Heyday of Heyduks.

Joel at Far Outliers is posting quotes from The Making of Eastern Europe: From Prehistory to Postcommunism, by Philip Longworth, and the following passages from his latest post seem to me of LH interest:

The Turks had long used a variety of paramilitary forces (armartolos, derbentsy, akinji, vojnuki, etc.) as auxiliary troops, frontier raiders, mountain-pass guards and the like; as we have seen, the Hapsburgs had followed suit; and the Cossacks constitute a parallel in Ukraine and southern Russia. Such troops usually received some pay and also rations or plots of land, but by no means always. There was an Ottoman category known as deli, young men noted for their dare-devilry who would take part in campaigns and sieges for no reward whatsoever, except the opportunity to share in any plundering. Another such type of predatory soldiery was known as haramia. These had an equivalent on the other side of the frontier in the unpaid heyduks and uskoks (venturini) attached to the ‘official’ groups of heyduks and uskoks employed by the Habsburgs to garrison frontier forts and stations, and the unregistered Cossacks of the Ukraine who were to play such a prominent role in the Khmelnytsky rising of 1648. […]

The subsequent economic difficulties and the onset of disorders no doubt increased the flow. In any case the numbers of heyduks called ‘Racz’ registered in Eastern Hungary (and there were units in which nearly two-thirds of the men bore that name) points to a sizeable migration northwards from the Balkans, for racz in Magyar (rat in Romanian) means ‘Serb’. Their names also indicate that, although most were or became linguistic Hungarians, some heyduks had originated in Slovakia (toth), Romania (vlach, olah) and Ukraine (kozak, rusnak) as well as in Hungary and the Balkans. And there were Hungarian, Romanian and Tatar names among the Zaporozh’e Cossacks, though most had migrated from Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia. Circumstances suggest that a proportion of these were peasants escaping serfdom, and this was also the case with the recently enserfed Szekels whose support for Michael ‘the Brave’ when he invaded Transylvania regained them their freedom as frontier servicemen.

As always, I am troubled by the issue of italicized foreign words with English plurals — technically, it should be (e.g.) heyduks, but that looks lousy and would add to the already considerable difficulties of proofreading such a text. In addition, it bothers me that he arbitrarily stops italicizing after a couple of usages. But never mind, there are some great words here; anybody know the history of racz/rat? (We got into the Székely in this peachy thread from 2004.)


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    Racz etc. seem to derive from the now-archaic toponym and related ethnonym discussed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rascians

  2. Thanks, that makes sense.

    The demonym Latin: Rasciani, Natio Rasciana; Serbian: Рашани/Rašani, Раши/Raši and Раци/Raci, Расцијани/Rascijani; Hungarian: Rác, (pl.) Rácok; German: Ratzen, Raize, (pl.) Raizen, anglicized as “Rascians”. The name, primarily used by Hungarians and Germans, derived from the pars pro toto “Raška” (Rascia), a medieval Serbian region. The territory inhabited primarily by the Serbs in the Habsburg monarchy was called Latin: Rascia; Serbian: Raška/Рашка; Hungarian: Ráczság, Ráczország, rácz tartomány,; German: Ratzenland, Rezenland.

  3. David Marjanović says

    ey? I know “romanticized Balkan bandit” as hajduk, with [a].

  4. Longworth’s book is a Kindle-ized republication by Lume Books (at a very reasonable price) of an earlier book first printed in 1992. I’ve noticed errors in many older Kindlefied publications that suggest the e-book was created by OCRing scans of the printed pages, with hit-or-miss proofreading. For instance, I recently encountered Pope “Pius Il” rendered as (lowercased to show the difference) “pius il” (the first North Korean pope)! And each chapter title appears 3 times in the table of contents, each linked to the same chapter-opening page. Many Kindlefications lose the original page numbers, so I can only cite inexact Kindle locs.

    As for the editorial consistency of italics and plurals, one solution would be to consider heyduk an English word borrowed from other languages that spell it haiduc, hajduk, hajdu, etc., although the heyduk spelling does show up in Czech names. Even in English, the “hey” in heyduk and heyday are not pronounced the same and come from different sources.

  5. >Even in English, the “hey” in heyduk and heyday are not pronounced the same and come from different sources.

    Wiktionary gives heyduk as an alternate form of English hajduk.

