Bessarabian German.

Joel of Far Outliers is reading Bessarabia: German Colonists on the Black Sea, by Ute Schmidt, and he’s done a couple of posts featuring borrowed words in their variety of German. From Bessarabian German Invectives:

Baba (Russian) = old woman, mommy, grandma—also translated as a lethargic person: “Des isch doch a alte Baba … (That’s a tired old grandma.)”

Bagash (French/Russian) = baggage—also translated as riffraff: “Des isch a Bagasch! (What a bunch of riffraff!)”

Barysh, “barisch” (Turkish/Russian) = profit— “Der hat sein Getreide mit gutem Barisch verkauft. (He sold his grain at a good profit.)”

Besplatno (Russian) = free of charge— “Des mache mir ihm besplatno … (I’ll do that for him free of charge.)”

Bog (Russian) = God (deep sigh): “Bozhe moi” = “Mein Gott (My God!)”

And that’s just the B’s. From Bessarabian German Food Names:

Arbuse, harbus (Turkish/Russian) = watermelon

Baklashan, patletshane (Turkish/Russian), blue patletshane = eggplant (In some places tomatoes were referred to as red patletshane.)

Bliny (Russian) = blintzes, leavened pancakes

Borsch (Russian) = Russian cabbage and vegetable soup (red, white or green borsch)

Brynza (Romanian/Russian) = sheep’s milk cheese

Much more at both links. (For ‘eggplant’ words, see this 2006 LH post.)


  1. For the (difficult) history of the Germans in Bessarabia, see this post.

  2. Christopher Culver says

    It’s almost like there is nowhere in Eastern Europe where you won’t find some German variety, and often more than one. Through the resource VLACH I was recently alerted to the presence of a moribund German variety in northwestern Romania called Sathmar Swabian. This was a complete surprise, inasmuch as while everyone living in Romania knows about the Banat German and Transylvania Saxon varieties of German, this Sathmar variety was completely unknown to even a language nerd like myself.

  3. Very neat! I’ll bet Bob Cohen (zaelic) knows about it, though, and has probably learned some of it while drinking and playing music with speakers.

  4. J.W. Brewer says

    If you believe what they say on the internet, “Sathmar” is the German name for the city known in Romanian as Satu Mare and known in Yiddish as Satmar, as in the Satmar Hasidim, the survivors of whom relocated in 1946 to Brooklyn where they have subsequently flourished demographically (eventually expanding out into Rockland County). Of linguistic interest, the Satmar rebbe, once in the U.S., encouraged his flock to speak Yiddish to the greatest extent possible to resist assimilation even though back in the Old Country many of them had supposedly spoken German or Hungarian much/most of the time.

  5. According to my late grandfather we are very distantly descended from some Saxon mining colonists. In the Melnik – Seres – Kavala area.

  6. Just for curiosity, in the Hungarian portal there was a photo post about the Bessarabian Germans being “repatriated” to Germany in 1940. The color slides (!!!) were taken while they stopped at Budapest on their way along the Danube:

  7. Barysh, “barisch” (Turkish/Russian) = profit— “Der hat sein Getreide mit gutem Barisch verkauft. (He sold his grain at a good profit.)”

    I was interested by the semantic development that occurred in Russian барыш ‘profit, gain’ here if it is from Turkish (and Crimean Tatar?) barış, since the central meaning of Turkish barış is now ‘peace’ (that is, ‘absence of hostility or war’). Anikin’s treatment is here (pages 238–239). He notes that the route of borrowing in Slavic and the exact details of the semantic development are not clear.

    The development reminded me a bit of French payer, Spanish pagar, Nuorese pacare, etc., from Latin pācāre ‘to make peaceful, pacify’ (a meaning like ‘pay’ is apparently absent from the reflexes in Romanian), and Modern English settle (one’s debts), settlement.

    But I was surprised to find that for barış, the dialect dictionary of the Turkish Language Association (Türkiye’de Halk Ağzından Derleme Sözlüğü) gives the meaning ‘götürü, kabala, toptan’ (‘lump sum; paid as a lump sum; lump, wholesale, en masse’) as being found widely across Turkey, recorded from the far corners of Anatolia: Muğla, Konya, Trabzon, Gümüşhane, and Rize provinces. (Perhaps this sense of barış developed from ‘immediate settlement’ to ‘lump sum’.) I wonder if the Slavic uses could reflect a development from ‘a lump sum’ to ‘a tidy sum’ somewhere along the line. (Or perhaps from a meaning like ‘wholesale’; see Anikin’s discussion of the early derivatives.) I will have to ask around about this usage of barış in Turkey now.

  8. John Cowan says

    So does this mean that Baryshnikov means ‘son of a profiteer’?

  9. PlasticPaddy says

    Is it possible that these words are related to (or influenced by) avâriz or some kind of “Avar tax/bribe” notion?

  10. @Xerîb: I’m also thinking of Hebrew שִׁלֵּם / לְשַׁלֵּם‎

    But all those examples are about paying or settling debts or making whole. There’s nothing about turning a profit there.

  11. Ben Tolley says

    I’m guessing Des mache mir ihm besplatno should be We’ll do it for him free of charge rather than I’ll…, with the widespread change of wir to mir and loss (or assimilation) of the -n of machen. wir is used in one of the other examples, but it looks like there wasn’t one single dialect anyway (unsurprising, given the varied geographical origins and fairly short history of the Bessarabian Germans) and the transcription doesn’t look very consistent.

  12. That makes sense to me.

  13. Dmitry Pruss says

    Барышник baryshnik had a more specific meaning than a profiteer or lucre-something. It also narrowly meant “horse-trader”. I only learned the word when following the history of a branch of a branch of my Jewish ancestral family, the Neplokhs of rural Nevel. They were mostly into horse-related lines of business, cart-drivers, horse breeders and traders, horse healers, and even one accused itinerant horse thief.

  14. Yeah, I was familiar with it as the equivalent of English ostler.

  15. The Satmar Hasidim make an appearance in Dumneazu’s latest ethnomusicological retrospective.

  16. Nice to see Bob’s blog is still going!

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