Mongolia Glossary.

There’s apparently a novel called The Green Eyed Lama (“The year is 1938. The newly-installed Communist Government of Mongolia, under orders from Moscow, launches a nation-wide purge. Before it’s over, nearly tenth of the country’s population is murdered. Sendmaa, a young herdswoman, falls in love with Baasan, a talented and handsome lama…”) whose website includes a glossary useful to anyone with an interest in Mongolia. Here are the first couple of entries:

Aarts Boiled fermented milk without the watery component called yellow milk. Its dried version is called aaruul. During autumn, herders put aarts into an animal stomach and freeze it. In winter, frozen aarts – also called tsagaa — is used as an addition to soup and the hot soup-like drink made of aarts, flour, and water. For children, frozen aarts is a favourite snack during winter and is eaten like ice-cream. Depending on the animal milk from which it is derived and the method of boiling, aarts can have different tastes, colour, and content. Some families add Sugar, rice, aaruul, eezgii and cheese to their aarts before freezing.

Aaruul A dried milk product. Aaruul is light, hard, and sturdy for long travel — the perfect snack for nomadic herders. Thick, big aaruul is called huruud. Aaruul is rich in calcium. It can be of many tastes, shapes, levels of hardness depending on the milk of which animal it is made such as cow aaruul, sheep aaruul, goat aaruul, camel aaruul, reindeer aaruul, and yak aaruul. Yak, sheep, camel and reindeer aaruuls are distinctive with their richness, while goat and cow aaruul are typically less oily. Arkhan and Dayan Deerkh people commonly produce cow and sheep aaruul. There is no aaruul from mare’s milk. Aaruul is made of boiled fermented milk called aarts. Before producing aaruul from boiled fermented milk, herders separate out so called ‘yellow milk’ (water and protein) from the boiled fermented milk. During the boiling process of the fermented milk, Mongolian herders extract ‘milk vodka’. In summer pieces of aaruul are often seen drying on wood trays placed on the sloping tops of gers or other surfaces out of reach of goats and other animals.

It includes historical/biographical entries like Amar (“Prime Minister of Mongolia 1937-1939. Well educated and wealthy, he didn’t like Russia’s interference in Mongolian affairs”) and Bogd, Eighth or Javzundamba Hutagt VIII (“Mongolia’s religious and secular leader having the title of Bogd Khaan of Mongolia from 1911 to 1921”); particularly interesting is the entry for the much-renamed capital city:

Urga (also spelled Örgöö) The name for Ulaanbaatar from its founding in 1639 to 1706. From 1706–1911 it was known as Ikh Khüree (great camp) or Da Khüree (from the Chinese dà for “great”). After the declaration of Independence from the Chinese Manchu Dynasty in 1911 the city was known as Niislel Khüree (capital camp). In 1924 the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Government renamed the capital, Ulaanbaatar (red hero).

Thanks, Bathrobe!


  1. The list of names of Urga before 1924 is not complete by no means.

    I’ve also heard of Bogdyn Khuree (“Bogdo’s camp”), Bogdyn Urguu (“Bogdo’s palace”) and particularly endearing Nomiin Urguu “Learning palace” (literally “Book palace”) and Nomiin Khuree (“Learning camp”).

    I believe full list of pre-revolutionary names of Ulaanbaatar has over thirty variants.

  2. Wow! I had no idea.

  3. This is, of course, due to the fact that the city arose from nomadic camp which moved from place to place over a hundred times before finally settling in the current location.

    It was still felt as something not quite permanent even after two and a half centuries of existence.

  4. The baatar in Ulaanbaatar is a Wanderwort that pops up in a lot of really interesting places.

  5. David Marjanović says

    Can confirm that if you freeze milk and thaw it, it’s sweet.

    (No idea how that works.)

  6. “There is no aaruul from mare’s milk.”

    And why?

  7. Who in their right mind would make a sweet cheese out of fermented mare’s milk if it can be turned into alcoholic drink instead! 😉

  8. Charles Perry says

    One Mongol dairy product has been borrowed by other groups, eejegei/eezgii, which seems to be milk boiled with yogurt to curdle it, the curds being dried in the sun.

    Because of the nomadic way of life and the absence of natural barriers in the steppe, all these products have traveled far and wide, even to Manchuria. Aarts >Manchu arcan “cream, milk, thickened with wine and sugar.” Qurut > Manchu kuru, “a type of sour cake made from cow’s or mare’s milk and liquor.” Ejegei >Manchu ejihe “a food made from dried cream.” All translations from J. Norman, A Concise Manchu-English Lexicon. Obviously, lexicographers do not claim to be experts on food.

