Eid Mar.

I saw a news story recently about the sale of a rare Eid Mar aureus; you can read all about such coins here:

Marcus Brutus had declared to Cassius that “On the Ides of March I gave my own life to my country, and since then, for her sake, I have lived another life of liberty and glory” (Plutarch, Life of Brutus, XL.8). Fittingly, therefore, on the reverse of the denarius above is the embossed legend EID MAR (Eidibus Martiis), which abbreviates the Ides of March, the day that Caesar had been assassinated in 44 BC. […]

My question, of course, was “Why Eid rather than Id?” Fortunately, that question was asked on Quora and answered by Will Scathlocke:

Eidus is just an older way of spelling idus. A living language evolves, and what had initially been the diphthong /ei/, by the first century B.C. had been monophthongised to /i/ and most people had updated their spelling accordingly. When Brutus struck his coin, eidibus martiis, “on the Ides of March”, was just old-fashioned spelling. After all, there are still a few people left today, who write “cocoanut” while you no doubt, who have moved with the times, spell it “coconut”. As for me, who am behind the times, I still write “cocoanut” because that is how my teachers, who themselves were behind the times, taught me to spell it. As to the abbreviation itself, the Romans seem to have abbreviated words in slightly arbitrary fashion instead of by inflexible rule. (E)id was just how they abbreviated the word.

The OED updated its entry in November 2010:

Etymology: < classical Latin Īdūs, feminine plural noun ( < the same Italic base as Oscan eiduis (dative/ablative plural), further etymology unknown (perhaps an Etruscan loanword)); subsequently reinforced by its reflex Anglo-Norman and Middle French ides, Middle French ydes (French ides) (c1119 in Anglo-Norman; in Anglo-Norman and Old French also in singular ide). Compare Italian idi, plural noun (14th cent.).


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    There was I, hoping that Eid Mar was a festival I could celebrate with Muslim friends …

    I suppose that proper republicans* could get together to celebrate Eid Mar, though.

    * Not to be confused with Republicans, obviously, who believe in absolute monarchy under an infallible spiritual and temporal leader.

  2. Per W-ary, “According to Macrobius (Macr. Sat. 1, 15. § 17) from an Etruscan verb meaning to divide, which he cites with Latin flexion as īduāre.” [“Nobis illa ratio nominis vero propior aestimatur, ut Idus vocemus diem qui dividit mensem. Iduare enim Etrusca lingua dividere est: unde vidua, quasi valde idua, id est valde divisa: aut vidua, id est a viro divisa.”]

    Arabic عِيد ‘īd (again, W-ary) ‘feast day’ is a borrowing from Aramaic, derived from the root ‘wd ‘to assemble’.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes: עידתא (I’ve never worked out how to type Syriac) is Syriac for “church”, in fact.

    I never made the connection …

    (Pronounced [ʕi:ðəθɑ:] or thereabouts, depending on how Nestorian you’re feeling.)

  4. David Eddyshaw says


    By the complex expedient of typing the words “Syriac Keyboard” into Google. Oh, well.
    MInd you, it hasn’t come out quite right in this font. It was fine in the estrangela I copied-and-pasted.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah. Proper estrangela on my phone. Google are not completely evil. I’ll have to get a different font for my laptop.

  6. David Marjanović says

    Wasn’t cocoanut folk etymology in the first place? La noix coco doesn’t have much in common with le cacao, and neither die Kokosnuss (morpheme Kokos- as in Kokosfasern “coconut fibers” or Kokosbusserl “coconut macaroon”) with der Kakao

    unde vidua, quasi valde idua, id est valde divisa: aut vidua, id est a viro divisa.

    Too bad this part is as wrong as it is ingenious. (If not more so.)

  7. @David Marjanović: Yes, the “cocoanut” spelling is apparently a folk etymology. According to the OED the spelling “coconut” appears about a century earlier (late sixteenth century). Moreover, it suggests that the confusion may have gone both directions, with the existence of coco[nut] influencing the development “cocao” > “cocoa.”

  8. Back in the day (before we all got the internet, and ignorance was eradicated), someone once tried very hard to convince me that coca and cocoa were from different parts of the same plant, which is why they had the same name.

  9. John Cowan says

    MInd you, it hasn’t come out quite right in this font. It was fine in the estrangela I copied-and-pasted.

