Swedish: esker

Myrddin Sgubor Plas

New Member
Welsh
esker was introduced to me as a word used to describe a long mound when the last Ice Age receeded from Sweden 10,000 years ago (in Nancy Cambell’s absorbing book, Fifty Words for Snow). It cropped up again in eiscir form in Old Irish (in Manchán Magan’s joyous book Thirty-Two Words for Field): a long winding ridge of gravel, sand, etc, originally deposited by a meltwater stream running under a glacier.

The GPC Dictionary of the Welsh language offers the same word as spelt in Welsh: esgair/ysgair. This is very common in Welsh place names for mountain/hill ridges and farms (mainly in central/southern Wales, the most southern line of the last Ice Age sheet) eg Esgair Llyn; Esgairgeiliog. We find also that it is a name used for a limb, an arm or a leg or a shank in Welsh. In Old Cornish: escher; Breton: esker

It seems to have been borrowed from the Celtic languages to English. Are versions (for ridges or limbs) found in any other languages?
 
  • raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    "Esker" exists in Norwegian, but only as a specialized term used by geologists to describe
    a long winding ridge of gravel, sand, etc, originally deposited by a meltwater stream running under a glacier.

    It is hardly used outside of this professional jargon. I vaguely remember it from geography lessons at school, many years ago, but I don't think I have come across it since then.

    According to the NAOB dictionary, the word comes from the Irish eiscir, via English:
    Det Norske Akademis ordbok

    "Skar" is another matter. This is a traditional Norwegian word, found in many place names. The meaning is different from the Yorkshire word "scar", as described in post #2. It is not a cliff or outcrop, but a gap or pass in a mountain. It is related to the verb "skjære" (to cut).
     

    Myrddin Sgubor Plas

    New Member
    Welsh
    Diolch - thank you both. I have traced the word sker from Old Norse - for a rock/reef? Melville Richards explains that the Vikings brought the name to Wales – Skerries (Anglesey); Tŷ'r Sger (Morgannwg), Craig y Sger (Dinbychypysgod). We have this name Skerries near Dublin, in Armagh, the Shetlands and the Orkneys and the Battles of Skerries was in Kildare in 1316. Would welcome any information on the roots of sker.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Diolch - thank you both. I have traced the word sker from Old Norse - for a rock/reef? Melville Richards explains that the Vikings brought the name to Wales – Skerries (Anglesey); Tŷ'r Sger (Morgannwg), Craig y Sger (Dinbychypysgod). We have this name Skerries near Dublin, in Armagh, the Shetlands and the Orkneys and the Battles of Skerries was in Kildare in 1316. Would welcome any information on the roots of sker.
    Not sure it helps but skerries would be skjærgård in Norwegian
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    The English word "skerry" means the same as the Norwegian word "skjær" (Danish "skær", Swedish "skär"), and has the same Old Norse roots. According to Norwegian dictionaries, this word (like "skar") is related to "skjære" (cut). This Wikipedia article has some additional explanation:
    Skerry - Wikipedia

    Wikipedia describes a "skerry" as "a small rocky island, or islet, usually too small for human habitation. It may simply be a rocky reef." This is also a good description of a Norwegian "skjær".

    skerries would be skjærgård in Norwegian
    I am not so sure about that - but I don't really know how "skerries" is used in English (is it just the plural of "skerry", or does it have a wider meaning?) In any case, a "skjærgård/skärgård" in Norway, Sweden and Finland also include larger, inhabited islands. I believe it usually is translated as "archipelago".
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I am not so sure about that - but I don't really know how "skerries" is used in English (is it just the plural of "skerry", or does it have a wider meaning?) In any case, a "skjærgård/skärgård" in Norway, Sweden and Finland also include larger, inhabited islands. I believe it usually is translated as "archipelago".
    Fair enough. It is not a good translation. I didn't really mean to imply it was, and would have done better to comment on the similarity of skerry and skjær.
     
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