Google has introduced yet another great feature:

What’s an “iwi“? What does “spiel” mean? Google Definitions is one example of how we work to make the world’s information more accessible: ask us what a word means, and we’ll try our best to get a good variety of definitions from all corners of the Web. So I’m happy to say that a handy feature just got handier; as of this week, Google Definitions is multilingual, and is indexing more sources than ever. Enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that the definition of voip is just one click away.

I got this via Margaret Marks at Transblawg; she says “What was interesting to me was the etymology of Bratwurst,” and I too was surprised to learn the first syllable is from Brät ‘meat without waste’ rather than braten ‘to fry/roast.’


  1. Iwi in Hawaiian means bone, and is sometimes used as a short for for ‘o;iwi, native. Not sure if that’s the source of their use. Hawaiian words have found their way into technology, akamai and wiki being the most prominent. If it is from the Hawaiian, it seems and unusual choice.

  2. If you click on the link, you’ll discover it’s a Maori word for ‘the traditional Māori tribal hierarchy and social order.’ The languages are related, but I don’t know if the words are.

  3. OT, but anyone knowing what the “men” suffix means in “Turkmen” should go over to Matt Yglesias. I used to know the answer, but forget.

  4. “Meat without waste”?????
    OK, what does “waste” mean in that sentence?
    I love sausage, but there are some kinds of waste I’m wary of.

  5. John: Thanks for the pointer to the Yglesias thread; I left a comment.

  6. Yes, “iwi” literally means “bone” in Maori too. Cf English usage of “blood”, as in those of our blood. There are some underlying metaphors in Maori that are very striking in this way, eg “whenua” is both “land” and “placenta”. The native inhabitants of a particular region are “tangata whenua” – both the people of the land, and the people born to the land.
    These days, “iwi” has taken on a new significance in English as New Zealand law develops terminology to deal with Maori social structures. It’s now an administrative term in legal English. Somewhere you will find articles in which Maori speakers complain that terms like iwi, hapu and whanau (all tribal/kinship terms) are being misused as the straitjacket of the law imposes narrower, more Anglosaxon boundaries on their usage.

  7. In both Mongol and Chinese “bone” can mean “the core kin group”. In Chinese it has to do with funerary practices (waiting for the flesh to decay and then hnoring the clean bone).

  8. Well, if I went in for unfounded speculation, I would point out that Maori funerary practices at one time also included laying corpses out in caves, then bundling the bones into carved wooden burial chests (waka tupapaku) for safekeeping – and we know that Polynesians originate in a migration from South East Asia…
    … but I don’t.
    The carving (whakairo) on those boxes is pretty damned freaky, too.
    PS: Iwi.

  9. Holy crap, that’s a great site, stephen! I’m blogging the sucker. And have I mentioned that I love the internet?

  10. Jimmy Ho says

    I gave up on Yglesias four years ago, but now I see that I should keep an eye on him for his treatment of language issues. Rumors are his next post will be on how confusing it is that kudos is not a plural and whether there is such thing as “türksoy milk”.
    Disclaimer: that said by a man who once wrote a rather embarrassing post on domburi on his now-seppukued blog and hoped really hard, during his Asia Minor “pilgrimage” (Pontios ime skiros, sevdalis ke palalos…) that being “Yunnanlı” had something to do with China (I was young and blinded by the landscape).

  11. Thanks for the link to Google Definitions, I’ve been looking for a similar web-service for many months now…
    Besides, I was very positively surprised as I’ve seen many useful links about the German language.
    Your web-page is just marvellous, thanks! I literally have no words! *bookmark* 😉 Now I have another reason to explain to my mother why I am spending so much time in the Net… 🙂
    With warm greetings from Saarbruecken, Germany,
    Vitaly Friedman,

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