I always thought Beyoğlu, the name of a section of Istanbul, was ‘son of the bey,’ but apparently that’s a folk etymology. Wikipedia:

According to the prevailing theory, the Turkish name of Pera, Beyoğlu, is a modification by folk etymology of the Venetian ambassadorial title of Bailo, whose palazzo was the most grandiose structure in this quarter. The informal Turkish-language title Bey Oğlu (literally Son of a Bey) was originally used by the Ottoman Turks to describe Lodovico Gritti, Istanbul-born son of Andrea Gritti, who was the Venetian Bailo in Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) and was later elected Doge of Venice in 1523.

And if we follow that Bailo link, we learn:

Bailo or baylo (plural baili or bayli) is a Venetian title that derives from the Latin term baiulus, meaning “porter, bearer”. In English, it may be translated bailiff, or otherwise rendered as bailey, baili, bailie, bailli or baillie. The office of a bailo is a bailaggio (sometimes anglicised “bailate”). The term was transliterated into Greek as μπαΐουλος (baioulos), but Nicephorus Gregoras translated it ἐπίτροπος (epitropos, steward) or ἔφορος (ephoros, overseer).

Huh, thought I, “bailiff” looks suspiciously similar, and sure enough it too is from Latin bāiulus. So Beyoğlu = Bailiff!


  1. I wondered then if explaining bailiffs through bail is also folk etymology, but it turned out that they are from the same Latin root

  2. I’m puzzled about how the semantic shift from “porter, bearer” to “overseer, steward” came about. It seems a bit counterintuitive to me.

  3. Low ranks become high ones; cf. constable from comes stabuli, the head groom of the stable.

  4. Great detective work / explanation! As for related words… it seems bailing someone out of jail, bailing out a boat, and bailiwick are related, but “bailey” as in a castle isn’t?

  5. @AG: The best the OED can suggest as an origin for the bailey group of words is: “It is phonetically possible that bail, baille, represent Latin baculum, plural bacula, sticks, in the sense of ‘stakes, palisade,’ but historical evidence of such a development of sense is wanting.” They note evidence of spelling confusion between this group of words and the other bail forms going back to Middle English and Middle French.

  6. I wonder if Turkish “bey” is related to Latin/French/English “bailey” words.

    It is apparently from Old Turkish “beg” which is a borrowing from Persian and related to:

    Sanskrit bhaga (IAST: bhaga) is a term for “lord, patron”, but also for “wealth, prosperity”. The cognate term in Avestan and Old Persian is baga, of uncertain meaning but used in a sense in which “lord, patron, sharer/distributor of good fortune” might also apply. The cognate in Slavic languages is the root bogъ. The semantics is similar to English lord (from hlaford “bread-warden”), the idea being that it is part of the function of a chieftain or leader to distribute riches or spoils among his followers. The name of the city of Baghdad derives from Middle Persian baga-data, “lord-given”.

  7. PlasticPaddy says

    I always assumed that bailiffs at one time carried a ceremonial axe, as in German Beil. But Beil according to DWDS has a different PIE root “to beat” whereas baculum comes as above from a root “stick”.

  8. I was just listening to a Thai Pali chant that starts “Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa…” I also know someone with the surname Bogdanovich. I did not expect to learn today that those two things were connected.

    This is like when I learned that the word for the main square in Kiev and Calcutta is the… same… word.

  9. I’m puzzled about how the semantic shift from “porter, bearer” to “overseer, steward” came about.

    In Italian languages it’s through the idea of care, of bearing responsibility: balia is a wet nurse, balìa is power, authority. Florence also had its Otto di Guardia e Balia, magistrates responsible for general policing, and you still see a lot of old plaques around town saying that the Otto have forbidden public urination or watermelon-selling or prostitution or whatever.

  10. David Marjanović says


    Way outdone by the marshal, the servant/farmhand in charge of the mares (gender-unspecified horses at the time).

    The cognate in Slavic languages is the root bogъ.

    That’s not a cognate, that’s an Iranian borrowing, as you can see from its o ( = lack of Winter’s law).

  11. Marshal and seneschal are horse-servant and old-servant, and the -schal part may be from a pre-germanic substrate language, according to Calvert Watkins. I went through his dictionary appendix of PIE roots and marked everything that did not occur outside of proto-germanic, and got the sense of a hierarchically structured society much afflicted with cold and mud.

  12. PlasticPaddy says

    The Irish free state revived the office of Seneschal.
    states that, due to opposition from Nationalists, “the office’s role was diminished over time by the Irish Government.” I am unable to find the source where Seanascall is construed as Seanascaill, meaning “old armpit”.

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    a hierarchically structured society much afflicted with cold and mud

    The Brexiteer dream.

  14. John Cowan says

    From the Ogden Nash poem “Kindly Unhitch That Star, Buddy:

    And in celestial circles all the run-of-the-mill angels would
      rather be archangels or at least cherubim and seraphim,
    And in the legal world all the little process-servers hope to
      grow up into great big bailiffim and sheriffim.

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