # 28 : " in Javanese there is sitar and gita as in Hindi /Skr. No gitar ".
    But I was wrong . Javanese does have gitar : guitar. So they made the homonym link into a synonym.

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