I intend to devote to-day's Lecture to the consideration
of one phonetic law, commonly called
Grimm's Law, a law of great importance and very wide
application, affecting nearly the whole consonantal
structure of the Aryan languages. The law may be
stated as follows: —
There are in the Aryan languages three principal
points of consonantal contact, the guttural, the dental,
and the labial, k, t, p.
At each of these three points there are two modes
of utterance, the hard and the soft; each in turn is
liable to aspiration, though only in certain languages.
In Sanskrit the system is complete; we have the
hard checks, k, t, p; the soft checks, g, d, b; the hard
aspirated checks, kh, th, ph; and the soft aspirated
checks, gh, dh, bh. The soft aspirated checks are,
however, in Sanskrit of far greater frequency and
importance than the hard aspirates.
In Greek we find, besides the usual hard and soft
checks, one set of aspirates, Χ, ϑ, φ, which are hard,
and which in later Greek dwindle away into the
In Latin there are no real aspirates; their place
having been taken by the corresponding breathings.
The dental breathing, however, the s, is never found
198in Latin as the representative of an original dental
aspirate (th or dh).
In Gothic, too, the real aspirates are wanting,
unless th was pronounced as such. In the guttural
and labial series we have only the breathings h and f.
The same seems to apply to Old High-German.
In the Slavonic languages, including Lithuanian,
the aspirates were originally absent.
We see, therefore, that the aspirated letters exist
only in Sanskrit and Greek, that in the former they
are chiefly soft, in the latter entirely hard.
Let us now consider Grimm's Law. It is this: ‘If the
same roots or the same words exist in Sanskrit, Greek,
Latin, Celtic, Slavonic, Lithuanian, Gothic, and High-German,
then wherever the Hindus and the Greeks pronounce
an aspirate, the Goths and the Low Germans
generally, the Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, &c.,
pronounce the corresponding soft check, the Old High-Germans
the corresponding hard check.’ In this first
change the Lithuanian, the Slavonic, and the Celtic
races agree in pronunciation with the Gothic. We
thus arrive at the first formula: —
I. Greek and Sansk. | KH | TH | PH *
II. Gothic, &c. | G | D | B
III. Old H. G. | K | T | P
Secondly, if in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Lithuanian,
199Slavonic, and Celtic, we find a soft check, then we find
a corresponding hard check in Gothic, a corresponding
breath in Old High-German. This gives us the
second formula: —
IV. Greek, &c. | G | D | B
II. Gothic | K | T | P
III. Old H. G. | Ch | Z | F (Ph)
Thirdly, when the six first-named languages show
a hard consonant, then Gothic shows the corresponding
breath, Old High-German the corresponding soft
check. In Old High-German, however, the law holds
good with regard to the dental series only, while in
the guttural and labial series the Old High-German
documents generally exhibit h and f, instead of the
corresponding mediæ g and b. This gives us the
third formula: —
VII. Greek, &c. | K | T | P
VIII. Gothic | H (G, F) | Th (D) | F (B)
IX. Old H. G. | H (G, K) | D | F (B, V)
It will be seen at once that these changes cannot be
considered as the result of phonetic corruption.
Phonetic corruption always follows one and the same
direction. It always goes downward, but it does not
rise again. Now it may be true, as Grimm says, that
it shows a certain pride and pluck on the part of the
Teutonic nations to have raised the soft to a hard, and
the hard to an aspirated letter. * But if this were so,
would not the dwindling down of the aspirate, the
boldest of the bold, into the media, the meekest of
meek letters, evince the very opposite tendency? We
must not forget that this phonetic law, which Grimm
200has well compared with a three-spoked wheel, turns
round completely, and that what seems a rise in one
spoke is a fall in the other. Therefore we should not
gain much if, instead of looking upon Lautverschiebung
as a process of phonetic strengthening, we tried
to explain it as a process of phonetic weakening. *
For though we might consider the aspiration of the
hard t as the beginning of a phonetic infection (th)
which gradually led to the softening of t to d, we
should have on the other side to account for the
transition of the d into t by a process of phonetic
reinvigoration. We are in a vicious circle out of
which there is no escape unless we look at the whole
process from a different point of view.
Who tells us that Greek t ever became Gothic th?
What idea do we connect with the phrase, so often
heard, that a Greek t becomes Gothic th? How can
a Greek consonant become a Gothic consonant, or a
Greek word become a Gothic word? Even an Italian
word never becomes a Spanish word; an Italian t, as
in amato, never becomes a Spanish d, as in amado.
They both come from a common source, the Latin; and
the Greek and Gothic both come from a common source,
the old Aryan language. Instead of attempting to
explain the differences between Greek and Gothic by
referring one to the other, we ought rather to trace
back both to a common source from which each may
have started with its peculiar consonantal structure.
Now we know from the physiological analysis of the
alphabet, that three, or sometimes four, varieties exist
for each of the three consonantal contacts. We may
pronounce p as a hard letter, by cutting the breath
201sharply with our lips; we may pronounce it as a
soft letter, by allowing the refraining pressure to be
heard while we form the contact; and we may
pronounce it an aspirate by letting an audible emission
of breath follow immediately on the utterance of the
hard or the soft letter. Thus we get for each point
of consonantal contact four varieties: —
k, kh, g, gh,
t, th, d, dh,
p, ph, b, bh.
This rich variety of consonantal contact is to be
found, however, in highly-developed languages only.
Even among the Aryan dialects, Sanskrit alone can
boast of possessing it entire. But if we look beyond
the Aryan frontiers, and examine such dialects as, for
instance, the Hawaian, we see first, that even the
simplest distinction, that between hard and soft contact,
has not yet been achieved. A Hawaian, as we
saw, not only finds it extremely difficult to distinguish
between k and t; he likewise fails to perceive any difference
between k and g, t and d, p and b. The same
applies to other Polynesian languages. In Finnish the
distinction between k, t, p, and g, d, b, is of modern
date, and owing to foreign influence. The Finnish itself
recognises no such distinction in the formation of its
roots and vocables, whereas in cognate dialects, such
as Hungarian, that distinction has been fully developed
(Boiler, Die Finnischen Sprachen, p. 12).
Secondly, in some of the Polynesian languages we
find an uncertainty between the hard checks and their
corresponding hard breaths. We find the New Zealand
poe, ball, pronounced foe in (Tonga, * just as
202we find the Sanskrit pati represented in Gothic by
Now the introduction of the differences of articulation
in more highly developed languages had an object.
As new conceptions craved expression, the phonetic
organs were driven to new devices which gradually
assumed a more settled, traditional, typical form. It
is possible to speak without labials, it is possible to
say a great deal in a language which has but seven
consonants, just as it is possible for a mollusc to eat
without lips, and to enjoy life without either lungs or
liver. I believe there was a far far distant time when
the Aryan nations (if we may call them so) had no
aspirates at all. A very imperfect alphabet will
suffice for the lower states of thought and speech; but,
with the progress of the mind, a corresponding
development will take place in the articulation of
letters. Some dialects, as we saw, never arrived at
more than one set of aspirates, others ignored them altogether,
or lost them again in the course of time. But
I believe it can be proved that before the Aryan nations,
such as we know them, separated, some of them, at all
events, had elaborated a threefold modification of the
consonantal checks. The Aryans, before they separated,
had, for instance, three roots, tar, dar, and dhar, differing
chiefly by their initial consonants which represent
three varieties of dental contact. Tar meant to cross,
dar, to tear, dhar, to hold. Now although we may
not know exactly how the Aryans before their separation
pronounced these letters, the t, d, and dh, we
may be certain that they kept them distinct. That
distinction was kept up in Sanskrit by means of the
hard, the soft, and the aspirated soft contact, but it
might have been achieved equally well by the hard,
203the soft, and the aspirated hard contact, t, d, th, or by
the hard and soft contacts together with the dental
breathing. The real object was to have three distinct
utterances for three distinct, though possibly cognate,
expressions. Now, if the same three roots coexisted
in Greek, they would there, as the soft aspirates are
wanting, appear from the very beginning, as tar (térma,
ter-minus), dar (dérma, skin), and thar. * But what
would happen if the same three roots had to be fixed
by the Romans, who had never realized the existence
of aspirates at all? It is clear that in their language
the distinctions so carefully elaborated at first, and so
successfully kept up in Sanskrit and Greek, would be
lost. Dar and Tar might be kept distinct, but the
third variety, whether dhar or thar, would either be
merged or assume a different form altogether.
