Suomi/Finnish: bear

Hermocrates

Senior Member
Italian & British English (bilingual)
Could you please tell me what different terms exist in Finnish to describe a bear?

(This also includes specific terms that may differentiate between male, female, cub, etc...)

I would be grateful if you could also explain to me what each term means.

Thank you in advance :)


Rye
 
  • Grumpy Old Man

    Senior Member
    I'm not a zoologist, so these are an amateur's words:

    Official (scientific, generic) word: karhu
    Also known as: otso. mesikämmen, kontio, nalle. Nalle sounds a little endearing and soft to me. It deprives the beast of all its strength.
    Female bear: naaraskarhu.
    Male bear: uroskarhu.
    Cub of a bear: karhunpentu.
     

    Hermocrates

    Senior Member
    Italian & British English (bilingual)
    Thank you very much!

    My curiosity stems from statements like There are dozens of words for "bear" in Finnish , which I would like to verify.

    I also read that:

    (...) bears name was almost forbidden to say, so many euphemisms were developed. The most usual Finnish word for bear in modern language, karhu, is just one of the many euphemisms, and it actually means rough fur. Amongst the many names of bear otso is probably the original "real" name. (...) Euphemisms for bear are local.{Source}
    If possible, I would like to find out more about these euphemisms and local synonyms. If anybody can add more to the list or direct me to a reliable source I would be grateful. :)

    Thanks in advance,

    Rye
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    Hi Rye,

    There are not only dozens but about two hundred or more different words for bear in Finnish.

    To prove this, there is a scientific etymologic research by Auli Oksanen, Helsinki University 2007. Unfortunately it's only in Finnish and there is no direct list of these 200 words.

    I hope this helps a little.
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    A similar number claim has lent its name to a book: Geoffrey Pullum: The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax... referring to and refuting the belief that Inuit has hundreds (or whatever) words for snow, or on the number of Arabic words for camel, or...
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    A similar number claim has lent its name to a book: Geoffrey Pullum: The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax... referring to and refuting the belief that Inuit has hundreds (or whatever) words for snow, or on the number of Arabic words for camel, or...
    Hi Lugubert,

    It seems that you don't believe what a Finnish scientific linguist says. I read the above mentioned research only cursorily (more than a hundred pages) and I regret that there's no list of the words, as it's a research of the etymology of the four most common words for bear; but I could easily pick at least "dozens" of words from the text. Most of these words are euphemisms.

    These 20 words I found on the first ~20 pages:

    karhu, kontio, ohto, otso, oksi, mesikämmen, nalle, köntys, pöpö, pöppö, mörkö, jumalan vilja, metsän kuningas, paska, koira, uuhi, osma, kamppi...

    ... and there are more on the following pages.
     

    Hermocrates

    Senior Member
    Italian & British English (bilingual)
    Hi Rye,

    There are not only dozens but about two hundred or more different words for bear in Finnish.

    To prove this, there is a scientific etymologic research by Auli Oksanen, Helsinki University 2007. Unfortunately it's only in Finnish and there is no direct list of these 200 words.

    I hope this helps a little.
    Thank you very much! Appreciated!

    A similar number claim has lent its name to a book: Geoffrey Pullum: The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax... referring to and refuting the belief that Inuit has hundreds (or whatever) words for snow, or on the number of Arabic words for camel, or...
    Exactly. I was curious to know if the claim about Finnish terms was a similar hoax or a legit statement. :) but in this case it looks like an actual fact.

    Rye
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    You could always argue that your quite different language has an equal number of terms for male bear, female bear, young bear, large bear, tiny bear, polar bear, brown bear, huge bear, ferocious bear, friendly bear, cuddly bear etc etc.

    Same for snow. Snow, sleet, slush, blizzard, packed snow, avalanche, ...

    Young camel, old camel, male camle, female camel, young male camle, young female camel, racing camel, female camel that hasn't yet given birth, breeding camel and so
    on.

    I wouldn't be surspised if I, given more time that I now can afford, could match the Finnish set 1:1.
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    I'm sorry if I make you disappointed, Lugubert, but this vocabulary of Finnish bear words doesn't include any such adjective+noun compound words that you refer to.

    On the contrary, these words do not contain the real name of the beast (karhu, otso etc.) at all, as most of them are euphemisms.

    Many of these euphemisms are translatable (for example: metsän kuningas = king of the forest) but some are not. So I doubt your "matching the Finnish set 1:1".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top