Mapping the migration of words: Infographic reveals the roots of Europe’s languages and how countries are linked to the wider world
- Words in the maps, such as rose, church and tea, show a shared history
- For instance, differences in the word ‘tea’ are largely due to trade routes
- Dutch traders had their main contacts in Fujian and used ‘tea’ or ‘thee;
- Eastern Europe and Asia, which got their tea overland, tend to use forms such as chai
PUBLISHED: 12:50 EST, 15 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:51 EST, 15 November 2013
A cup of tea or a mug of ‘cha’ might taste the same, but the choice of words for the brew can reveal a great deal about a person’s ancestry and even the history of the world.
Recently published maps plotting the different words used for various objects make it clear that a simple term can say a lot about a country.
The infographics, posted by Reddit user Bezbojnicul, show that some seemingly mundane words can explain a country’s links to trade, its history of conflict and migration.
For example, there are many words for ‘tea’ found in different languages but are all ultimately of the same Chinese origin.
Those differences, however, give an insight into how the product arrived in the country.
The Dutch traders, who were the main importers of tea into Europe, had their main contacts in Amoy in Fujian.
For this reason they adopted the word for ‘tea’ as ‘thee’, and in this form it then spread to large parts of Europe.
The first European tea importers in the 16th century, however, were Portuguese.
Portuguese uses the term ‘chá’, derived from Cantonese ‘cha’.
As a result, languages spoken in eastern Europe and Asia which got their tea overland rather than from the Dutch tend to use forms such as ‘chai’.
These European Etymology maps provide a fascinating insight into how words have changed across a geographical area.
The English word ‘rose’, for instance, comes from French, which itself comes from Latin ‘rosa’ – one of the languages that most influenced English.
The modern Persian word for ‘rose’ is ‘gul’, which developed through a series of regular sound changes from the word ‘varda’.
Interestingly, the map shows how ‘garoful’, the ancient Greek word for ‘rose’, today only remains in the north east of Italy.
The maps also reveals how Greek influenced the English word ‘church’.
‘Church’ is common to many Teutonic, Slavonic and other languages under various forms.
In German it is ‘kirche’, in Swedish ‘kirka’, in Danish ‘kirke’ and in Finnish ‘kirkko’.
These all originate from the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ which means ‘assembly’, with the meaning of the word transferred from the community to the building.
The word pineapple, however, seems to be something of an anomaly.
In many countries, it has a name similar to ‘ananas’, which derives from ‘nana’, a Tupi Indian term for the fruit.
Christopher Columbus is alleged to have named the pineapple, calling it the ‘pine of the Indies’ due to its resemblance to a pine cone.
Another unusual word illustrated on a map is for the orange fruit. In the West it comes from Sanskrit narangas (‘orange tree’).
However, the dominant word in much of eastern and northern Europe comes from a word meaning ‘apple’ from China, such as the Dutch word ‘sinaasappel.’
‘Apple’, meanwhile, has a great deal of diversity. The word in Finland and Estonia may come from an Indo-Iranian origin.
‘Bear’ seems to be influenced by Russia which has the largest brown bear population in Europe can be found.
The most dominant word literally means ‘honey-eater.’