Let us see what happened in the case of tar, dar,
and dhar. Instead of three, as in Sanskrit, the other
Aryan languages have fixed two roots only, tar and
dar, replacing dhar by bhar, or some other radical.
Thus tar, to cross, has produced in Sanskrit tarman,
point, tiras, through; in Greek tér-ma, end; in Latin
ter-minus, and trans, through; in Old Norse thrö-m,
edge, thairh, through; in Old High-German dru-m, end,
durh, through. Dar, to burst, to break, to tear, exists
in Sanskrit dṛiṇâti, in Greek deírō, I skin; dérma, skin;
Gothic tairan, to tear; Old High-German zeran. But
204though traces of the third root dhar may be found here
and there, for instance in Persian Dârayavus, Darius,
i.e. the holder or sustainer of the empire, in Zend dere,
Old Persian dar, to hold, that root has disappeared in
most of the other Aryan dialects.
The same has happened even when there were only
two roots to distinguish. The two verbs, dadâmi, I
give, and dadhâmi, I place, were kept distinct in Sanskrit
by means of their initials. In Greek the same distinction
was kept up between dí-dō-mi, I give, and
títhēmi, I place; and a new distinction was added,
namely, the ē and the ō. In Zend the two roots ran
together, dâ meaning both to give and to place, or to
make, besides dâ, to know. This is clearly a defect. In
Latin it was equally impossible to distinguish between
the roots dâ and dhâ, because the Romans had no
aspirated dentals; but such was the good sense of the
Romans that, when they felt that they could not
efficiently keep the two roots apart, they kept only
one, dare, to give, and replaced the other dare, to
place or to make, by different verbs, such as ponere,
facere. That the Romans possessed both roots originally,
we can see in such words as crêdo, credidi, which
corresponds to Sanskrit śrad-dadhâmi, śrad-dadhau *
but where the dh has of course lost its aspiration in
Latin. In condere and abdere likewise the radical
element is dhâ, to place, while in reddo, I give back,
do must be traced back to the same root as the Latin
dare, to give. In Gothic, on the contrary, the root
dâ, to give, was surrendered, and dhâ only was
preserved, though, of course, under the form of dâ.
Such losses, however, though they could be remedied
205and have been remedied in languages which
had not developed the aspirated varieties of consonantal
articulation, were not submitted to by
Gothic and the other Low and High German tribes
without an effort to counteract them. The Teutonic
tribes were without aspirates, but when they took
possession of the phonetic inheritance of their Aryan,
not Indian, forefathers, they retained the consciousness
of the threefold variety of their consonantal
checks, and they tried to meet this threefold claim as
best they could. Aspirates, whether hard or soft,
they had not. Hence, where Sanskrit had fixed on
soft, Greek on hard aspirates, Gothic, like the Celtic
and Slavonic tongues, preferred the Latin corresponding
soft checks; High German the corresponding hard
checks. High German approached to Greek, in so far
as both agreed on hard consonants; Gothic approached
to Sanskrit, in so far as both agreed on some kind of
aspiration. But none borrowed from the other, none
was before the other. All four, according to my views
of dialectic growth, must be taken as national varieties
of one and the same type or idea.
So far all would be easy and simple. But now we
have to consider the common Aryan words which in
Sanskrit, Greek, in fact, in all the Aryan languages,
begin with soft and hard checks. What could the
Goths and the High Germans do? They had really
robbed Peter to pay Paul. The High Germans had
spent their hard, the Goths their soft checks, to supply
the place of the aspirates. The soft checks of the
Goths, g, d, b, corresponding to Sanskrit gh, dh, bh,
were never meant, and could not be allowed, to run
together and be lost in the second series of soft consonants,
which the Hindus, the Greeks, and the other
206Aryan nations kept distinct from gh, dh, bh, and
expressed by g, d, b. These two series were felt to
be distinct by the Goths and the High Germans, quite
as much as by the Hindus and Greeks; and while the
Celtic and Slavonic nations submitted to the aspirates
gh, dh, bh, being merged in the real mediæ g, d, b,
remedying the mischief as best they could, the Goths,
guided by a wish to keep distinct what must be kept
distinct, fixed the second series, the g, d, b's in their
national utterance as k, t, p. But then the same
pressure was felt once more, for there was the same
necessity of maintaining an outward distinction between
their k, t, p's and that third series, which in
Sanskrit and Greek had been fixed on k, t, p. Here
the Gothic nations were driven to adopt the only
remaining expedient; and in order to distinguish the
third series both from the g, d, b's and k, t, p's, which
they had used up, they had to employ the corresponding
hard breaths, the h, th, and f.
The High German tribes passed through nearly the
same straits. What the Greeks took for hard aspirates
they had taken for hard tenues. Having spent their
k, t, p's, they were driven to adopt the breaths, the
ch, z, f, as the second variety; while, when the third
variety came to be expressed, nothing remained but
the mediæ, which, however, in the literary documents
accessible to us, have, in the guttural and labial series,
been constantly replaced by the Gothic h and f, causing
a partial confusion which might easily have been
This phonetic process which led the Hindus, Greeks,
Goths, and Germans to a settlement of their respective
consonantal systems might be represented as follows.
207The aspirates are indicated by I., the mediæ by II.,
the tenues by III., the breaths by IV.: —
I. | II. | III. | IV. | Sanskrit | Gothic
I. | II. | III. | IV. | Greek | High German
Let us now examine one or two more of these
clusters of treble roots, like dhar, dar, tar, and see how
they burst forth under different climates from the soil
of the Aryan languages.
There are three roots, all beginning with a guttural
and ending with the vocalised r. In the abstract they
may be represented as kar, gar, khar (or
ghar). In Sanskrit we meet first of all with
ghar, which soon sinks down to har, a root of
which we shall have to say a great deal when we come
to examine the growth of mythological ideas, but
which for the present we may define as meaning to
glitter, to be bright, to be happy, to burn, to be eager.
In Greek this root appears in chaírein, to rejoice, &c.
Gothic, following Sanskrit as far as it could, fixed
the same root as gar, and formed from it geiro, desire:
gairan and gairnjan, to desire, to yearn — derivatives
which, though they seem to have taken a sense almost
the contrary of that of the Greek chaíreín, find valuable
analogies in the Sanskrit haryati, to desire, &c. *
The High-German, following Greek as far as possible,
208formed kiri, desire; kerni, desiring, &c. So much for
the history of one root in the four representative languages,
in Sanskrit, Gothic, Greek, and High German.
