New England on the Black Sea.

Dr. Caitlin Green’s academic blog covers topics including “long-distance trade, migration and contacts; landscape and coastal history; early literature and legends; and the history, archaeology, place-names and legends of Lincolnshire and Cornwall”; her 2015 post “The medieval ‘New England’: a forgotten Anglo-Saxon colony on the north-eastern Black Sea coast” is absolutely fascinating:

Although the name ‘New England’ is now firmly associated with the east coast of America, this is not the first place to be called that. In the medieval period there was another Nova Anglia, ‘New England’, and it lay far to the east of England, rather than to the west, in the area of the Crimean peninsula. The following post examines some of the evidence relating to this colony, which was said to have been established by Anglo-Saxon exiles after the Norman conquest of 1066 and seems to have survived at least as late as the thirteenth century.

She starts by talking about the “significant English element in the Varangian Guard of the medieval Byzantine emperors” (“what seems to have occurred is that, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a group of English lords who hated William the Conqueror’s rule but had lost all hope of overthrowing it decided to sell up their land and leave England forever”) and continues:

Thus far the story, as outlined above, is clearly intriguing, and moreover largely supported by all of the available sources, both northern and Byzantine. However, perhaps the most remarkable and interesting part of the tale is found only in the Chronicon Laudunensis and the Edwardsaga, both of which may derive from a lost early twelfth century account, according to Fell. The Edwardsaga states that whilst some of the exiled Anglo-Saxons accepted the offer of joining the Varangian Guard, some members of the group asked instead for a place to settle and rule themselves […] Needless to say, the description of New England as lying ‘across the sea in the east and north-east from Micklegarth’ suggests that the lands that Alexius gave to the English exiles lay somewhere in the region of the Crimean peninsula. This is supported by the sailing time specified too, as the fourth-century AD ‘Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax’ estimates six days’ and nights’ sail as the length of the sea-journey from Constantinople to the western tip of the Crimean peninsula. Such agreement in these incidental details is, of course, interesting. So the question becomes, is there any other supporting evidence for the establishment of a ‘New England’ in the region of the Crimea by the Anglo-Saxon exiles who travelled to the Byzantine Empire in the late eleventh century?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer to this question is a ‘yes’ […]

In conclusion, the above points would seem to add some considerable weight to the case for the existence of a ‘New England’ on the northern and north-eastern coast of the Black Sea in the medieval period. Not only does it seem that the Byzantine Empire regained control of that portion of the Black Sea coast in this period, just as the Edwardsaga/Chronicon Laudunensis claim, but there also exists a quantity of medieval place-name evidence from this region that offers significant support for the establishment of English Varangian settlements there and a thirteenth-century account that appears to refer to the continued existence of a Christian people named the Saxi in this area, who occupied defended cities and were militarily sophisticated. In such circumstances, the most credible solution is surely that the medieval tales of a Nova Anglia, ‘New England’, in the area of the Crimean peninsula and north-eastern Black Sea coast do indeed have a basis in reality. This territory would appear to have been established by the late eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon exiles who had left England after the Norman Conquest and joined the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian Guard, and their control of at least some land and cities here apparently persisted for several centuries, perhaps thus providing a regular supply of ‘English Varangians’ to the Byzantine Empire that helps to explain why the ‘native tongue’ of the Varangian Guard continued to be English as late as the mid-fourteenth century.

I have (obviously) left out all the supporting details, and I hope interested parties will read her entire post (which includes maps and images as well as footnotes). A tip of the LH hat to Trevor Joyce’s FB post!


  1. John Emerson says

    Gabriel Ronay has written two books on Englishmen in Eastern Europe during this period: “The Tartar Khan’s Englishman”, about an Englishman who served as an interpreter for a Mongol Khan, and “The Last King of England”, about a son of Edmund Ironsides who Canute sent into exile as a child n 1016 and returned to try unsucessfully to claim the English throne after 40 years in Hungary etc.

    Ronay’s archival research is great, his writing is fun, but in “The Tartar Khan’s Englishman” he relies a lot on conjecture — the Templar banished from Palestine COULD have been the same guy as the Tartar Khan’s translator.

    Dubs has also argued for the existence of a Roman village in China (Romans defeated by the Persians), and Littleton and Malcor have argued for a strong Alan (Scythian) influence on the founders of Brittany — former Roman mercenaries cut loose and on their own. The Sword in the Stone” is claimed as a Scythian myth adopted by the Celts who fled together with the Alans to Brittany, (Alan I believe is a common Breton name, or was in the early years).