    Unicode considers the difference between Esṭrangēlā, Maḏnḥāyā and Serṭā to be a font, or font-plus, distinction, like conventional Latin, Gaelic, and Fraktur. So since we don’t support fonts in comments here, you don’t get to control what you get.

  10. There is more on the unknown etymology of idus in Meillet’s Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine
    (https://archive.org/details/DictionnaireEtymologiqueDeLaLangueLatine/page/n161/mode/1up). Various theories are disposed of (my free translation: do correct it if you like):

    ‘An Etruscan word according to Varro, ‘from the fact that the Etruscans call them itus, or rather idus as the Sabines say’ … Macrobius also attributes a verb iduare : diuidere to the Etruscans; purely imaginary. … The former explanation by means of an Indo-European root meaning ‘shine’, referring to the ‘clear nights’ of the full moon, cf. Latin aedes … was abandoned because the root is of the form *aidh in western languages. The Oscan form contradicts it and the sense is not favourable, because [Greek] aitho means ‘I burn’ rather than ‘I shine’. But no other satisfactory Indo-European etymology has been found. The Etruscan words cited are more likely to show a loan from Latin to Etruscan, and there is no reason not to adhere to this evidence from Varro.

  11. Esṭrangēlā

    Why is this pronounced /ɛˈstraŋɡələ/, as all the dictionaries have it (except the OED, which has the entry form Estrangelo | Estranghelo and the pronunciation /ɛˈstraŋɡɪləʊ/) if the penultimate e is long and should therefore be stressed? Or is that not a length mark?

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve always mentally stressed it on the final syllable, myself, but I don’t think I have ever actually spoken the word out loud. It seems not to come up in conversation much these days. (I blame the internet.) I imagine contemporary Aramaic speakers stress the penult.

    Payne Smith, not that it’s really relevant, gives the Syriac itself the vocalisation /ʔɛsṭrangɛlɑ:/, with both /ɛ/’s short. But then, the word is from the Greek στρογγύλη and doesn’t fit with Aramaic phonotactics very well anyway. I can well imagine that variant pronunciations might have arisen with a long vowel in the penult to make it more Aramaic-y.

    It’s a nice script aesthetically. I approve of Muraoka’s decision to use it in his grammar.

  13. Thanks, that all makes sense.

  14. עידתא… [ʕi:ðəθɑ:]

    The usual Classical Syriac spelling of the word for ‘church’ is ܥܕܬܐ ʿdtʾ, not ʿydtʾ. It is pronounced ʿēttā in the Eastern tradition and ʿito in the Western tradition, with the vowel ē (sometimes notated ê) pronounced as [e] in the Eastern tradition, but with i [i] in the Western. (There was no schwa intervening between the ܕ and the ܬ.) For the consonantism, see for example Muraoka (2005) Classical Syriac: A Basic Grammar with a Chrestomathy, 2nd ed., p. 15: A dental /ṭ/ or /d/ is assimilated to the following /t/ of an inflectional suffix. He gives ܥܕܬܐ ʿēttā (with 1st person possessed form ܥܕܬܝ ʿēḏaṯ) as one of many examples of this assimilation. (Also Nöldeke, p. 21, §26.B., here.)

    You can hear the word as pronounced now in Mardin and the Tur Abdin as the third word in this performance of a hymn, beginning as follows (with a quick vocalization):

    ܡܐ ܫܒܝܚܬܝ ܥܕܬܐ܆ ܬܪܝܨܬ ܬܘܕܝܬܐ܆ ܕܐܒܐ ܒܐܝܕܗ ܢܨܒ܆ ܒܢܝܢܐ ܕܝܠܟܝ܀.
    ܣܡܘ ܢܒܝ̈ܐ ܐܣܝܟ̈ܝ ܘܫܠܝܚ̈ܐ ܕܘܡܣܝ̈ܟܝ܆ ܘܨܠܝܒܐ ܕܒܪܗ ܣܡܟܐ ܕܬܛܠܝܠܟܝ܀

    Mo šbiḥat ʿito, triṣaṯ tawdiṯo (Moryo!). D Abo b iḏe nṣab, benyono dileḵ. Som nbiye esayk, wa šliḥe dumsayk (Moryo). Wa ṣlibo da Breh, somko d taṭlileḵ.

    How glorious you are, O Church, true faith! (Lord!) For the Father built you with his own hands. He set the prophets as your foundations, the apostles as your underpinnings (Lord!), and the Cross of His Son as the pillar of your roof.