We now come to a second root, represented in
Sanskrit by gar, to shout, to praise. There is no
difficulty in Greek. Greek had not spent its mediæ
and therefore exhibits the same root with the same consonants
as Sanskrit, in gērýs, voice; gērýō, I proclaim.
But what was Gothic to do, and the languages which
follow Gothic, Low German, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse?
Having spent their medise on ghar, they must fall
back on their tenues, and hence the Old Norse kalla,
to call, * but not the A. S. galan, to yell. The name
for crane is derived in Greek from the same root,
géranos meaning literally the shouter. In Anglo-Saxon
crân we find the corresponding tenuis. Lastly,
the High German, having spent its tenuis, has to fall
back on its guttural breath; hence O. H. G. challôn, to
call, and chrânoh, crane.
The third root, kar, appears in Sanskrit as well
as in Greek with its guttural tenuis. There is in
Sanskrit fear, to make, to achieve; kratu, power, &c.;
in Greek kraínō, I achieve; and kratýs, strong; kártos,
strength. Gothic having disposed both of its media
and tenuis, Kas to employ its guttural breath to represent
the third series; hence hardus, hard, i. e. strong.
The High German, which naturally would have recourse
to its unemployed media, prefers in the guttural
series the Gothic breath, giving us harti instead of
garti, and thereby causing, in a limited sphere, that
very disturbance the avoidance of which seems to be
the secret spring of the whole process of the so-called
Dislocation of Consonants, or Lautverschiebung.209
Again, there are in Sanskrit three roots ending in
u, and differing from each other merely by the three
dental initials, dh, d, and t. There is dhû (dhu), to
shake; du, to burn; and tu, to grow. *
The first root, dhû, produces in Sanskrit dhû-no-mi,
I shake; dhû-ma, smoke (what is shaken or whirled
about); dhû-li, dust. In Greek the same root yields
thýō, to rush, as applied to rivers, storms, and the
passions of the mind; thýella, storm; thy̅mós, wrath,
spirit; in Latin, fumus, smoke.
In Gothic the Sanskrit aspirate dh is represented by
d; hence dauns, vapour, smell. In Old High-German
the Greek aspirate th is represented by t; hence tunst,
The second root, du, meaning to burn, both in a
material and moral sense, yields in Sanskrit dava,
conflagration; davathú, inflammation, pain; in Greek
daíō, dédaumai, to burn; and dýē, misery. Under its
simple form it has not yet been discovered in the other
Aryan dialects; but in a secondary form it may be
recognised in Gothic tundnan, to light; Old High-German,
zünden; English, tinder. Another Sanskrit
root, du, to move about, has as yet been met with in
Sanskrit grammarians only. But, besides the participle
dûna, mentioned by them, there is the participle
dûta, a messenger, one who is moved or sent about on
business, and in this sense the root du may throw
light on the origin of Gothic taujan, German zauen,
to do quickly, to speed an act.
The third root, tit, appears in Sanskrit as tavîti, he
grows, he is strong; in tavás, strong; tavishá,
strong; tuvi (in comp.), strong; in Greek, as taÿs,
great. The Latin tôtus has been derived from the
210same root, though not without difficulty. The Umbrian
and Oscan words for city, on the contrary,
certainly come from that root, tuta, tota, from which
tuticus in meddix tuticus * town magistrate. In Lettish,
tauta is people; in Old Irish, tuath. † In Gothic we have
thiuda, ‡ people; thiudisks, belonging to the people,
theodiscus; thiudiskô, ethnikōs; in Anglo-Saxon, theón,
to grow; theód and theódisc, people; getheód, language
(il volgare). The High German, which looks upon
Sanskrit t and Gothic th as d, possesses the same
word, as diot, people, diutisc, popularis; hence Deutsch,
German, and deuten, to explain, lit. to Germanize.
Throughout the whole of this process there was no
transition of one letter into another; no gradual
strengthening, no gradual decay, as Grimm supposes. §
It was simply and solely a shifting of the three
cardinal points of the common phonetic horizon of the
Aryan nations. While the Hindus fixed their East
on the gh, dh, and bh, the Teutons fixed it on the g,
d, and b. All the rest was only a question of what
the French call s'orienter. To make my meaning
more distinct, I will ask you to recall to your minds
211the arms of the Isle of Man, three legs on one body,
one leg kneeling towards England, the other towards
Scotland, the third towards Ireland. Let England,
Scotland, and Ireland, represent the three varieties of
consonantal contact; then Sanskrit would bow its
first knee to England (dh), its second to Ireland (d), its
third to Scotland (t); Gothic would bow its first knee
to Ireland (d), its second to Scotland (7), its third
to England (th); Old High-German would bow its
first knee to Scotland (t), its second to England (th),
its third to Ireland (d). The three languages would
thus exhibit three different aspects of the three points
that have successively to be kept in view; but we
should have no right to maintain that any one of
the three languages shifted its point of view after
having once assumed a settled position; we should
have no right to say that t ever became th, th d,
and d t.
Let us now examine a few words which form the
common property of the Aryan nations, and which
existed in some form or other before Sanskrit was
Sanskrit, Greek Greek, and Gothic Gothic. Some
of them have not only the same radical, but likewise
the same formative or derivative elements in all the
Aryan languages. These are, no doubt, the most interesting,
because they belong to the earliest stages of
Aryan speech, not only by their material, but likewise
by their workmanship. Such a word as mother, for
instance, has not only the same root in Sanskrit,
Greek, Latin, German, Slavonic, and Celtic, namely,
the root mâ, but likewise the same derivative tar * so
212that there can be no doubt that in the English mother
we are handling the same word which in ages commonly
called prehistoric, but in reality as historical
as the days of Homer, or the more distant times of
the Vedic Rishis, was framed to express the original
conception of genitrix. But there are other words
which, though they differ in their derivative elements,
are identical in their roots and in their meanings, so
as to leave little doubt that though they did not exist
previous to the dispersion of the Aryans, in exactly
that form in which they are found in Greek or Sanskrit,
they are nevertheless mere dialectic varieties, or modern
modifications of earlier words. Thus star is not exactly
the same word as stella, nor stella the same as the Sk.
târâ; yet these words show that, previous to the confusion
of the Aryan tongues, the root star, to strew,
was applied to the stars, as strewing about or sprinkling
forth their sparkling light. In that sense we
find the stars called stṛi, plural staras, in the Veda.
The Latin stella stands for sterula, and means a little
star; the Gothic stair-no is a new feminine derivative;
and the Sanskrit târâ has lost its initial s. As to the
Greek astḗr, .it is supposed to be derived from a
different root, as, to shoot, and to mean the shooters
of rays, the darters of light; but it can, with greater
plausibility, be claimed for the same family as the
It might be objected, that this very word star
violates the law which we are going to examine,
though all philologists agree that it is a law that
cannot be violated with impunity. But, as in other
sciences, so in the science of language, a law is not
violated, on the contrary, it is confirmed, by exceptions
of which a rational explanation can be given.
213Now the fact is, that Grimm's law is most strictly
enforced on all initial consonants, much less so on
medial and final consonants. But whenever the
tenuis is preceded at the beginning of words by an s,
h, or f, these letters protect the k, t, p, and guard
it against the execution of the law. Thus the root
stâ does not become sthâ in Gothic; nor does the
t at the end of noct-is become th, night being naht in
Gothic. On the same ground, st in stăr and stella could
not appear in Gothic as th, but remain st as in stairnô.