    A member of the US National Team in soccer pronounced the first syllable of his name (Hejduk) like that in heyday. He was widely known as “Frankie Hey Dude!”

  6. Another such type of predatory soldiery was known as haramia

    That made me laugh; ḥarāmiyya, literally “people of the illicit (ḥarām)”, is dialectal Arabic for “thieves”. Guessing these guys weren’t super well-respected.

  7. David Marjanović says

    A bunch of 210-million-year-old mammal-adjacent lower teeth were twice in a row given genus names that were already in use for other animals. Clearly frustrated, someone eventually named them Haramiya, said to be from “the Arabic for ‘thief'”, because its name got stolen twice or something and because Arabic is very rarely used in zoological nomenclature so the name is unlikely to turn out to be preoccupied this time.

    Current thinking is that this was all for nothing, because these lower teeth belong to the same animals as the upper teeth named Thomasia, and that name has priority. But the larger groupings to which Thomasia belongs remain Haramiyidae and Haramiyida, and there’s a 220-million-year-old haramiyid (known from more material) called Haramiyavia.

  8. Hajduk beat Maccabi on penalties in 2016. https://youtu.be/SWXOkd5CGZU

  9. ktschwarz says

    I guess I’ll have to be the one to admit to only knowing of haiduc “romanticized Balkan bandit” from the 2004 Romanian mega-hit aka “Numa Numa”:

    Alo, salut, sunt eu, un haiduc
    (Hello, greetings, it’s me, an outlaw)

    Spelled haiduk in Merriam-Webster and Random House, heyduck in the OED in a very dated 1898 entry that throws up its hands at where it came from originally:

    < Bohemian, Polish, Servian, Romanic hajduk, Magyar hajdú plural hajdúk, in Bulgarian hajdutin, modern Greek χαϊντούτης = chaidoutes, Turkish ḥaidūd robber, brigand.

    If it is originally Hungarian, as most sources now claim, then most other languages have re-analyzed the plural hajdúk as a singular, which would make heyduks a double plural. Cherries in reverse.

  10. My medieval namesake Stefan Nemanja who is often considered the first king of Serbia was, in actual fact, the Grand Prince (Veliki Župan) of Rascia (the region around Stari Ras, i.e. moden southwest Serbia).

    Vlach is also an interesting term and it basically just means “foreigner”, and it’s also the root of the terms Wales and Walloon. And although the most common meaning today is “Romanian”, it’s also often used as a derisive term for Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.

    The first time i saw the awkward rendering of hajduk in English was in David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”, where it was rendered as “heyduck”, which I have to assume was period-accurate for 1799. The actual line (spoken by a rough Royal Navy sailor indignant at the Japanese demand for the English ship to surrender its gunpowder): ‘The jaundiced pygmies,’ declares Wren, ‘take us for a gaggle of heyducks!’

  11. @DM, thanks! Interesting…

    Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harambaša :
    “Harambaša (Serbian Cyrillic: Харамбаша) was the rank for a senior commander of a hajduk band”


    There is a Pushkin’s poem (from when he took part in a military campaign) about a cossack and a “delibash” (deli “mad”). ….Мчатся, сшиблись в общем крике. / Посмотрите! каковы?…. / Делибаш уже на пике, / А казак без головы.

  12. “a Pushkin’s ” – it seems the part of my brain that generates drasvish is now fully independent of the part that reads English:-/ Some of my errors make me stumble.

  13. @mollymooly: you mean they beat Tel Aviv 😛

  14. And speaking of Romanian musicians… Taraf de Haïdouks is worth a listen.

  15. Yes indeed. I was in one of those funky little Manhattan record stores that don’t exist any more when I heard Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses and Evil Eye being played on the sound system, and immediately bought it. Later I acquired their first record, Musiques de Tziganes de Roumanie. Highly recommended.

  16. @Joel: I described the reverse problem (mistaking Korean “Il” for a Roman numeral) here.

    I have also observed that many, many e-books are clearly produced by OCR with zero human oversight, yielding all sorts of errors that no human proofreader could possibly have overlooked. In the early days of mass streaming video, the situation was somewhat similar. Some programs (I recall ITV’s “Death of an Expert Witness”) were digitized and made available online without anyone actually watching them through (to make sure, say, that there were not long periods without sound). Problems that make streaming shows unwatchable have become pretty uncommon now, but there can still be problems with the audio and video quality of older, less-popular shows. (The online streaming versions of episodes from The Twilight Zone are much better quality than the television syndication versions I grew up with, since that is a show that enough people care about for it to be worth restoring. That is not the case for something like Flipper, however.)

