Thursday, January 13, 2005

Words for Metals and "Metal"

At LexiLine we have a page devoted to the origin of the names of the metals.

Peter van der Krogt cites to that work at his interesting site devoted to Elementymology, i.e. to the origin of the names of the elements, including metals.

We recently sent him the following observations (with some small editing corrections here) based on our reading of his work:

Thank you for including our thoughts about the etymologies of metals
in your pages. We would prefer "futuristic" to the word "peculiar" but
they are your pages, so you must use what you feel to be accurate. We
are not sure, however, if departing from mainstream thought is
properly categorized as "peculiar", especially in linguistics. Most
mainstream linguists are still living in the 18th century and have
not caught up with the times. The Baltic languages are very archaic
(are the oldest still spoken Indo-European tongues) but since most
linguists do not speak them and are too lazy to learn them, they
ignore them, to the detriment of etymology.


We noticed that you have Turkish Kalay and Indo-Iranian k"alah as words for "tin". The Latvian term for "smith" is kalej(s) so that we surely have an ancient connection there.

Latvian also makes sense of Latin stannum since Latvian stien(is)
means "bar" or "ingot" which we see as related to Latvian stiep-, a
word applied to things that are "ductile, extensible, tensile", i.e.
capable of being stretched out. Latvian stiepam(s) or stie[n]am(s)
would mean literally "stretchable". In other words, the Latvian term
for "bar" or "ingot" is probably based on the molten "shapeable" form
of bars or ingots as ancient smiths formed them before they hardened
during the process of cooling.

Note that you can thus isolate three separate lines of etymology for
words naming tin:

1) one line of etymology based on naming the metal by the ductile
bars and ingots in molten form (Latvian stien-, Latin stannum – we
place Latvian first because it is simply more archaic than Latin)
2) one line of etymology based on the firing procedure in the oven
(Latvian alva, Slavic olovo), i.e. adding more air to the fire for
greater heat
3) one line of etymology based on "smithing" per se (Latvian kalej-, Turkish Kalay, Indo-Iranian k"alah)

The Hebrew term b-dil may be related to Latvian dzel(s) „iron" (see
dzel- at
That makes sense since the Greek comparable term kassiteros and
Arabic qaSdir are surely to be divided as a word into the enclitic
particle ka- plus sidero-, the Greek term for „iron". Since
Latvian ka- means as or like, then kassiteros would mean "like iron", "similar to iron".
Hence, the hypothetical *ka-tsvi?ra- looks pretty good from here. The
root of sidero- is surely found retained in e.g. German sieden
meaning "to boil", as the comparable term to latvian var- als meaning "to boil".

That pretty much takes care of the etymology of words for the metal TIN.
All are related to smithing, molting and boiling.


You explain northern Slavic Miedz or MED for Copper as being
corruptions from the German Schmied meaning „smith". This is rather
doubtful as the etymology for German Schmied viz. English Smith is
not even known beyond Old Norse smidhja.
Did some German linguist come up with that self-oriented explanation?

In Latvian MAT(et) means "to tarnish" as copper does, or to "deaden"
or "dull" metal, so that here you have a case of copper being named for that feature.

You probably also see Latvian MAT- in the root of the English word
METal, i.e. as named for those metals which "tarnish". The world "Metal" is
currently seen to stem from Greek metallon, and that word too is
surely rooted in MET- or MAT- "tarnish", which appplies to almost all metals
except those such as gold which we view to be "noble metals" and not really metals per se,
or as the Germans say Edelmetall.

Most Popular Posts of All Time

Sky Earth Native America

Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
    geographically located their villages according to patterns seen in stars of the heavens.
    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
    and show that megalithic sites and petroglyphic rock carving and pictographic rock art in Native America,
    together with mounds and earthworks, were made to represent territorial geographic landmarks
    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
    whose "rock stars" are the real stars of the heavens, "immortalized" by rock art petroglyphs, pictographs,
    cave paintings, earthworks and mounds of various kinds (stone, earth, shells) on our Earth.
    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."

    Our Websites and Blogs

    3D Printing and More 99 is not 100 Aabecis AK Photo Blog Ancient Egypt Weblog Ancient Signs (the book) Ancient World Blog Anthropomorphic Design Archaeology Travel Photos (blog) Archaeology Travel Photos (Flickr) Archaeo Pundit Arts Pundit Astrology and Birth Baltic Coachman Bible Pundit Biotechnology Pundit Book Pundit Chronology of the Ancient World Computer Pundit Drone Universe Blog DVD Pundit Easter Island Script Echolat Einstein’s Voice Energy Environment and Climate Blog Etruscan Bronze Liver of Piacenza EU Laws EU Legal EU Pundit Events & Realities FaceBook Pundit Gadget Pundit Garden Pundit Golf Pundit Google Pundit Gourmet Pundit Hand Proof HousePundit Human Migrations Idea Pundit Illyrian Language Indus Valley Script Infinity One : The Secret of the First Disk (the game) Jostandis Journal Pundit Kaulins Genealogy Blog Kaulinsium Kiel & Kieler Latvian Blog Law Pundit Blog LexiLine Forum at ProBoards LexiLine Group at Yahoo! Lexiline Journal Library Pundit Lingwhizt LinkedIn Literary Pundit Magnifichess Make it Music Maps and Cartography Megalithic World Megaliths Blog Minoan Culture Mutatis Mutandis Nanotech Pundit Nostratic Languages Official Pundit Phaistos Disc Pharaonic Hieroglyphs Photo Blog of the World Pinterest Prehistoric Art Pundit Private Wealth Blog PunditMania Quanticalian Quick to Travel Quill Pundit Road Pundit Shelfari Sky Earth Drones Sky Earth Native America SlideShare (akaulins) Sport Pundit Star Pundit Stars Stones and Scholars (blog) Stars Stones and Scholars (book) Stonehenge Pundit The Enchanted Glass Twitter Pundit UbiquitousPundit Vision of Change VoicePundit WatchPundit Wearable Technology Wizard WeTechWi Wine Pundit Word Pundit xistmz YahooPundit zistmz