In selecting words to illustrate each of the nine
cases in which the dislocation of consonants has taken
place, I shall confine myself, as much as possible, to
words occurring in English; and I have to observe
that as a general rule, Anglo-Saxon stands throughout
on the same step as Gothic. Consonants in the
middle and at the end of words, are liable to various
disturbing influences, and I shall therefore dwell
chiefly on the changes of initial consonants.
Let us begin with words which in English and Anglo-Saxon
begin with the soft g, d, and b. If the same
words exist in Sanskrit, what should we expect instead
of them? Clearly the aspirates gh, dh, bh, but never
g, d, b, or k, t, p. In Greek we expect χ, ϑ, φ. In
the other languages there can be no change, because
they ignore the distinction between aspirates and soft
checks, except the Latin, which fluctuates between
soft checks and guttural and labial spiritus.
I. KH, Greek χ; Sanskrit gh, h; Latin h, f.
G, Gothic g; Latin gv, g, v; Celtic g; Slavonic g, z.
K, Old High-German k.
The English yesterday is the Gothic gistra, the
Anglo-Saxon gystran or gyrstandœg, German gestern.
The radical portion is gis, the derivative tra; just as
214in Latin hes-ternus, hes is the base, ternus the derivative.
In heri the s is changed to r, because it stands
between two vowels, like genus, generis. Now in
Sanskrit we look for initial gh, or h, and so we find
hyas, yesterday. In Greek we look for χ, and so we
find chthés. Old High-German, kestre.
Corresponding to gall, bile, we find Greek cholḗ,
Latin fel instead of hel. *
Similarly garden, Goth, gards, Greek chórtos, Latin
hortus, and cohors, cohortis, Slavonic gradŭ, † as in
Novgorod, Old High-German karto.
The English goose, the A. S. gôs, is the O. H. G. kans,
the Modern German Gans. ‡ (It is a general rule
in A. S. that n before f, s, and ð is dropped; thus
Goth. munths = A. S. muðh, mouth; Latin dens, A. S.
toð, tooth; German ander, Sk. antara, A. S. oðer,
other.) In Greek we find chḗn, in Latin anser, instead
of hanser, in Sanskrit hansa, in Russian gus'; in
Bohemian hus, well known as the name of the great
reformer and martyr.
II. TH, Greek ϑ, φ; Sanskrit dh; Latin f.
D, Gothic d; Latin d, b; Celtic d; Slavonic d.
T, Old High-German t.
The English deer, A. S. deor, Goth, dius, correspond
to Greek thḗr, or phḗr; Latin, fera, wild beast;
O. H. G., tior.
The English to dare is the Gothic gadaursan, the
Greek tharseîn or tharreîn, the Sanskrit dhṛish, the
O.Sl. drizati, O. H. G. tarran. The Homeric Thersites ‡
may come from the same root, meaning the
215daring fellow. Greek, thrasýs, bold, is Lithuanian
The English doom means originally judgment;
hence, ‘final doom,’ the last judgment. So in Gothic
dom-s is judgment, sentence. If this word exists in
Greek, it would be there derived from a root dhâ or
thê (títhēmi), which means to place, to settle, and
from which we have at least one derivative in a
strictly legal sense, namely, thémis, law, what is
settled, then the goddess of justice.
III. PH, Greek φ; Sanskrit bh; Latin f.
B, Gothic b; Latin b; Celtic and Slavonic b.
P, Old High-German p.
‘I am’ in Anglo-Saxon is beom and eom. Eom
comes from the root as, and stands for eo(r)m, O. N.
ë(r)m, Gothic i(s)m, Sanskrit asmi. Beom is the
O. H. G. pi-m, the modern German bin, the Sanskrit
bhavâmi, the Greek phúō, Latin fu in fui.
Beech is the Gothic bôka, Lat. fagus, O. H. G. puocha.
The Greek phēgós which is identically the same word,
does not mean beech, but oak. Was this change of
meaning accidental, or were there circumstances by
which it can be explained? Was phēgós originally the
name of the oak, meaning the food-tree, from phageîn,
to eat? And was the name which originally belonged
to the oak (the Quercus Esculus) transferred to the
beech, after the age of stone with its fir trees, and the
age of bronze with its oak trees, had passed away, *
and the age of iron and of beech trees had dawned on
the shores of Europe? I hardly venture to say Yes;
yet we shall meet with other words and other changes
of meaning suggesting similar ideas, and encouraging
216the student of language in looking upon these words
as witnesses attesting more strikingly than flints and
‘tags’ the presence of human life and Aryan language
in Europe, previous to the beginning of history or
What is the English brim? * We say a glass is
brim full, or we fill our glasses to the brim, which
means simply ‘to the edge.’ We also speak of the
brim of a hat, the German Bräme. Now originally
brim did not mean every kind of edge or verge, but
only the line which separates the land from the sea.
It is derived from the root bhram, which, as it ought,
exhibits bh in Sanskrit, and means to whirl about,
applied to fire, such as bhrama, the leaping flame,
or to water, such as bhrama, a whirlpool, or to air,
such as bhṛimi, a whirlwind. Now what was called
œstus by the Romans, namely, the swell or surge of
the sea, where the waves seemed to foam, to flame,
and to smoke (hence eestuary), the same point was
called by the Teutonic nations the whirl, or the brim.
After meaning the border-line between land and sea,
it came to mean any border, though in the expression,
‘fill your glasses to the brim,’ we still
imagine to see the original conception of the sea
rushing or pouring in toward the dry land. In
Greek we have a derivative verb phrimássein, † to toss
about; in Latin fremo, chiefly in the sense of raging
or roaring, and perhaps frendo, to gnash, are akin to
this root. In the Teutonic languages other words of
a totally different character must be traced back to
217the same original conception of bhram, to whirl, to be
confused, to be rolled up together, namely, bramble,
broom, &c. *.
We now proceed to the second class, namely, words
which in Gothic and Anglo-Saxon are pronounced
with k, t, p, and which, therefore, in all the other
Indo-European languages, with the exception of Old
High-German, ought to be pronounced with g, d, b.
IV. G, Sanskrit g; Greek, Latin, and Celtic g; Slavonic g, z.
K, gothic k.
KH, old high-german ch.
(4.) The English corn is the Gothic kaurn, Slavonic
zr'no, Lith. źirnis. In Latin we find granum, in
Sanskrit we may compare jîrṇa, ground down, though
chiefly applied metaphorically to what is ground
down or destroyed by old age. O. H. G. chorn.
The English kin is Gothic kuni, O. H. G. chunni.
In Greek génos, Lat. genus, Sk. janas, we have the
same word. The English child is in Old Saxon kind,
the Greek gónos, offspring. The English queen is the
Gothic qinô, or qens, the Old Saxon quena, A. S. even.
It meant originally, like the Greek gyné, † the Old
Slavonic źena, the Sanskrit jani and janî, mother, just
as king, the German könig, the O. H. G chuninc, the
A. S. cyn-ing, meant originally, like Sk. janaka, father.
The English knot is the Old Norse knûtr, the Latin
nodus, which stands for gnodus.
V. D, Sanskrit d; Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic d.
T, Gothic t.
Th, Old High-German z.
(5.) English two is Gothic tvai, O. H. G. zuei. In
218all other languages we get the initial soft d; Greek
dúo, Latin duo, Lith. du, Slav, dva, Irish do. Dubius,
doubtful, is derived from duo, two; and the same
idea is expressed by the German Zweifel, Old High-German
zwifal, Gothic tveifls.