  9. Charles Perry says

    One suspects the Turkic root aghar- “to become white” in aarts (<Classical Mongolian agharcha) and aarul. BTW, aarul is often formed into ropes called horhoi aarul, “worm aarul.”

    Huruud is the well-known Turkic product qurut, strained yogurt dried in the sun. In a report on his visit to Mongolia in his book “Pass the Butterworms,” the travel writer Tim Cahill refers to huruud as “cheese that clacks.”

  10. Could English word “curd” come from Turkic/Mongolian qurut/huruud?

    Checked a few sources, some say “etymology unknown”. So there is a chance after all.

  11. At the other end of Eurasia, in the Dalmatian Zagora, they mix various kinds if milk with various kinds of wine or vinegar: eg. bikla is milk added to red wine (half and half), sumuta or bilovoda is vinegar added to milk.

  12. PlasticPaddy says

    Curd is already in middle English, as is crud. These are traced to a proto-germanic verb meaning “to press down” (I suppose “press together” also). The word crowd comes from the same source.

  13. PlasticPaddy says

    Re crud, there is an Irish word crua meaning hard, which is eventually traced by wiktionary to a PIE root meaning “blood”. This appears to me to be a long stretch semantically (blood > scab > congealed matter > hard) but Latin crudelis is also traced here. I do not see why the English crud is not here also, but maybe there is a problem with phonetics.

  14. David Marjanović says

    a long stretch semantically

    Greek kréas, “flesh” (with a lost [w] in the middle).

    problem with phonetics

    Grimm’s law. Unless of course it’s a Celtic loan in Germanic, or in English specifically because I can’t think of potential cognates in German.

  15. Only if crud is a loan from Celtic or Latin, otherwise PIE/k/ -> Germanic /h/.
    EDIT: Ninja’d by DM.

  16. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm, hans
    Thanks, both.
    The english word crud is traced to PG krūdaną “to push” and further to PIE *grewt (or *greut) “to crush, press”. So all is right with Grimm☺ and no relation with the blood-derived words. There is a verb kruiden in Dutch which is related to the PG root. Maybe this is related also to German krauen (the Dutch say aaien for this).

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    I would like German Schraube and English screw to have the same “push” root with s-mobile, but the experts have a sex-soaked pipe-dream etymology involving Latin scrofa.

  18. Can confirm that if you freeze milk and thaw it, it’s sweet.

    My guess is that you are tasting the lactose, the proteins having been denatured by the freezing and/or thawing process. That’s completely off the cuff, of course.

  19. Some of this is interesting but arcane. I’m not going to make my own aarts.

    But this
    >bikla is milk added to red wine (half and half), sumuta or bilovoda is vinegar added to milk.

    … is news I can use. If only to make my kids laugh and gross out my dairy-averse wife, who typically leaves most of the scrambled egg stuck to the bottom of the pan because she can’t bring herself to butter it properly.

    Some googling gave me this:
    >Bikla becomes stronger over time, gradually developing into a darker color. It is drinkable for months, can be enjoyed throughout the year, and is the most popular drink of the Vrgorac region.

    By stronger, do they mean a higher alcohol content? If so, do you need to keep it corked or stored in some particular way?

    It’s at a website for the 18th Biklijada of Vrgorac. Didn’t Marx write something about the 18th Biklijada?

    Other sites suggest that strictly speaking, bikla requires goat’s milk and must, or freshly pressed wine. I intend to ignore those sites.

    Sumuta milk vinegar and bilovoda milk vinegar are not productive combinations at all in google. I would think vinegar added to milk would curdle it as orange juice does. Is that the intent?

  20. Didn’t Marx write something about the 18th Biklijada?

    “Men make their own booze, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

  21. The passage i was thinking of was “Hegel remarks that all great dairy products are consumed twice. He forgot to add, ‘the first time as boiled milk, the second time as aarts.'”

  22. Speaking of which, did Nixon hire a bunch of idiots, bumblers and clowns. I was too young, but my sense is that his people were talented, but in a less cynical era, it took fewer slip-ups to turn public opinion against. That we’re living the 18th Brumaire of Donald Trump.

  23. David Marjanović says

    Lactose isn’t sweet. Splitting it into glucose and galactose would have that effect, but I can’t see how freezing or thawing would accomplish that. (Even boiling doesn’t.)

    can’t bring herself to butter it properly.

    How about using oil, then?

    his people were talented

    Not the ones that actually committed the third-rate burglary; but there are reasons why the current situation is called Stupid Watergate.