  17. @molly

    That’s right, the most famous and most dear to my heart Hajduk of them all – Hajduk Split.

    Naprid Bili!

    Heyduck sounds like an eggcorn.

  18. I suspect the famous Czech poet Adolf Heyduk (1835-1923) spelled his surname according to German-influenced spelling conventions, as in Heinrich Heine, and that’s how the Heyduk spelling got into English.

  19. “Guessing these guys weren’t super well-respected.”

    I don’t understand history of local warfare any deeper than my friend’s explanation of the difference between Bokelji and other Montenegrins (“Bokelji robbed on the sea, and Montengrins… well, on roads?”).

    But I imagine, haramiyya does mean bandits, yet it is not just a reputation aquired by [what initially was meant to be] irregular troops, one way, but two ways: bandits hired as bandits and possibly further aquiring reputuation of bandits…

  20. “well, …”
    rather “er, …”

  21. Guessing these guys weren’t super well-respected.

    Nowadays these border types—the akıncı, and the deli with his wings—are super fetishized… (the guy who looks so good in his black leather breeches is Malkoçoğlu Bali Bey, and the Lajos (Louis) in question is Louis II of Hungary).

  22. I was curious about what exactly an Ottoman ﺣﺮﺍﻣﻰ harâmî was. Klára Hegyi (2018) The Ottoman Military Organization in Hungary, p. 137–139, considers the same question, and her analysis of Ottoman administrative documents does not yield a clear answer for the period in question:

    The boundaries of the term martolos are blurred, for several reasons. Besides the martoloses serving for pay in fortresses there existed a substantial class of military peasants with the same name—this was the earlier of the two groups—which in return for exemption from taxation performed border defence and law enforcement duties mainly in the Balkan Peninsula, but also in Ottoman Hungary…

    The second term of interest is harami, which in some border fortresses was a synonym for martolos. I feel that their content was not identical, but I cannot pinpoint the difference. In the 16th century the word harami, meaning robber, was also used in Ottoman sources,² (the south Slav languages and Hungarian borrowed the word and used it as haramia), the term, however, referred to a military population serving sometimes for pay, sometimes for exemption from peasant taxation. Unfortunately it rarely appears, and when it does it seems to be another name for martoloses and eflaks [serving in border defence. Occasionally, the paid martoloses posted to fortress defence were called haramis and their commander haramibaşı or ser-i haramiyan, not only in the Balkans, but also in Hungary. In 1476 a haramibaşı led the martoloses of İzvornik (Zvornik), just as in 1543 and 1544 the commander of the martoloses of Vac is also the ‘head of the above mentioned haramis’, so here martolos and harami are synonyms. The situation is the same in the following decades as well. The commanders of the martoloses were called heads of haramis in 1556 in Solnok, in 1557 in Diregel and in Sicen. Conspicuously, it was always the martoloses of the border areas who were called haramis. Maybe the defence of the border was the extra feature which differentiates the two terms. I suspect that the paid haramibaşıs among the officers of fortresses on the borders were the paid commanders of military peasants fighting in return for tax reduction. The harami is a higher rank, but even being a common harami was not considered an unworthy post. In 1564 a decree by the sultan’s council mentioned that many of the yeniceris of Buda had asked for and been granted fortress soldier posts, among others as haramibaşıs. In 1556 among the farises of Solnok there served a soldier called Mehmed, who—alone in the whole troop—was registered as a harami; so as a well-paid soldier he reinforced the unit of martoloses on border defence duty.

    ² For example, the leaders of the looting hayduks were called harambaşıs; later, at the end of the 17th century their members who had been granted pardon were incorporated into the law enforcement units of the martoloses.

    As for the eflak Hegyi mentions, she defines the term in this way:

    Vlach (eflak in Ottoman Turkish): 1. people of Romanian origin in the Balkan peninsula; 2. transhumant shepherd; 3. Balkan peasant military people with Vlach legal status, many of whom were settled in Ottoman Hungary.

