Green - Etymology and Linguistic Definitions

Etymology and Linguistic Definitions

The word green comes from the Middle English and Old English word grene, which, like the German word grün, has the same root as the words grass and grow. It is from a Common Germanic *gronja-, which is also reflected in Old Norse grænn, Old High German gruoni (but unattested in East Germanic), ultimately from a PIE root *ghre- "to grow", and root-cognate with grass and to grow. The first recorded use of the word as a color term in Old English dates to ca. AD 700.

Latin with viridis (and hence the Romance languages, and English vert, verdure etc.) also has a genuine term for "green". Likewise the Slavic languages with zelenъ. Ancient Greek also had a term for yellowish, pale green, χλωρός, cognate with χλοερός "verdant" and χλόη "the green of new growth".

Thus, the languages mentioned above (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Greek) have old terms for "green" which are derived from words for fresh, sprouting vegetation. However, comparative linguistics makes clear that these terms were coined independently, over the past few millennia, and there is no identifiable single Proto-Indo-European or word for "green". For example, the Slavic zelenъ is cognate with Sanskrit hari "yellow, ochre, golden". The Turkic languages also have jašɨl "green" or "yellowish green", compared to a Mongolian word for "meadow".

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