English tree is Gothic triu; in Sanskrit dru, wood
and tree (dâru, a log). In Greek drŷs is tree, but
especially the tree, namely, the oak. * In Irish darach
and in Welsh derw, the meaning of oak is said to
preponderate, though originally they meant tree in
general. In Slavonic drjevo we have again the same
word in the sense of tree. The Greek dóry meant
originally a wooden shaft, then a spear.
English timber is Gothic timr or timbr, from which
timrjan, to build. We must compare it, therefore,
with Greek démein to build, dómos, house, Lat.
domus, Sanskrit, dama, the German Zimmer, room.
VI. B, Sanskrit b or v; Greek, Latin, Celtic, and Slavonic b.
P, Gothic p (scarce).
PH, Old High-German ph or f.
(6.) There are few really Saxon words beginning
with p, and there are no words in Gothic beginning
with that letter, except foreign words. In Sanskrit,
too, the consonant that ought to correspond to Gothic
p, namely b, is very seldom, if ever, an initial sound,
its place being occupied by the labial spiritus v.
We now proceed to the third class, i.e. words beginning
in English and Gothic with aspirates, or more
properly with breathings, which necessitate in all
other Aryan languages, except Old High-German,
corresponding consonants such as k, t, p. In Old
219High-German the law breaks down. We find h and f
instead of g and b, and only in the dental series the
media d has been preserved, corresponding to
Sanskrit t and Gothic th.
VII. K, Sanskrit k; Greek k; Latin c, qu; Old Irish, c, ch;
KH, Gothic h, g (f). Sanskrit h.
G, Old High-German h (g, k).
(7.) The English heart is the Gothic hairtô. Accordingly
we find in Latin cor, cordis, in Greek kardía.
In Sanskrit we should expect kṛid, instead of which
we find the irregular form hṛid. O. H. G. herza.
The English hart, cervus, is the Anglo-Saxon
heorot, the Old High-German hiruz. This points to
Greek keraós, horned, from kéras, horn, and to cervus
in Latin. The same root produced in Latin cornu,
Gothic haurn, Old High-German horn. In Sk. śir as
is head, śṛinga, horn.
The English who and what, though written with
wh, are in Anglo-Saxon hva and hvœt, in Gothic hvas,
hvô, hva. Transliterating this into Sanskrit, we get
kas, kâ, kad; Latin quis, quæ, quid; Greek kós and
VIII. T, Sanskrit t; Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic t.
Th, Gothic th and d.
D, Old High-German d.
(8.) The English that is the Gothic thata, the
neuter of sa, sô, thata) A. S. se, seó, thœt) German der,
die, das. In Sanskrit sa, sâ, tad; in Greek hós, hḗ, tó.
In the same manner three, Gothic thrais, is Sanskrit
trayas, High German drei.
Thou, Sanskrit tvam, Greek tý and sý, Latin tu,
High German du.220
Thin in old Norse is thunnr, Sanskrit tanu-s, Latin
tenuis. High German dünn.
IX. P, Sanskrit p; Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic p.
Ph, Gothic f and b.
B, Old High-German f and v.
(9.) The last case is that of the labial spiritus in
English or Gothic, which requires a hard labial as its
substitute in Sanskrit and the other Aryan dialects,
except in Old High-German, where it mostly reappears
The English to fare in ‘fare thee well’' corresponds
to Greek póros, a passage. Welfare, wohlfahrt, would
be in Greek euporía, opposed to aporía, helplessness.
In Sanskrit the same word appears, though slightly
altered, namely, char, * to walk.
The English feather would correspond to a Sanskrit
pattra, and this means a wing of a bird, i.e. the instrument
of flying, from pat, to fly, and tra. As to
penna, it comes from the same root, but is formed with
another suffix. It would be in Sanskrit patana,
pesna and penna in Latin.
The English friend is a participle present. The
verb frijon in Gothic means to love; hence, frijond, a
lover. It is the Sanskrit prî, to love.
The English few is the same word as the French
pen. Few, however, is not borrowed from Norman-French,
but the two are distant cousins. Peu goes
back to paucus; few to A. S. feawa, Gothic fav-s; and
this is the true Gothic representative of the Latin
paucus. O. H. G. fôh. †221
General Table of Grimm's Law.
Sanskrit | Greek | Latin | Old Irish | Old Slavonic | Lithuanian | Gothic | Old High-German
On Words for Fir, Oak, and Beech.
In the course of these illustrations of Grimm's law
I was led to remark on the peculiar change of meaning
in Latin fagus, Greek phēgós, and Gothic bôka.
Phēgós in Greek means oak, never beech; * in Latin
and Gothic fagus and bôka signify beech, and beech
only. No real attempt, as far as I know, has ever
been made to explain how the same name came
to be attached to trees so different in outward appearance
as oak and beech. In looking out for
analogous cases, and trying to find out whether
other names of trees were likewise used in different
senses in Greek, Latin, and German, one other name
occurred to me which in German means fir, and in
Latin oak. At first sight the English word fir does
not look very like the Latin quercus, yet it is the
same word. If we trace fir back to Anglo-Saxon we
find it there under the form of furh. According to
222Grimm's law, f points to p, h to k, so that in Latin
we should have to look for a word the consonantal
skeleton of which might be represented as p r c.
Guttural and labial tenues change, and as AngloSaxon
fîf points to quinque, so furh leads to Latin
quercus, oak. In Old High-German, foraha is Pinus
silvestris; in modern German föhre has the same meaning.
But in a passage quoted from the Lombard
laws of Rothar, fereha, evidently the same word, is
mentioned as a name of oak (roborem aut quercum
quod est fereha); and Grimm, in his ‘Dictionary of
the German Language,’ gives ferch, in the sense of
oak, blood, life.
It would be easy enough to account for a change of
meaning from fir, or oak, or beech, to tree in general,
or vice versâ. We find the Sanskrit dru, wood (cf.
druma, tree, dâru, log), the Gothic triu, tree, used in
Greek chiefly in the sense of oak, drŷs. The Irish
darach, Welch derw, mean oak, and oak only. * But
what has to be explained here is the change of meaning
from fir to oak, and from oak to beech — i.e. from
one particular tree to another.particular tree. While
considering these curious changes, I happened to read
Sir Charles Lyell's new work, ‘The Antiquity of
Man,’ and I was much struck by the following passage
(p. 8 seq.) : —
‘The deposits of peat in Denmark, varying in
depth from ten to thirty feet, have been formed in
hollows or depressions in the northern drift or boulder
formations hereafter to be described. The lowest
stratum, two or three feet thick, consists of swamp
peat, composed chiefly of moss or sphagnum, above
which lies another growth of peat, not made up exclusively
223of aquatic or swamp plants. Around the
borders of the bogs, and at various depths in them,
lie trunks of trees, especially of the Scotch fir (Pinus
silvestris), often three feet in diameter, which must
have grown on the margin of the peat-mosses, and
have frequently fallen into them. This tree is not
now, nor has ever been in historical times, a native of
the Danish Islands, and when introduced there has not
thriven; yet it was evidently indigenous in the human
period, for Steenstrup has taken out with his own
hands a flint instrument from below a buried trunk
of one of these pines. It appears clear that the same
Scotch fir was afterwards supplanted by the sessile
variety of the common oak, of which many prostrate
trunks occur in the peat at higher levels than the
pines; and still higher the pedunculated variety of the
same oak (Quercus Robur, L.) occurs, with the alder,
birch (Betula verrucosa, Ehrh.), and hazel. The oak
has in its turn been almost superseded in Denmark by
the common beech. Other trees, such as the white
birch (Betula alba), characterise the lower part of the
bogs, and disappear from the higher; while others
again, like the aspen (Populus tremula), occur at all
levels, and still flourish in Denmark. All the land
and fresh-water shells, and all the mammalia as well
as the plants, whose remains occur buried in the
Danish peat, are of recent species.