  23. Hayduk (heyduk, hejduk, etc.) brings to mind the Ukrainian word haydamak(a) (гайдамак(а)) – an insurgent or a brigand, or a hybrid of the two. It also exists in Russian, as гайдамак. Vasmer says the source is Turkish hajdamak “robber.” But haydamak, as it’s now spelled in Turkish, is a verb meaning “to drive or drove animals.” A cattle driver would use the 2nd-person imperative – hayda! – in the sense of “move on! go!” (Compare айда! – “let’s go!” – in Russian.) There’s also a slang meaning, “kick out, fire” someone.

    The similarity between Hungarian hajdú “armed cattle drover; hajduk; liveried servant” and Turkish hajdamak “to drove cattle” is probably superficial and accidental but still worth a footnote.

  24. For LH readers who are curious, there is a treatment of Hungarian hajdú and the family of Ukrainian гайдамаки together in Michał Nemeth (2005) “Remarks on the Etymology of Hung. hajdú ‘herdsman’ and Tkc. haydamak ‘brigand’”, available here.

  25. I was curious about what exactly an Ottoman ﺣﺮﺍﻣﻰ harâmî was.

    Great stuff — thanks, Xerîb! Also, I was pleased to see the careful use of italics in plurals like martoloses. Looks a little awkward and is hell on proofreaders, but it’s a sure sign of an accurate scholar.

  26. But this switch from italic (rendered by my PC as oblique) to roman does not look good on my screen. All that my eye is able to notice is that something is slightly wrong with the word.

  27. And lets translate martoloses (sorry, no italics:)) too. It must be < ἁμαρτωλός Adj. “erroneous”, N. “sinner”.

    Cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hamartolos, “византийский летописец, монах, автор популярной в Византии и на Руси «Хроники», излагающей всемирную историю от сотворения мира до 842 года.”
    And don’t forget hamart(i)ology, the science of Original Sin!!!

  28. As I say, it’s awkward. I may be one of the few potential readers who appreciates its virtues.

  29. WP, Wiktionary”. I have chosen the variant without i, because I think in Russian it is амартология. The chronicle of George Hamartolos is better known here I think, at least among people interested in old Russian literature.

    @LH (I’ll add it here): perhaps it depends on your typeface. On my computer it is as I described.

  30. On my computer it is as I described.

    I’m not in any way doubting or depreciating your experience; that’s what I meant by “awkward.” It doesn’t look good and is hard to notice. But it shows the author cares. (Sort of like adding stress marks to Russian names, as Prince Mirsky does in his great literary history; I’m sure it annoys a lot of people, but I consider it a Good Thing.)

  31. the guy who looks so good in his black leather breeches

    it really is a pity they wasted so much of bali bey’s screentime on a (presumably invented from whole cloth) plotline that basically amounts to him stalking and then sexually assaulting a more-or-less randomly chosen woman.

    but what a show for hats! (and [p]leather!)

  32. I’m of two minds about italicizing commas and semicolons following italics. Compare “fromage, and cheese” vs. “fromage, and cheese”. Syntactic precision vs. typographical harmony.

  33. Yes, that’s another tough issue. I solve it by randomly doing it both ways.

  34. David Marjanović says

    Akıncı is also the bigger version of the Bayraktar.

    the 2nd-person imperative – hayda! – in the sense of “move on! go!”

    Naturally, that’s all over former Ottoman lands, but interestingly with disharmonized vowels: Hungarian hajde, Serbian ajde. (The initial stress, on the other hand, was inevitable.)

    italicizing commas and semicolons following italics

    Very easy in my field, where names at genus-group and species-group ranks are supposed to be italicized and any surrounding punctuation, including quotation marks, isn’t part of the name, so is not italicized, end of story. But it can look very awkward in some fonts.

  35. I suspect the famous Czech poet Adolf Heyduk (1835-1923) spelled his surname according to German-influenced spelling conventions, as in Heinrich Heine, and that’s how the Heyduk spelling got into English.

    The spelling may be German, but the Czech pronunciation is /ej/ in this Czech surname, “Hejduk” beeing the standard and most common spelling. (The generic noun can be either “hejduk” or “hajduk” with pronunciation varying with the orthography, but it isn’t really part of the everyday vocabulary.)

    Czech /aj/ > /ej/ is a relatively recent (16th century perhaps) sound change that, among else, may have affected quite a few German loans, most prominently in castle names ending in -stein, which is universally “-štejn” in Czech. But it is also possible that the borrowing occurred earlier and Czech in fact preserves the MHG pronunciation here, which Wiktionary gives as /s̠tɛi̯n/. I wonder which is the case.