  24. It’s about 15% as sweet as sucrose, which is not nothing, but I haven’t tasted it and you have.

  25. I always thought that Nixon was victim of a conspiracy by his own government.

    Maybe they didn’t like that Nixon got America out of Vietnam or something.

  26. Lars Mathiesen says

    There’s currently a fad for adding lactose to fancy beer, and it does taste a little sweet. (I’m not sure what the point is, other than being different from last month — but I’m guessing that beer yeast doesn’t consume the lactose).

  27. David Marjanović says

    I haven’t tasted it and you have

    That was over 20 years ago, to be fair. But frozen milk gets rather sweeter than I’d think could be explained that way.

    Maybe they didn’t like that Nixon got America out of Vietnam or something.

    Nixon won his first election by going behind the State Department’s back and convincing the Vietcong to walk away from their peace negotiations with LBJ and keep the war going one week longer… which turned into five years.

    No, what people didn’t like was his coverup of Watergate. Do you really find that so hard to imagine?

  28. what people didn’t like was his coverup of Watergate.

    that’s how they got rid of him, not why.

    as any bureaucrat knows, the easiest way to get rid of your boss is to deliberately sabotage his orders while pretending to comply with them.

    that’s what was done to Nixon by his own staff.

    of course, he was lucky compared to his rival in 1960 election.

  29. PlasticPaddy says

    To class E. Howard Hunt as a deliberate saboteur would be a compliment (although he would not have thought so). According to himself, he was part of the organisation of the “Bay of Pigs” invasion, but I suppose it is possible he deliberately sabotaged that operation, as well.

  30. When Nixon decided to tape everything said in the White House he climbed into his own coffin, though he didn’t know it. But what put the nails in was the discovery that, if impeached, he would be convicted 46 to 4 (a contemporaneous estimate by a Senator). No deep-state theory needed there. Republicans in that day were genuinely shocked by Nixon’s crimes in the pursuit of power.

  31. Sorry, for 46 read 96.

  32. My sense from the little I gleaned on the English language web is that bikla is a simple mixture. I tried a 50/50 blend of milk and red wine last night. It tasted fine. No proteins seemed to be rendered. It was basically a wine smoothie. I wouldn’t do this with wine I liked, but would consider it with wine I wasn’t crazy about.

    Of course this was with 2% cow’s milk and sulphite laden 4-year old wine from the night before. I wonder how the flavor would change if we bought whole milk. (My wife’s aversion to dairy is mostly an 80’s child’s deeply ingrained but ultimately misguided fear of milk-fat.) If I used goat’s milk, a newly opened bottle or freshly pressed wine, all the more.

    Still trying to figure out sumuta and bilovoda. Voda is water in Serbo-Croatian. But bilovoda and just bilo come up blank in the first online translator I tried. Is bilo related to the root in Belorus — white. That would make sense, given the milk. Another online translator gave bile duct for bilovoda. Hard to believe they drink something they call bile duct. Something that’s non-alcoholic anyway.

  33. January First-of-May says


    If I had to guess I’d say it’s literally “white water” (which was apparently your guess as well). But I’m not actually sure.

    Can confirm that if you freeze milk and thaw it, it’s sweet.

    At the second building of my third school (roughly 14 years ago), we stored milk cartons in the freezer, and tried to drink the milk as soon as it thawed, not even waiting until all of it thawed.
    (As in, we opened the carton, waited a few minutes for it to thaw a little, and poured whatever liquid had already thawed into the cup for drinking.)

    I vaguely recall it not having quite the normal milk taste, but not any specific details, and in particular nothing about it being any more sweet than regular milk (which already tastes rather sweet).

  34. David Marjanović says


    belo : bijelo : bilo :: ekavian : ijekavian : ikavian

    regular milk (which already tastes rather sweet)

    Only if it’s of exceptionally bad quality.

  35. January First-of-May says

    Only if it’s of exceptionally bad quality.

    Perhaps I’m mistaking some other taste for “sweet”, or perhaps carton milk really is that bad and I just don’t notice.

  36. “During autumn, herders put aarts into an animal stomach and freeze it.”

    Animal stomachs contain rennet — a type of enzyme, I think — that turns milk into cheese. But mare’s milk is unique in that this reaction doesn’t occur, you can’t turn it into cheese.

