My friend Nick Jainschigg has sent me a link to a Finnish site,, that appears to contain investigations of all sorts of color-related phenomena. I say “appears” because my Finnish is, sadly, nil; of course I have dictionaries (though poor ones), and when I get the chance I’ll play with them a little, but basically it’s going to remain a closed book to me… with the important exception of the color pages themselves. If you click on the color boxes under the heading VÄRIT on the left, you are taken to pages featuring the color you clicked, and each one has a section labeled etymologiaa… that begins (for reasons that escape me) with an etymology of the English word, black for example:

Englannin black (tullut käyttöön ennen 1100-lukua) juontuu vanhan englannin sanoista blac, blæc, blak – ja on sukua esim. vanhan yläsaksan blah, blach; ehkä peräisin latinan polttamista tarkoittavasta sanasta flagrare (kreikk. phlegein). Sana tarkoittaa kirjaimellisesti ‘kaiken valon imevä’.

It continues with an amazing collection of words for that color in as many languages as they could find:

engl. black; keskienglanti blak; vanha englanti blæc ·
ranska noir ·
italia nero · espanja negro · lombardia negher · portugali negro, preto · romania negru ·
esperanto nigra, nigro; nigreco (mustuus); nigrega (sysimusta) · papiamento preto, pretu · sranan blaka ·
saksa schwarz; vanha saksa blach, blah; baijerin murre schwoarz · hollanti zwart · friisi swart · afrikaans swart ·
gootit swarts ·
ruotsi svart; bläck (‘muste’) · islanti svartur, blakkr (tumma, mustahko) · tanska blæk, sort · norja svart ·
gaeli dubh · vanha iiri dub · iiri dub, dubh · anglosaksit blæc · bretoni du · walesin kieli du ·
baski beltz ·
kreikka kelainós; melas, melan (tumma) ·
heprea shahor ·
latina ater, niger (tarkoitti myös pahaa) ·
sanskriitti krsna (musta, tumma), niilotpalashyaama (sinertävänmusta) ·
malta iswed ·
unkari fekete ·
eesti must · karjala musta · vepsä must · vatja mussa ·
venäjä tsornyi, (chërnyy) · bulgaria (cerno) · puola czarny ·
tsekki cverny´, èerná · slovakki cierny ·
egypti semeti, km ·
turkki kara, siyah ·
sorani (kurdimurre) resh, siya · gorani (kurdimurre) siyaw ·
albania zi
japani kuro, makkuro (sysimusta) ; kunne (ainut) ·
kiina hey suh; mandariinikiina hêisè, (hei) ; kantonikiina hak, haak ·
korea kamansayk, kemceng, kkamahta, kkamang, huksayk (‘lainasana’ kiinasta), pullyak (‘lainasana’ englannista) ·
thai (dam) · vietnam en ·
tiibet nagpo ·

(Uusi-Guinea) dugum dani mili; mui; hitigima muli; golegole (Murrayn saarella) ·
pukapuka uli · tonga uliuli ·
maori mangu, pango ·
aboriginaalit? arunta urapulla · guru (Queensland), unma (Queensland), manara (Queensland) ·
(Filippiinit) hanunóo biru · samal ?etom · tagalog itím, maitím · bisayan maitum ·


  1. Michael Farris says:

    Good luck with the dictionaries, Finnish is one of those languages that you need to know some of its morphology and, even more important, its morphophonemics before a dictionary is any use.

  2. You’re a friend of Nick Jainschigg? Say hi for us.

  3. Isn’t there some theory that ruotsi (Swedish) is the source of the words Rus’, Russia, Russian etc. (because of the Viking involvement in the foundation of Kiev and other cities)?

  4. Michael: I’m pretty good at faking that stuff. I’ve studied Hungarian, so I have some idea of the sort of morphology involved. Besides, I’m not talking about translating entire paragraphs or anything ambitious like that; I just meant looking up a few salient words to see what was being talked about.
    Patrick: Done. Small world!
    XB: Say rather that ruotsi and Rus’ (and therefore Russian &c) are all from the same source, an Old Norse word for ‘oarsman.’ As the AHD says, Russian is from “Medieval Latin Russianus, from Old Russian Rusi, Vikings, Rus, from Old Norse *ródhs(menn), or ródhs(karlar), seafarers from ródhr, rowing.”

  5. Thanks. It’s an interesting site. I’ve just come across a word I didn’t know, rufescent, meaning ‘reddish’. Surely this adjective would be better employed describing the rare medical condition where you turn into King William II of England.

  6. Michael Farris says:

    language hat: “I’ve studied Hungarian, so I have some idea of the sort of morphology involved … I just meant looking up a few salient words to see what was being talked about.”
    To find individual words you need to have an idea of the rules of final consonant mutation found in Finnish, more extensive and radical than anything in Hungarian.

  7. Thank you for your interest towards my site – it’s actually funny how many non-Finnish speakers are interested about it because there is absolutely nothing in English. But I think this blog is the reason (thank you) why I suddenly received a couple of emails from people willing to translate parts of Coloria for free – so let’s see what will happen…
    The popularity of Coloria among Finnish speaking people is quite funny too – considering that the site really is my hobby, an escape place when ever my real work starts to bug me. I’m a freelancer web (graphic) designer but I’ve always been attracted to colours. Since I started the high school I’ve collected colour related material from everywhere (about 20 years), so the information has been collected bit by bit from several sources.
    The thing that Coloria is my hobby partly explains why ‘Ancient Egyptian, Turkish, two varieties of Kurdish, and Albanian are doing on the same line?’ :) – I really don’t know anything about linquistics (although these words really fascinate me)! And another thing: ‘etymologiaa…’ part begins with an etymology of the English word, black, because I haven’t came across etymologies of other languages – not even Finnish one :) Not that I’ve been searhing very actively: I don’t want to turn my hobby into work… But if you know something interesting colour+language related things, I’d be happy to receive any help!
    Thank You!

  8. …the site really is my hobby, an escape place when ever my real work starts to bug me… I don’t want to turn my hobby into work
    I know exactly what you mean!
    As for the languages, no need to get too pedantic, but malta iswed should go with the Semitic languages (next to Arabic), and so should heprea shahor and egypti semeti, km; baski beltz should be on its own line (Basque isn’t related to anything else). But don’t worry about it — it’s great just the way it is! And I’m delighted that my link has brought readers, and maybe even translators, your way.

Speak Your Mind