  36. A cattle driver would use the 2nd-person imperative – hayda! – in the sense of “move on! go!” (Compare айда! – “let’s go!” – in Russian.) There’s also a slang meaning, “kick out, fire” someone.

    “гoйда” recently assended to a meme status in Russian, after the Red Square hate-mongering yell-fest by Okhlobystin, who claimed that the word is “the ancient Russian call for a patriotic action”, ignoring, at his peril, parallels with Sorokin’s antiutopian novel about the new Oprichniki rule over Russia, in which the henchmen used the word for their twin extasies of patriotic violence and gay sex orgies.

    Besides, the etymology isn’t Slavic.

    In the end, the word caught on, sort of, but in a lot more sarcastic meaning than Okhlobystin expected


  37. I am assiduous about making sure that exactly the right characters are italicized. If you look at the source for some of my comments, you will find that there are lots of lists if there or more italicized words, with HTML tags to unitalicize the commas (or semicolons) between them. That can be a lot of extra fiddling when I’m posting from my phone, but thr psychic wage is worth it. I also found the proper treatment of a different kind of emphasis discussed here (“M a x w e l l sche”) particularly pleasing.

  38. Yes, I’m fond of that as well!

  39. all over former Ottoman lands, but interestingly with disharmonized vowels: Hungarian hajde, Serbian ajde.

    In Israel, too, as calls of encouragement to sports teams (including political entities). That comes from Ladino, ultimately from Turkish. I believe the term got popularized by fans of the Maccabee Yafo soccer club, which was founded by post-WW2 immigrants from Bulgaria.

  40. @Xerîb: Thank you for the link: “…although… haydamak and haydut have the same meanings they have etymologically different roots.” A negative result, as scientists say, is also a result (but won’t earn you a degree). And new evidence may still emerge and change the verdict.

  41. David Marjanović says


    In the time it took me to read this, my adblocker blocked 117 ads, and the page tried to load all sorts of other stuff as well. It’s worth it, though. The video dubbing the Great Dictator with the “гoйда” speech has saved my day.

  42. David Marjanović says

    I wonder which is the case.

    The third option is that we’re looking at the ei of Austrian Standard German: just a tiny bit more open than [ɛɪ̯]. That’s because that’s the sound in many Bavarian dialects of the “new ei” (MHG /iː/) and the “third ei” (eu, MHG iu /yː/).

    Borrowing straight from dialects is unlikely, though, because Stein has the “old ei” and comes out as [ʃtã] or [ʃto͠ɐ̯].

  43. More optimistically a dialect dictionary says гойда is a young woman pretending to be a girl (child)….

    Associated verbs are гоить “to care” (n. гой) and a Ukrainian verb гойдати “to rock [a cradle], to swing [a swing].

  44. Memoirs of a Janissary, from Czech:

    The Turkish raiders are called in their language akandye which means “those who flow ” and they are like torrential rains that fall from the clouds. From these storms come great floods until the streams leave their banks and overflow, and everything this water strikes, it takes, carries away, and moreover, destroys, so that in some places they cannot quickly make repairs. But such sudden downpours do not last long. Thus also the Turkish raiders or “those who flow,” like rainstorms, do not linger long, but wherever they strike they burn, plunder, kill, and destroy everything so that for many years the cock will not crow there.[1] The Turkish raiders are voluntary; of their own free will they ride on expedition for their livelihood. They call these same Turks gogmary[2] which means “herdsmen,”….

    These gogmary are also spelled kogmarii, kogmary (and ciobany) in Polish manuscripts;-/

  45. It must be ἁμαρτωλός Adj. “erroneous”, N. “sinner”.

    This etymology of martolos from ἁμαρτωλός ‘sinner’ reminds me of other parallels to the semantic change seen in the development of Ottoman harâmî, the name for the Ottoman frontier defense personnel, from Arabic ḥarāmī ‘brigand, highwayman’.

    In English, there is the respectable brigade beside the brigand, ultimately < Italian briga, cf. the sense development of brigante.