  37. Ryan says: Still trying to figure out sumuta and bilovoda.

    This is from Lorger’s “Dalmatinske riči” (Dalmatian Words):

    Sumuta is “mlijeko kvasinom usireno” – literally milk that has been turned to cheese using vinegar.
    In a place called Marina near the city of Trogir, this drink is called bilovoda. The recipe is:
    Heat milk, then let it cool down. Pour in red wine vinegar and mix with a spoon. The milk will curdle. It will retain its white colour, but will gain a gentle purple tint. If you don’t have enough milk, add some water to the mixture. For a complete meal, add some bread pieces. This is usually eaten in summer, in the afternoon, before setting off to afternoon work. Because of the addition of water to the mixture, the drink is called bilovoda = whitewater.

    In Podstrana near Split, the vinegar would be added to warm freshly milked frothy milk. This would also curdle.

    On the island of Mljet, they would start off with vinegar (around a spoonful) and add milk (about a quarter of a litre).

    The etymology for sumuta is given as deriving from the verb smutiti (to mix).

    And then there is also “smutica”, which is red wine + goat’s milk

  38. Do they say “smutiti smoothie”?

  39. Andrej Bjelaković says

    On a related note ‘smoothie’ is smuti/смути in Serbian, not smudi/смуди, which is what you’d expect, probably due to smutiti.

  40. January First-of-May says

    not smudi/смуди, which is what you’d expect

    …actually, the Russian is смузи, and naively I’d have expected the same for Serbian. But maybe I’m missing something in the phonology.

  41. The two th sounds are transcribed and pronounced in Croatian as t and d according to Matica hrvatska’s “Pravopis”. So, smudi or even smuti, rather than smuzi.

    Croatian practice is to leave foreign words untranscribed, especially so where they are recent borrowings.

  42. Andrej Bjelaković says

    Yeah, in BCS the English ð and θ are always d and t, never z and s.

  43. David Marjanović says

    A schoolmate of mine used [d̥] and [f]; I wouldn’t have noticed the [f] if she hadn’t told me she was using that because she got away with it.

  44. It’s true as zyxt says that Croatian and Bosnian do not transcribe foreign names , but of course since English in particular is a very poor fit for the native phonemic orthography, the end result is the same brutal butcherings as if you just transcribed the name to begin with. A personal favorite from childhood was Hiter Loklir (Heather Locklear).

  45. Hiter for Heather – Who was that concocted by?
    Understandable for older loanwords, when hardly anyone spoke English east of Germany, but unforgiveable in the present day.

    Some words that have been around for at least 100 years and are now acclimatised in Croatian:
    All have the -ej ending for English -ey, which makes me suspect that they were filtered through German and not acquired directly from English.

    The word “clown” is klaun in Croatian, but it has the spelling pronunciation klovn in Serbian.

  46. David Marjanović says

    They don’t end in a diphthong in German either, but there are some hints that they once did.

  47. Andrej Bjelaković says

    Not sure if džokej, hokej, volej were filtered through German, but words with STRUT in English that ended up with /e/ in BCS were. Examples:

    flush (in poker) – fleš
    bluff – blef, blefirati
    jumper – džemper
    Humphrey – Hemfri (traditionally; at least in Serbia, we’ve mostly switched to Hamfri)

  48. džokej

    That’s exactly the spelling in Russian. To the letter.


    and that’s too

    and fleš and blef as well.

    I have strong suspicion that some of the English literature was translated into Serbian from Russian.

    Easier that way, I suppose.

  49. Trond Engen says

    In Norwegian we hear those lightly rounded schwas as ø. Bløff, tøff, røff, trøbbel. Flush is not respelled but pronounced as if written fløsj. Truck “forklift” and trøkk (colloquial form of ‘trykk’) “push, hit, beating” are pronounced the same. I’ve seen fuck! and fucking spelled føkk! and føkking — probably to emphasize the naturalness of it.

  50. The Russian intelligentsia of the prerevolutionary period pronounced French borrowings with French vowels, but after 1917 /ø/ soon became /e/.

  51. January First-of-May says

    That’s exactly the spelling in Russian. To the letter.

    Not quite – the Russian is жокей (žokej), not *джокей.

    True about джемпер, флеш, блеф though – and “clown” is клоун (kloun).

  52. Andrej Bjelaković says: words with STRUT in English that ended up with /e/ in BCS

    Oehlschläger’s 1870 Englisch-deutsches und deutsch-englisches Taschen-Wörterbuch gives the following pronunciations
    bluff – blöf
    flush – flösch
    jumper – dschömpör
    hump – hömp

    It looks like the English U became German ö in these words.
    German ö is transcribed and pronounced as E in Croatian.

    That’s how we ended up with džemper.