    (I think this recording was made in the monastery on the other side of the mountain on which I live.)

    Brockelmann thought that Syriac ܥܕܬܐ ʿēttā ‘church’ was a borrowing of Hebrew עֵדָה ʿēdā ‘assembly’ (I don’t know who was the first to propose this idea). However, Official Aramaic from Egypt already has עדה‏ ʿdh ‘assembly’. In any case, it looks like this group of words is ultimately derived from the Proto-Semitic root *wʿd ‘to fix a time’ (as for a meeting), with derivatives having to do with meeting and assembly. To my knowledge, this root is confined to Central Semitic (Arabic وعد waʿada ‘promise, pledge’ with other derived forms meaning ‘to set a time’; Aramaic yʿd ‘to designate, appoint’, Hebrew יָעַד yāʿaḏ ‘appoint’, etc.).

    Arabic عِيد ‘īd (again, W-ary) ‘feast day’ is a borrowing from Aramaic, derived from the root ‘wd ‘to assemble’.

    Many sources associate Aramaic ʿd ‘feast-day, festival’ (as here) to the Aramaic root ʿwd ‘to be accustomed’, with causative ‘to do customarily’, such as the Comprehensive Aramaic Dictionary here (scroll down to the derivatives). From a West Semitic *ʿwd ‘to turn, return’ (cognates here).

    But John Huehnergard, in his Appendix of Semitic Roots in the AHD, has a different account. He takes Aramaic ʿed ‘day of assembly, feast-day’ from the PS root *wʿd ‘to fix a time’ mentioned previously (online here):

    Central Semitic, to fix a time; noun *ʿid(at)-, fixed time, appointment, meeting (*-at-, feminine suffix). Eid; Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, from Arabic ʿīd , feast, from Aramaic ʿed, day of assembly, feast-day

    For the peculiar absence of the PS *w as the first root consonant in this pattern (that is *til-(a)t-, using the model root qtl), many parallels can be found. In Arabic too, the verb وعد waʿada ‘promise’ has Arabic has a verbal noun عِدَة ʿida ‘promise’. Another particularly good example of this formation, reflecting PS *ṣ́iʾ(a)t- ‘a going out’ from the root *wṣ́ʾ ‘to go out’, there is the group of Akkadian ṣītu ‘exit, egress, sunrise’ beside verb waṣû ‘to go out’; Ge‘ez ḍaʾat ‘exit, Exodus, sunrise, moonrise’ beside verb waḍʾa ‘go out’, Hebrew infinitive construct צֵאת ṣēʾt “going out” beside verb יָצָא yāṣāʾ ‘go out, come out’, all showing loss of initial PS *w. Similar absence of w in I-w roots (roots with the first consonant w) occurs—to pick another example—in the prefix conjugation… From the Arabic root wjd ‘find’, 1.sg. perfect وجدت wajadtu, but 1.sg. imperfect أجد ʾajidu (not **ʾawjidu).

    I don’t have time at the moment to ferret out deeper treatments of these two groups of words, and would be delighted if someone could find one! Surely they must be out there.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Thanks, X. I misread the entry in Payne Smith (he is not to blame) and also managed to forget about the linea delens on the d, which is right there in the orthography of my own New Testament.
    So, [ʕe:ðtɑ:] (to begin with …)

    I think the /e:/ makes sense as a reflex of *iw; Biblical Hebrew has /e:/ for this, which behaves as an unchangeably long vowel (i.e., never becomes schwa when two places from the stress) but, unlike most unchangeably long /e:/s, is never written plene, i.e. with yod. I don’t know enough about the historical phonology of Aramaic to know if the Hebrew vowel is really parallel, though.

    Syriac is weird about schwas, and indeed about the bgadkpat thing. It’s not all nice and neat, the way it is in Biblical Hebrew (courtesy of the never-sufficiently-to-be-praised Masoretes.)

  16. Here’s the (necessarily more speculative) discussion of the root in Akkadian (and hence PSem), from the entry for y‘d in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (6, 135–). I omitted the references. There’s more on West Semitic, but Xerîb has mostly covered it with more depth. There are references to cognates in OSA and Amharic but I haven’t looked them up.