    And there is hussar, ultimately Hungarian huszár, nowadays usually taken from the family of Serbian Church Slavic xusarь ‘robber’, whose origin is discussed in Saskia Pronk-Tiethoff (2013) Germanic Loanwords in Proto-Slavic, p. 108f:

    PSl. *xǫsa ‘robbery, trap’ (f. ā-stem) SCS xusarь, xusьnikъ ‘robber’; RCS xusiti ‘to rob’, xusovati ‘to take hostage’, xusa ‘trap’; OP chąsa, chąza ‘band of robbers’; chąśba, chąźba, chądźba ‘robbery, theft’; S/Cr. husa (arch.) ‘trap, invasion, plundering’; MBg Χονσά ‘παρὰ Βουλγάροις οἱ κλεπταί (with the Bulgarians the thieves)’ (attested in the Suda)…

    PGmc. *hansō- ‘band of warriors, cohort’ (f. ō-stem) Goth. hansa ‘troop, cohort, retinue’; OHG hansa ‘cohort’; MHG hans(e) ‘merchant’s guild’; G Hanse ‘Hanseatic League’, Hans(e) (dial. Carinth.) ‘chatter’; OE hōs ‘band, troop’; MLG hanse ‘merchant’s guild’

    Etymology: The attested Germanic forms go back to PGmc. *hansō-, which is supposed to have originally meant ‘band of warriors’. The meaning ‘economic organisation’ (as in the famous Low German Hanse ‘Hanseatic League’) developed later in West Germanic. The further etymology of PGmc. *hansō- is unclear. Kroonen tentatively supposes a formation *kom-sh₂-eh₂-, containing the root *seh₂- ‘to bind’ (2013: s.v. hansō-).

    The word was borrowed from Germanic into Finnic as kansa ‘people, society’. The Germanic *hansō- apparently made a less favourable impression on the Proto-Slavs, for the word has a predominantly negative connotation in Slavic. The word was borrowed into Proto-Slavic as *xǫsa ‘robbery, trap’. The phonological correspondence between the Slavic and Germanic forms is flawless. Semantically, the connection is clear if we envisage the Germanic *hansō- as a band of warriors who went on marauding expeditions among the Proto-Slavs. There is no phonological indication as to the exact donor of PSl. *xǫsa.

    (Kazakh қазақ qazaq, and thus Ukrainian козак and Russian казак ‘Cossack’, is also usually said (e.g. Pritsak 2006) to have originally meant something like ‘freebooter in a frontier region, raider’. Not exactly as bad as ‘thief’, but a similar sort of amelioration in meaning.)

    I wonder if LH readers know of any other examples of this syndrome.

  46. In English, there is the respectable brigade beside the brigand, …

    I’m aware of English ‘brig’. short for ‘brigantine’ (from Italian “skirmisher, pirate, brigand”) a particular rig of vessel. (‘Hermaphrodite brig’ is a even more particular rig.)

    ‘Brig’ came to mean ‘prison’, “from the use of such ships as prisons” .

  47. So hussar = Hansa? Wonderful stuff, thanks for that!

  48. John Cowan says

    I was pleased to see the careful use of italics in plurals like martoloses. Looks a little awkward and is hell on proofreaders, but it’s a sure sign of an accurate scholar.

    I cannot call that accurate; I would instead say “pedantic”. An accurate scholar would use the native plural.

  49. It must be ἁμαρτωλός Adj. “erroneous”, N. “sinner”.

    This etymology of martolos from ἁμαρτωλός ‘sinner’ reminds me of other parallels to the semantic change seen in the development of Ottoman harâmî, the name for the Ottoman frontier defense personnel, from Arabic ḥarāmī ‘brigand, highwayman’.


    Martolos Not to be confused with armatoloi” says WP.

    The word “armatole” first appeared in the 15th century during Venetian times. It is derived from a medieval loan from Latin arma (‘weapon’), probably via Greek αρματολόγος (‘someone who deals with arms’, ‘an armed person’) → αρματολόος → αρματολός. According to an older hypothesis, the development of the word may also have been influenced by a conflation with the similar-sounding αμαρτωλός (“sinner”; cf. hamartia)…

    1. the form “martolos” seems to reflect amartolos rather than armatolos. And then there are haramia (who very literally “sinners”, it is just one of the meanings < ḥarām "forbidden").

    Needless to say, Greek-Muslim bi-[….]-lism was widespread (cf. “Istanbul” < Greek).

    2. their Greek etymology is strange.

    Greek wiktionary.