It has been stated that a stone implement was
found under a buried Scotch fir at a great depth in
the peat. By collecting and studying a vast variety
of such implements, and other articles of human work-manship
preserved in peat and in sand-dunes on the
coast, as also in certain shell-mounds of the aborigines
presently to be described, the Danish and Swedish
224antiquaries and naturalists, MM. Nillson, Steenstrup,
Forchhammer, Thomsen, Worsäae, and others,
have succeeded in establishing a chronological succession
of periods, which they have called the ages of
stone, of bronze, and of iron, named from the materials
which have each in their turn served for the
fabrication of implements.
The age of stone in Denmark coincides with the
period of the first vegetation, or that of the Scotch
fir, and in part at least with the second vegetation, or
that of the oak. But a considerable portion of the
oak epoch coincided with “the age of bronze,” for
swords and shields of that metal, now in the Museum
of Copenhagen, have been taken out of peat in which
oaks abound. The age of iron corresponded more
nearly with that of the beech tree.
M. Morlot. to whom we are indebted for a masterly
sketch of the recent progress of this new line of
research, followed up with so much success in Scandinavia
and Switzerland, observes that the introduction
of the first tools made of bronze among a people previously
ignorant of the use of metals, implies a great
advance in the arts, for bronze is an alloy of about
nine parts of copper and one of tin; and although
the former metal, copper, is by no means rare, and is
occasionally found pure, or in a native state, tin is not
only scarce, but never occurs native. To detect the
existence of this metal in its ore, then to disengage
it from the matrix, and finally, after blending it in
due proportion with copper, to cast the fused mixture
in a mould, allowing time for it to acquire hardness
by slow cooling, all this bespeaks no small sagacity
and skilful manipulation. Accordingly, the pottery
found associated with weapons of bronze is of a more
225ornamental and tasteful style than any which belongs
to the age of stone. Some of the moulds in which the
bronze instruments were cast, and “tags,” as they are
called, of bronze, which are formed in the hole through
which the fused metal was poured, have been found.
The number and variety of objects belonging to the
age of bronze indicates its long duration, as does the
progress in the arts implied by the rudeness of the
earlier tools, often mere repetitions of those of the
stone age, as contrasted with the more skilfully-worked
weapons of a later stage of the same period.
It has been suggested that an age of copper must
always have intervened between that of stone and
bronze; but if so, the interval seems to have been
short in Europe, owing apparently to the territory
occupied by the aboriginal inhabitants having been
invaded and conquered by a people coming from the
East, to whom the use of swords, spears, and other
weapons of bronze, was familiar. Hatchets, however,
of copper have been found in the Danish peat.
The next stage of improvement, or that manifested
by the substitution of iron for bronze, indicates
another stride in the progress of the arts. Iron never
presents itself, except in meteorites, in a native state,
so that to recognise its ores, and then to separate the
metal from its matrix, demands no small exercise of
the powers of observation and invention. To fuse
the ore requires an intense heat, not to be obtained
without artificial appliances, such as pipes inflated by
the human breath, or bellows, or some other suitable
After reading this extract I could hardly help
asking the question, Is it possible to explain the change
of meaning in one word which meant fir and came to
226mean oak, and in another word which meant oak and
came to mean beech, by the change of vegetation
which actually took place in those early ages? Can
we suppose that members of the Aryan family had
settled in parts of Europe, that dialects of their common
language were spoken in the south and in the
north of this western peninsula of the primeval Asiatic
Continent, at a time which Mr. Steenstrup estimates
as at least 4, 000 years ago? Sir Charles Lyell does
not commit himself to such definite chronological
calculations. ‘What may be the antiquity,’ he writes,
‘of the earliest human remains preserved in the Danish
peat, cannot be estimated in centuries with any approach
to accuracy. In the first place, in going back
to the bronze age, we already find ourselves beyond
the reach of history or even of tradition. In the time
of the Romans, the Danish Isles were covered, as
now, with magnificent beech forests. Nowhere in
the world does this tree flourish more luxuriantly than
in Denmark, and eighteen centuries seem to have done
little or nothing towards modifying the character of
the forest vegetation. Yet in the antecedent bronze
period there were no beech trees, or, at most, but a
few stragglers, the country being covered with oak.
In the age of stone, again, the Scotch fir prevailed, and
already there were human inhabitants in those old
pine forests. How many generations of each species
of tree flourished in succession before the pine was
supplanted by the oak, and the oak by the beech, can
be but vaguely conjectured, but the minimum of time
required for the formation of so much peat must,
according to the estimate of Steenstrup and other
good authorities, have amounted to at least 4, 000
years; and there is nothing in the observed rate of the
227growth of peat opposed to the conclusion that the
number of centuries may not have been four times as
great, even though the signs of man's existence have
not yet been traced down to the lowest or amorphous
stratum. As to the “shell-mounds,” they correspond
in date to the older portion of the peaty record, or to
the earliest part of the age of stone as known in
To suppose the presence in Europe of people speaking
Aryan languages at so early a period in the history
of the world, is opposed to the ordinarily received
notions as to the advent of the Aryan race on the soil
of Europe. Yet, if we ask ourselves, we shall have
to confess that these notions themselves rest on no
genuine evidence, nor is there for these early periods
any available measure of time, except what may be
read in the geological annals of the post-tertiary
period. The presence of human life during the fir
period or the stone age seems to be proved. The
question whether the races then living were Aryan
or Turanian can be settled by language only. Skulls
may help to determine the physical character, but they
can in no way clear up our doubts as to the language
of the earliest inhabitants of Europe. Now, if we find
in the dialects of Aryan speech spoken in Europe,
if we find in Greek, Latin, and German, changes of
meaning running parallel with the changes of vegetation
just described, may we not admit, though as an
hypothesis, and as an hypothesis only, that such changes
of meaning were as the shadows cast on language by
Let us look for analogies. A word like book, the
German Buck, being originally identical with beech,
the German Buche, is sufficient evidence to prove that
228German was spoken before parchment and paper
superseded wooden tablets. If we knew the time
when tablets made of beech-wood ceased to be employed
as the common writing material, that date
would be a minimum date for the existence of that
language in which a book is called book, and not
either volumen, or liber, or biblos.
Old words, we know, are constantly transferred to
new things. People speak of an engine-driver, because
they had before spoken of the driver of horses.
They speak of a steel-pen and a pen-holder, because
they had before spoken of a pen, penna. When
hawks were supplanted by fire-arms, the names of the
birds of prey, formerly used in hawking, were transferred
to the new weapons. Mosquet, the name of a
sparrow-hawk, so called on account of its dappled
(muscatus) plumage, became the name of the French
mousquet, a musket. Faucon, hawk, was the name
given to a heavier sort of artillery. Sacre in French
and saker in English, mean both hawk and gun; and
the Italian terzeruolo, a small pistol, is closely connected
with terzuolo, a hawk. The English expression,
‘to let fly at a thing’ suggests a similar explanation.
In all these cases if we knew the date when
hawking went out and fire-arms came in, we should be
able to measure by that date the antiquity of the
language in which fire-arms were called by names
originally the names of hawks.
The Mexicans called their own copper or bronze
tepuztli, which is said to have meant originally hatchet.
