[Spellyans] Cornish for 'animal'

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sun Nov 30 12:26:27 GMT 2014

It has always been my view that the default word in Cornish for 'animal' was best, bestas, 
rather than Nance's preferred mil (UC myl).  Nance probably thought that mil was more Celtic than the English borrowing best. In fact best was almost certainly borrowed from Latin bestia; cf. et bestia quae erat et non est Apocalypsis 17.11.
Best, plural bestas is common in Middle Cornish, whereas mil is found
only in OCV, Lhuyd, Borlase and John Boson. Mil in Lhuyd, Borlase and Boson all derive ultimately from OCV. 

Further support for best as the default word for 'animal' seems to be forthcoming. 
The expression best peswartrosek 'four-footed animal, quadruped' is attested
in Bewnans Ke and Tregear's Homilies:

Peys! Syth Y hot wyld and tam, den ha best peswartrosak, I say Arthur is my nam BK 1397-99
Ny won i’n bys pew a’th feth, den na best peswartrosak mars an emprowr BK 1998-2000
an nore a thros in rag bestes peswartrosek TH 2.

Best peswartrosek was apparently the ordinary way of saying 'four-footed animal', so it is likely 
that best was the ordinary word for 'animal'.


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