    αρματολός < τουρκική martolos < οθωμανική τουρκική مارتلوس (martolos) < μεσαιωνική ελληνική *αρματολόγος [1] < ἄρμα (< λατινική arma) + αρχαία ελληνική λέγω

  50. At least Greek wiktionary added the asterisk to αρματολόγος: in the Wikipedian text I suspected it from “probably via Greek αρματολόγος (‘someone who deals with arms’, ‘an armed person’) “.

    It seems almost definite that “sinners” played a role, and as αρμα-… exists, it is a part of the story. But I’m highly dissatisfied with their explanation.

  51. And as I mentioned Memoirs of a Janissary:

    It’s a text written by some real or imaginary person or group in some Slavic language. In some country. Apparently for some political group. Like that.

    The extant texts are Polish and Czech, a Polish MS was found in a Catholic monastery in Berdychiv – if someone does not know, characters of Russian Jewish jokes usually live in Berdichev. (“Could you tell me, please, how far is Paris from Berdichev?” “Some 2 thousand miles…” “what a глушь [backwoods]!”) – by Antoni Gałęzowski in 1823 and published in 1828, the MS is from 17th century.

    But it turned out the book was printed in Czech in 1565 and 1581. The oldest Polish MS has watermarked paper matching the range of 1525-41 and has an addition “this chronicle is written in Russian letters AD 1400” (the events described in the text are later, so it’s a mistake). Someone says that a teacher from Vilna says that there was a Cyrillic text in Sapieha’s library in Dziarečyn.
    But one later MS says “translated from Latin to Polish”.
    It seems it was written in Slavic but now one knows what Slavic.

    As for a person or group – it was expanded and edited in later manuscripts and it contains a biography of the author, a Serb, but who knows if it is real. Anyway, West Slavs read it back then. So I’ll cite chapters 43-44, they are brief (the comments obviously are from the English edition):


    The Sarachori are like our mercenaries, and they are from the volunteer raiders; for the emperor, when he hears that a great Christian force or any sort of large army is marching against him, orders it to be cried throughout the cities that whoever wants to earn a wage, it will be given him. Then the above-mentioned raiders or “those who flow” ride to the emperor, and there he gives them a wage of a gold piece every four days per horse; and from then on they are not called raiders, for they are not volunteers, but are called Sarachori, and they are paid by the month, for this service does not last long. Their armament is swords, shields, lances and also guns. Some also have armor. The emperor keeps them with him as long as he needs them; then, having paid them, he releases them. And there are about twenty thousand of these Sarachori. [1]


    The Martalusy [1] are Christians, and are found especially in the borderlands. They receive a wage of one gold piece per horse every eight days. A wage is also paid them for each month, as it is the Sarachori, but their service lasts as long as each individual wants. They also have the same weapons as do the Sarachori. If someone wishes to have more, that is his free choice.
    There are also some [other] Christians. They will give nothing to any of them, nor is any wage paid them. They are called woyniczy. [2] They belong to and serve the emperor, and lead the emperor’s empty horses when necessary. There are several hundred Martalusy and woyniczy.

    [1]. The serahors or cerahors were recruited in times of need and for wages, just as Konstantin Mihailović says; but their function would have been according to other sources, not fighting but serving the army in various ways, such as loading tents and supplies on the camels; furthermore, they would have been recruited chiefly from among the Christians.
    [1]. The martoloses were a group of frontier guards; they were employed for guarding mountain passes in Rumelia) and thus were among the few Christians in the Ottoman empire who were permitted to carry weapons.
    [2]. The voynuks were mostly Bulgarian Christians; their duty consisted of tending the horses of the imperial stables.

  52. This convergence of two meanings in the Arabic word is tempting (unless αμαρτωλός meant the same two things… did it?).

    Consider this: the Ottomans take the Greek (or some other) word for… disreputable people, translate it into Arabic.
    Then someone erroneously calques it back into Greek as “sinners”.
    The result sounds odd (or even utterly wrong), so it is gets further reinterpreted as αρματο/ωλός.

  53. The Sarachori are like our mercenaries, and they are from the volunteer raiders

    For the curious, Pál Fodor (1984) ‘The Way of a Seljuq Institution to Hungary: The Cereḫōr’ Acta Orientalia 38:367–399 (on JSTOR here) has a detailed discussion of the etymology of the protean Ottoman word(s) cerehor, cerâhor and serehor, serâhor, etc., on pages 368–370 (mostly in footnotes).

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