    The root w‘d, apparently part of the common Semitic stock, consists morphologically of a biliteral root ‘d together with the augment w, a combination that Akkadian suggests has fientic significance in its semantic structure It sets off an independent section of the complex system of the preformative and afformative compounds based on the root element ‘d, whose “original semantic connotation” has to do with “recurrence.” Whether this meaning is really inherent in the hypothetical basic word is dubious, especially since the Akkadian lexemes based on ‘d, like the prep. adi, “up to,” or the noun adānum, (‘ad-ān), “term,” have more to do with the semantic element of “termination” than “iteration.” While adānum (Ugar. ‘dn) cannot be taken as an Aramaic loanword, since it is found in Old Babylonian, an Aramaic origin for Akk. adû (pl. adê), “oath,” “adû-agreement,” suggested by several, is definitely possible although not certain, especially because a terminative sememe can be discerned in the semantic modification found here. This certainly does not contradict the hypothesis of a primary expansion of the element ‘d, or, more likely, a secondary derivation from the root w‘d. There would be further evidence for the notion of spatial and temporal limitation as the semantic content of primary compounds of ‘d if there were contamination with the Sumerian loanword á-dú/adû, Akk. adû, “(daily) job,” but this is uncertain.

    P.S. “Fientic” is a word new to me.

  17. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m only familiar with “fientive”, which mostly seems to be used as more snooty version of “dynamic”. i.e. “not stative.” Etymologically, it ought to mean something more like “inchoative”, it seems to me.

    Of course, there wouldn’t be anything strange about an originally biliteral root being forced into triliteral conformity by adding weak letters in two different places; cf yṭb/ṭwb for the “good” root.

  18. There was I, hoping that Eid Mar was a festival I could celebrate with Muslim friends

    The Italic forms, Latin īdūs, fem. pl., and Oscan eiduis, are definitely of proximate Etruscan origin (as Macrobius indicates), but the ultimate source of the Etruscan is obviously Phoenician—more evidence of the Etruscan-Phoenician contacts indicated by the Pyrgi Tablets. We are dealing with a Phoenician *ʿīdūt, the plural (as naturally in the Italic cultural context, like kalendae and nonae) of an *ʿīdot ‘return’ (here of the full moon), or perhaps even a singular *ʿīdut with the late raising of the vowel in the feminine singular occasionally evidenced in Neo-Punic. This Phoenician form reflects an earlier *ʿiwd-at- ‘return’, built on the pattern qitl-at- from the Central Semitic root ʿwd ‘to turn, return’ mentioned by Xerîb above. The diphthong *iw has been resolved as ī, as occasionally in Hebrew too (נִיחֹחַ nîḥōᵃḥ ‘appeasing’ < *niwḫāḫum). The Italic u-stem inflection reflects the -ūt of the Phoenician plural or perhaps the late *-ut of the singular. The original diphthong ei- in the Italic words merely reflects the local perception of the lowering of the first part of the vowel in Phoenician *ʿīdūt by the initial ʿ /ʕ/ (such lowering being a well-known effect of this consonant in other languages, too). Eid and Ides are in fact one.

  19. John Cowan says

    Eid and Ides are in fact one.


  20. Stu Clayton says

    In the beginnIng there was Xerib. Now there is Xirbe citing Xerib. I see through a glass not at all.

  21. David Eddyshaw says

    Is “Brexit” simply another form (presumably feminine) of this polymorphous supra-individual being?

  22. No, brexit comes from Latin brexitus, verbal noun of brexire “leaving a house in anger while slamming the door loudly”. It’s a compound of exire with a prefix br-, no doubt from Egyptian per- “house” via Phoenician and Etruscan.

  23. Xirbe is Arabic for ‘a ruin’, occurring in many placenames.

  24. David Eddyshaw says


    Thanks. Makes sense …

  25. And cf. brekekekek koax koax.

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    Are you implying that it was all the fault of the Frogs?

  27. Isn’t it usually?

  28. Xirbe is way off base. Etruscan itus (Varro: idus ab eo quod Tusci itus, vel potius quod Sabini idus dicunt) is obviously cognate with Sumerian itu 𒌗 “moon, month”. Before it became clear that Lemnian was the remnant of a language spoken by a displaced or migrant Tyrsenian population, it was thought that Tyrsenian may have had contact with Sumeroid languages while still in Asia Minor—but now it is clear that we are dealing with a Sumero-Tyrsenian genetic unity!

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