The same word is now used for iron, with which the
Mexicans first became acquainted through their intercourse
with the Spaniards. Tepuztli then became
a general name for metal, and when copper had to be
229distinguished from iron, the former was called red, the
latter black teputzli * The conclusion which we may
draw from this, viz., that Mexican was spoken before
the introduction of iron into Mexico, is one of
no great value, because we know it from other
But let us apply the same line of reasoning to
Greek. Here, too, chalkós, which at first meant
copper, † came afterwards to mean metal in general,
and chalkeús, originally a coppersmith, occurs in the
Odyssey (ix. 391) in the sense of blacksmith, or a
worker of iron (sidēreús). What does this prove?
It proves that Greek was spoken before the discovery
of iron, and it shows that if we knew the exact date
of that discovery, which certainly took place before
the Homeric poems were finished, we should have
in it a minimum date for the antiquity of the Greek
language. Though the use of iron was known before
the composition of the Homeric poems, it certainly
was not known, as we shall see presently,
previous to the breaking up of the Aryan family.
Even in Greek poetry there is a distinct recollection
of an age in which copper was the only metal used
for weapons, armour, and tools. Hesiod ‡ speaks of the
third generation of men, ‘who had arms of copper,
houses of copper, who ploughed with copper, and the
black iron did not exist.’ In the Homeric poems,
230knives, spear-points, and armour were still made of
copper, and we can hardly doubt that the ancients
knew a process of hardening that pliant metal, most
likely by repeated smelting and immersion in water. *
The discovery of iron marks a period in the history
of the world. Iron is not, like gold, silver, and
copper, found in a pure state; the iron ore has to
be searched for, and the process of extracting from
it the pure metal is by no means easy. †
What makes it likely that iron was not known previous
to the separation of the Aryan nations is the fact
that its names vary in every one of their languages. It is
true that chalkós, too, in the sense of copper, occurs in
Greek only, for it cannot be compared phonetically with
Sanskrit hrîku, which is said to mean tin. But there
is another name for copper, which is shared in common
by Latin and the Teutonic languages, æs, æris,
Gothic ais, Old High-German êr, Modern German
Er-z, Anglo-Saxon âr, English ore. Like chalkós,
which originally meant copper, but came to mean metal
in general, bronze or brass, the Latin æs, too, changed
from the former to the latter meaning; and we can
watch the same transition in the corresponding words
of the Teutonic languages. Æs, in fact, like Gothic
231aiz, meant the one metal which, with the exception of
gold and silver, was largely used of old for practical
purposes. It meant copper whether in its pure state,
or alloyed, as in later times, with zin (bronze) and
zinc (brass). But neither æs in Latin nor aiz in
Gothic ever came to mean gold, silver, or iron. It is
all the more curious, therefore, that the Sanskrit
ayas, which is the same word as æs and aiz, should
in Sanskrit have assumed the almost exclusive meaning
of iron. I suspect, however, that in Sanskrit,
too, ayas meant originally the metal, i.e. copper, and
that as iron took the place of copper, the meaning
of ayas was changed and specified. In passages of
the Atharva Veda (xi. 3, 1, 7), and the Vâjasaneyisanhitâ
(xviii. 13), a distinction is made between
śyâmam ayas, dark-brown metal, and loham or lohitam
ayas, bright metal, the former meaning copper, the
latter iron. * The flesh of an animal is likened to
copper, its blood to iron. This shows that the exclusive
meaning of ayas as iron was of later growth,
and renders it more than probable that, the Hindus,
like the Romans and Germans, attached originally to
ayas (æs and aiz), the meaning of the metal par
excellence, i.e. copper. In Greek, ayas would have
dwindled to ēs, and was replaced by chalkós; while,
to distinguish the new from the old metals, iron was
called by Homer śidēros. In Latin, different kinds
of æs were distinguished by adjectives, the best known
being the æs Cyprium, , brought from Cyprus. Cyprus
was taken possession of by the Romans in 57 B.C.
232Herod was entrusted by Augustus with the direction
of the Cyprian copper-mines, and received one half of
the profits. Pliny used æs Cyprium and Cyprium by
itself, for copper. The popular form, cuprum, copper,
was first used by Spartianus, in the third century,
and became more frequent in the fourth. * Iron in
Latin received the name of ferrum. In Gothic, aiz
stands for Greek chalkós, but in Old High-German
chuphar appears as a more special name, and êr
assumes the meaning of bronze. This êr is lost in
Modern German, † except in the adjective ehern, and a
new word has been formed for metal in general, the
Old High-German ar-uzi, ‡ the modern German Erz.
As in Sanskrit, ayas assumed the special meaning of
iron, we find that in German, too, the name for iron
was derived from the older name of copper. The
Gothic eisarn, iron, is considered by Grimm as a derivative
form of aiz, and the same scholar concludes
from this that ‘in Germany bronze must have been
in use before iron.’ § Eisarn is changed in Old High-German
to îsarn, later to îsan, the Modern German
233eisen; while the Anglo-Saxon îsern leads to îren and
It may safely be concluded, I believe, that before
the Aryan separation, gold, silver, and a third metal,
i. e. copper, in a more or less pure state, were known.
Sanskrit, Greek, the Teutonic and Slavonic languages,
agree in their names for gold; * Sanskrit, Greek,
and Latin in their names for silver; † Sanskrit, Latin,
and German in their names for the third metal.
The names for iron, on the contrary, are different
in each of the principal branches of the Aryan family,
the coincidences between the Celtic and Teutonic
names being of a doubtful character. If, then, we
consider that the Sanskrit ayas, which meant, originally,
the same as Latin æs and Gothic aiz, came
to mean iron — that the German word for iron is
derived from Gothic aiz, and that Greek chalkós,
after meaning copper, was used as a general name
for metal, and conveyed occasionally the meaning
of iron — we may conclude, I believe, that Sanskrit,
Greek, Latin, and German were spoken before the
discovery of iron, that each nation became acquainted
with that most useful of all metals after the Aryan
family was broken up, and that each of the Aryan
languages coined its name for iron from its own resources,
and marked it by its own national stamp,
while it brought the names for gold, silver, and copper,
from the common treasury of their ancestral home.
Let us now apply the same line of reasoning to
the names of fir, oak, and beech, and their varying signification.
The Aryan tribes, all speaking dialects of
234one and the same language, who came to settle in
Europe during the fir period, or the stone age, would
naturally have known the fir-tree only. They called
it by the same name which still exists in English as
fir, in German as föhre. How was it, then, that the
same word, as used in the Lombard dialect, means
oak, and that a second dialectic form exists in modern
German, meaning oak, and not fir? We can well
imagine that the name of the fir-tree should, during
the fir period, have become the appellative for tree in
general, just as chalkós, copper, became the appellative
for metal in general. But how could that name have
been again individualized and attached to oak, unless
the dialect to which it belonged had been living at a
time when the fir vegetation was gradually replaced
by an oak vegetation? Although there is as little
evidence of the Latin quercus having ever meant fir,
and not oak, as there is of the Gothic aiz having ever
meant copper and not bronze, yet, if quercus is the
same word as fir, I do not hesitate to postulate for it
the pre-historic meaning of fir. That in some dialects
the old name of fir should have retained its meaning,
while in others it assumed that of oak, is in perfect
harmony with what we observed before, viz., that æs
retained its meaning in Latin, while ayas in Sanskrit
assumed the sense of iron.
