The word "bear" is thought to be the oldest known euphemism. It originated as as alternative to saying the true, taboo name of the animal, when it was thought that saying this name could summon the creature's wrath. The leading theory about the word's origin is that it derived from the proto-indo-european ǵʰwḗr, meaning wild animal.

The real word for bear derives from the proto-indo-european h₂ŕ̥tḱos. From this, we get the ancient greek ἄρκτος (árktos). Because Ursa Major (the bear-like constellation) is towards the north, it's from this root that we get "arctic", which basically means "land of the bears".

Speaking of Ursa, that's also derived from the proto-indo-european word for bear, h₂ŕ̥tḱos. It became orssos in proto-italic and ursus in Latin.

@sir Quite makes me wonder why some kept using ursus/« ours » like french folks then. (I think a lot of european languages are using bear or similar words)

Also proto-indo-european looks like drunk LaTeX.

@lanodan proto-indo-european is a fake language invented by fake people with a fake writing system and fake words

@sir I know, I just tend to use IPA for european languages.

@sir Makes me wonder whether ǵʰwḗr lead to the Dutch word "geweer", which means rifle, a weapon used to kill wild animals.

@sir And in German, Wehrmacht is the army. And in Durch, verweer is to defend.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!