  53. PlasticPaddy says

    Were these words borrowed from French into German? Compare Bus, which only Peter Sellers would pronounce Böss.

  54. Trond Engen says

    You don’t get Böss from the French, you get **Büss. Wherever autobus was coined, it was latinate enough to be pronounced as a local latinate word in the languages where it was borrowed. Some of shortened it. In Scandinavian it’s buss; Da. [bus], Norw./Sw. [bʉs].

  55. Andrej Bjelaković says

    zyxt says:
    November 20, 2019 at 10:04 am
    That’s how we ended up with džemper.

    That’s what I’d heard too, but now I have the dictionary citation to back it up! Hvala. 😀

  56. @Trond Engen: I’m pretty sure autobus (where it exists, so not in English) is a back formation from bus. The older form in English is the transparently Latin omnibus, for the vehicle’s capacity to pack a lot of things together. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen omnibus in German, circa 1900, as well, but I don’t know about the spread of the words in other languages.

  57. Trond Engen says

    Yes, obviously, thanks. I meant omnibus, but somehow lost it somewhere in there. I think I confused myself with the French route.

  58. David Marjanović says

    /œ/ for English /ʌ/ is a thing in French, and was in German into the mid-20th century, when it flipped to /a/.

    I’ve seen [O]mnibus in German

    Me too, into the 1980s, though very rarely.

  59. /œ/ for English /ʌ/ is a thing in French, and was in German into the mid-20th century, when it flipped to /a/.
    /œ/ is still used in long-established loans like Bluff, bluffen, which often are written with “ö”.

  60. In Spanish voleibol has /ei/. I’m not sure about hockey and jockey, which are spelled as in English.

  61. January First-of-May says

    I’m pretty sure autobus (where it exists, so not in English) is a back formation from bus.

    The version I recall reading (in a Russian context) had it be a simplification of auto-omnibus, which is probably more plausible.

    Then again, given the existence of Russian автомашина, neither version would surprise me…

  62. David Marjanović says

    Bluff, bluffen, which often are written with “ö”

    I know these words only from reading, only ever with u.

  63. In Spanish voleibol has /ei/.

    What kind of Spanish? Cubans say (or did in the 60s) boliboli.

  64. Vóleibol (with or without the accent) is the standard Spanish word.

  65. I know these words only from reading, only ever with u.
    I have heard them in everyday speech. The standard orthography has “u”, but the spelling with “ö” exists, not only as typos on the internet, but even in book titles. Google will confirm that.
    (I’m talking about Bluff, bluffen here.)

  66. My Spanish consultant says the normative spellings are xoquei and yoquei, or rarely with -ey instead.

  67. John Cowan says: My Spanish consultant says the normative spellings are xoquei and yoquei,

    Is this evidence for a 100 year-old Euro-English, with -ey /-i/ being pronounced as /-ej/ and /ʌ/ as /œ/ ??

    The more I think about it, the more that this strikes me as being in common with the Manchester accent.

  68. Why would the normative spelling have initial x instead of j? Admittedly j would cause confusion between hockey and jockey, but isn’t initial x normally /s/, or sometimes /ʃ/ in placenames?

  69. Sorry, a brain fart on my part. What the consultant said was that it’s spelled joquei and pronounced [x]. I’m not sure why he mentioned the latter point, as it seems to be the default.

  70. David Marjanović says

    Is this evidence for a 100 year-old Euro-English, with -ey /-i/ being pronounced as /-ej/ and /ʌ/ as /œ/ ??

    I think so. No idea about Manchester; spelling pronunciations* filtered through French may be more likely.

    * shawl > German Schal with /aː/. Unable to make sense of the w, people simply dropped it.

  71. John Cowan, possibly because you were asking about jockey at the same time, in which the j has a different sound.

  72. Unable to make sense of the w, people simply dropped it.

    Unless they heard it from someone in the western half of the US, where they have the cot/caught merger. (Not a serious proposal.)

  73. PlasticPaddy says

    Die vom 18. Jh. bis um 1900 geläufige Schreibung Shawl, Schawl folgt engl. shawl, während selteneres (doch heute allein gültiges) Schal wohl auf dem Einfluß von frz. châle beruht.

    So blame the French☺

  74. David Marjanović says

    So blame the French☺

    Ah, that makes perfect sense.

  75. Qurut > Manchu kuru, “a type of sour cake made from cow’s or mare’s milk and liquor.”

    Белые камни, спасающие от голода
    Почему в Центральной Азии так любят странное лакомство, к которому нужно привыкать с детства

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