[Spellyans] Etymology of Cornish language months of the year and seasons

janicelobb at tiscali.co.uk janicelobb at tiscali.co.uk
Wed Feb 10 16:28:00 GMT 2010

Dear David

This is what my researches have led me to believe. 
Probably the rest of the Spellyans membership will not agree with me!
The spelling I use is Modern Cornish.

Whatever you think regarding the Roman Conquest or otherwise in 
Cornwall, Latin has obviously left an indelible mark (perhaps via the 
Christian church), with half the months and no days having names of 
Celtic origin.

mîz (pronounced meez)=  (a) month; hantar Mîz, a fortnight. 

Mîz Jenuar, January (month); Janus’s month (Roman two-faced god, god 
of doors)
Mîz Whevral, February (month) ;  (poss. from Latin februa = 
purification; the month begins with Candlemass)
Mîz Merh, March (month); Mars’s month (Roman god of war – start of the 
soldiers’ year)
Mîz Ebral, April (month); (poss. from Latin aperio = to reveal, 
because buds open to reveal leaves and flowers)
Mîz Mea, May (month);  Maia’s month  (Roman goddess of growth)
Mîz Efan, June (month); poss. understood as clear month  (effan = 
clear, open) but origins are thought to go back to Medio-saminos in the 
Celtic calendar, which poss. means (of)Summer  [Metheven is an archaic 
Mîz Gorefan, July (month); poss. understood as extremely (or beyond) 
clear month (gor indicates intensity) but origins in Celtic calendar 
meant end of summer (beyond summer)
Mîz Est, August (month); hot month (poss. from Latin aestas = summer, 
or aestus = heat)
Mîz Gwedngala, September (month); month of white straw  (gwedn = white 
(f), cala = straw)
Mîz Hedra, October (month); month of the bellowing of stags (hêdh = 
stag, brivia = to bleat, etc.)
Mîz Diu, November (month);  dark month (diu/dhiu = dark, black)
Mîz Kevardhu, December (month); dark weather month  (kewar = weather)

dêdh: didh (pronounced daythe or deethe) = (a) day
but usually du = day when naming festivals, and de = day for days of 
the week

De Lîn, Monday; Luna’s day  (Roman goddess of the moon)
De Merh, Tuesday; Mars’ day  (Roman god of war)
De Marhar,  Wednesday; Mercury’s day  (Roman messenger of the gods)
De Yow, Thursday; Jove’s day  (Roman god of the sky)
De Gwenar, Friday; Venus’ day  (Roman goddess of love)
De Zadarn, Saturday; Saturn’s day  (Roman god of time)
De Zîl, Sunday; Sol’s day  (Roman god of the sun)

Some feast days also have Latin connections:
Du Halan an Vledhan = New Year’s Day (Halan, Calan and Cala all derive 
from Latin calends/kalends, the 1st day of the month)
Calamea = May Day (Middle of the Celtic Year – begins the light half 
of  year)
Du Halan = All Saints’ Day (Celtic New Year – begins the dark half of 
the year)

Du Pâsk = Easter Day (Latin pascha, though could be via French)

I have no etymology for the seasons - so I would be extremely 
interested to read what others have to say
(I'd love to think that the word for Autumn was in some way connected 
with the word for taking leave.)

The Zodiac signs are direct translations, with several spelling 
variations, of the ones we use today: an Tarow (Taurus, the bull), 
Gevellion (Gemini, the twins), an Crang (Cancer, the crab), an Lew 
(Leo, the lion), an Werthiez (Virgo, the maiden), an Vontol (Libra, the 
scales - similar word used for the Solstice), an Scorpion (Scorpio, the 
Scorpion - obviously not native or heraldic animal!), an Zethar 
(Sagittarius, the archer), an Gavar/an Avar (Capricorn, the goat), an 
Deger Dowr (Aquarius, the water carrier), Puskaz (Pisces, the fish pl.) 
and an Horr (Aries, the ram). 

I guess they may not be traditional.

Jan Lobb

>----Original Message----
>From: dlrt2 at cam.ac.uk
>Date: 10/02/2010 15:15 
>To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"<spellyans at kernowek.net>
>Subj: [Spellyans] Etymology of Cornish language months of the year 
and	seasons
>Anyone have a clue about the etymology of the Cornish language names 
>months of the year and of the seasons?
>We have a poet who has been attached as an "Artist Associate" to the 
>Institute of Astronomy, Melanie Challenger.
>She gave a talk today about "Astronomical ideas in small and 
>languages" speaking mostly about Inuit, and how their languages 
>astronomical and timekeeping ideas.
>I was wondering what the Cornish language could contribute to this 
>discussion, where do the words for the months and seasons come from 
>David Trethewey
>Institute of Astronomy
>Phone:  01223 339277 (office at IoA)
>        01872 888151 (VoIP)
>Mobile: 07817 775159
>Skype: davidtreth
>Spellyans mailing list
>Spellyans at kernowek.net

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