The fact that phēgós in Greek means oak, * and oak
only, while fagus in Latin, boka in Gothic, mean beech,
235requires surely an explanation, and until a better one
can be given, I venture to suggest that Teutonic
and Italic Aryans witnessed the transition of the oak
period into the beech period, of the bronze age into
the iron age, and that while the Greeks retained
phēgós in its original sense, the Teutonic and Italian
colonists transferred the name, as an appellative, to
the new forests that were springing up in their wild
I am fully aware that many objections may be
urged against such an hypothesis. Migration from
a fir-country into an oak-country, and from an oak-country
into a beech-country, might be supposed to
have caused these changes of meaning in the ancient
Aryan words for fir and oak. I must leave it to the
geologist and botanist to determine whether this is a
more plausible explanation, and whether the changes
of vegetation, as described above, took place in the same
rotation over the whole of Europe, or in the North
only. Again, the skulls found in the peat deposits are
of the lowest type, and have been confidently ascribed
to races of non-Aryan descent. In answer to this, I
can only repeat my old protest, * that the science of
language has nothing to do with skulls. Lastly, the
date thus assigned to the Aryan arrival in Europe
will seem far too remote, particularly if it be considered
that long before the first waves of the Aryan
emigrants touched the shores of Europe, Turanian
tribes, Finns, Lapps, and Basks, must have roved
through the forests of our continent. My answer is,
that I feel the same difficulty myself, but that I
236have always considered a full statement of a difficulty
a necessary step towards its solution. I shall
be as much pleased to see my hypothesis refuted as
to see it confirmed. All that I request for it is an
* The letters here used are to be considered merely as symbols,
not as the real letters occurring in those languages. If we
translate these symbols into real letters, we find, in Formula I.,
KH | TH | PH | Sanskrit | Greek | Latin
* Cf. Curtius, Kuhn's Zeitschrift, ii. 330.
* See Lottner, Zeitschrift, xi. p. 204, Forstemann, ibid. i. p. 170.
* Hale, Polynesian Grammar, p. 232.
* The possible corruption of gh, dh, bh, into kh, th, ph, has
been explained by Curtius (G. E. ii. 17), under the supposition
that the second element of gh, dk, bh, is the spiritus asper, a
supposition which is untenable (Brücke, p. 84). But even if the
transition of gh into kh were phonetically possible, it has never
been proved that Greek ever passed through the phonetic phase
of Sanskrit. See also the interesting observations of Grassmann,
in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xii. p. 106.
* Sanskrit dh appears as Latin d in medius — Sk. madhya,
Greek μέσος or μέσσος, meri-dies — = μεσ-ημβρία.
* See Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, i. 166, and objections,
ibid. ii. 313.
* Lottner. in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xi. p. 165.
* See Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, i. 224, 196, 192.
* Aufrecht und Kirchhoff, Die Umbrischen Sprachdenkmäler,
i. p. 155.
† Lottner, Kuhn's Zeitschrift, vii. 166.
‡ Grimm, Deutsche Grammatik, first part, 3rd edition, 1840,
Einleitung, p. x. ‘Excurs über Germanisch und Deutsch.’
§ Grimm supposes these changes to have been very gradual.
He fixes the beginning of the first change (the Gothic) about the
second half of the first century after Christ, and supposes that it
was carried through in the second and third centuries. More
towards the West of Europe, he says, it may have commenced
even at an earlier time, and have been succeeded by the second
change (the Old High-German), the beginning of which is difficult
to fix, though we see it developed in the seventh century.
— Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache, i. 437.
* Sk. mâtâ; Greek μήτηρ; Lat. mater; O. H. G. rnuotar;
O. Sl. mati; Litli. moti; Gaelic, mathair.
* Lottner, Zeitschrift, vii. 167.
† Grimm, D. G. i. 244.
‡ Curtius, G. E. i. 222.
* Sir Charles Lyell, Antiquity of Man, p. 9.
* Kuhn, Zeitschrift, vi. 152.
† βρέμω and βρόμος, which are compared by Kuhn, would
violate the law; they express principally the sound, for instance
in βροντή, ύψιβρεμέτης, Curtius, G. E. ii. 109. Grassmann, in
Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xii. 93.
* Brande, sorte de broussaille dans le Berry, bruyère à balai.
† Curtius, G. E. ii. 247.
* Schol. ad Hom. Il. xi. 86. δρυτόμος, ξυλοτόμος. δρύν γάρ
έκάλουν οί παλαιοί άρχαιοτέρου πάν δένδρον.
* Cf. Grimm, s. v. fahren.
† Kuhn, Zeitschrift, i. 515. For exceptions to Grimm's law,
see a learned article by Professor Lottner, in Kuhn's Zeitschrift,
xi. 161; and Grassmann's observations in the same Journal, xii. 131.
* Theophrastus, De Historia Plantarum, iii. 8, 2,
* Grimm, Wörterbuch, s. v. Eiche.
* Anahuac; or, Mexico and the Mexicans, by Edward B. Tylor.
1861, p. 140.
† Gladstone, Homer and the Homeric Age, iii. p. 499.
‡ Hesiod, Op. et D. 150 : —
Τοίς δ᾿ήν χάλεα μὲν τύχεα, χάλκεοι δέ τε οίκοι,
Χαλκᾥ δ᾿είργάζοντο. μέλας δ᾿ούκ ἔσκε σίδηρος.
Cf. Lucretius, 5, 1286.
* See J. P. Rossignol, Membre de l'lnstitut, Les Métaux dans
l'Antiquité, Paris, 1863, p. 215, 237. Proclus says, with regard
to the passage in Hesiod, και τᾠ χαλκᾠ πρός τούτο έχρώντο, ώςτᾠ
σιδήρω πρός γεωργίαν, διά τινος βαϕής τόν χαλκόν στερροποιούντες.
In Strabo, xiii. p. 610, the process of making the alloy of copper
and zinc is described, and if ψευδάργυρος is zinc, the result of its
mixture with copper can only be brass.
† Rossignol, l. c. p. 216. Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, article
du Fer, and article du Cuivre, Homer calls iron πολύκμητος
* Lohitâyas is given in Wilson's Dictionary as meaning copper.
If this were right, śyâmam ayas would be iron. The commentator
to the Vâjeseneyi-sanhitâ. is vague, but he gives copper as the
first explanation of śyâmam, iron as the first explanation of Ioham.
* Rossignol, l. c. p. 268-9.
† It occurs as late as the fifteenth century. See Grimm,
Deutsches Worterbuch, s. v. erin, and s. v. Erz, 4, sub fine.
‡ Grimm throws out a hint that ruzi in aruzi might be the
Latin rudus, or raudus, rauderis, brass, but he qualifies the idea
§ See Grimm, Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache, where the
first chapter is devoted to the consideration of the names of
metals. The same subject has been treated by M. A. Pictet, in.
his Origines Indo-Européennes, vol. i. p. 149 seq. The learned
author arrives at results very different from those stated above,
but the evidence on which he relies, and particularly the supposed
coincidences between comparatively late or purely hypothetical
compounds in Sanskrit, and words in Greek and Latin,
would require much fuller proofs than he has given.
* Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, i. 172, ii. 314.
† Curtius, l. c. i. 141.
* In Persian, too, bûk is said to mean oak. No authority, however,
has ever been given for that meaning, and it is left out in
the last edition of Johnson's Dictionary, and in Vullers' Lexicon
Persico-Latinum. Though the Persian bûk, in the sense of oak,
would considerably strengthen our argument, it is necessary to
wait until the word has been properly authenticated.
* See M. M.'s Lectures on the Turanian Languages, p. 89.
Ethnology v. Phonology.