  2. John Emerson says

    One of Ronay’s Latin sources alleged that Bad King John was negotiating to convert to Islam. That fits with one of your links. But the monkish source in question is regarded as unreliable, and Ronay is blamed for trusting him.

    War does throw up these weird anomalies. At one time there was a Filipino village in the Mississippi delta which had come there during the Spanish era. Lafcadio Hearn wrote about them. Hearn himself was such an anomaly. He ended up as an invited western expert in 19th c. Japan, but had been born in Greece of Greek-Irish descent and had spent considerable time in Ireland and then the US.

  3. I figured this post would attract your attention!

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    I recall reading elsewhere that the Varangian Guard was largely English after 1066 or so. The English make the best uncouth Germanic barbarian bodyguards for the Emperor. (“I don’t know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.”)

  5. The English fellow whose ebullient (some might say “over the top”) twitter persona is as the Byzantine Ambassador likes to stress the Englishness of the Varangians, in a patriotic effort to distinguish his remote ancestors from the generically wicked Franks who treated the Byzantines badly.

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    One can see why …

  7. Nobody wants to be generically wicked. If you’re going to be wicked, you want a memorably special variety.

  8. Separately re “Alan,” Sanctus Alanus (Alan in Breton & Alain in French) is said to have been a 6th or 7th century bishop of Quimper, in Brittany, although of course some spoilsports claim his historicity is uncertain. Those without such quibbles believe he may have been Cornish or Welsh by birth and may or may not be the same fellow whose name survives in the church (and associated hamlet) of St. Allen in Cornwall. The (often tacit) assumption that “Alan” as an ethnonym from quite a ways away Can’t Possibly Be a Coincidence is the sort of thing that leads to all sorts of crackpottery.

  9. Re generically wicked Franks, the Venetians were of course the most memorably and especially wicked of the lot. At least vis-a-vis the Byzantines.

  10. January First-of-May says

    Crimea (particularly western Crimea) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries must have been a huge patchwork of peoples ordinarily from far away. There was a bunch of leftover Ostrogoths in there too, and I think a few others…
    (Tmutarakan, as well, though that’s rather farther east and a few decades earlier [EDIT: until at least 1094, with sporadic mentions into the 12th century]. Cherson was a major Byzantine outpost, though, again, that’s a little earlier. And when did the Crimean Tatars show up again?)

    Don’t recall offhand if the Genoese colony in Caffa was already there by then [EDIT: only since 1266]; if so, that would be another one. But yeah, quite a patchwork. Offhand I’m not even sure if there’s enough space left in the area to fit an English splinter.

    The (often tacit) assumption that “Alan” as an ethnonym from quite a ways away Can’t Possibly Be a Coincidence is the sort of thing that leads to all sorts of crackpottery.

    As it happens, IIRC, this particular ethnonym is etymologically the same word as “Aryan”, which really doesn’t help.

  11. John Emerson says

    The name Alan was pretty incidental to the argument about Alans and Bretons, not the main evidence. Bachrach, “History of the Alan’s in the West”. Littleton’s argument is a little stretched, though.

  12. John Emerson says

    There was a second Alan name in early Brittany that died out. “Gaur” as I remember.

  13. My first thought was if these “Saxons” might explain the surprisingly Western and Modern features of the Crimean Gothic wordlist.

  14. January First-of-May says

    My first thought was if these “Saxons” might explain the surprisingly Western and Modern features of the Crimean Gothic wordlist.

    I hadn’t even thought of that! Would probably make more sense than the usual explanation that Busbecq wrote down the Flemish word if he thought he recognized it.

    Are there any developments in Old English vs. Middle Flemish that could be looked at in the wordlist to check this theory?

  15. Incidentally, re Nova Anglia, why did East Anglia alone keep its Latin name?

    I get slightly peevy when I see “the medieval period” instead of “the Middle Ages”, but this is used here by an experienced academic. Are the two usages distinct in meaning?

    Is there a good comprehensive history of Crimea, at least for the Middle Ages?

  16. The hero (not the title character) of Walter Scott’s Count Robert of Paris is an Englishman in the Varangian Guard at the time of the First Crusade.

  17. I get slightly peevy when I see “the medieval period” instead of “the Middle Ages”

    Why? I agree the former is more common in academic usage, but that’s readily understandable — “Middle Ages” is skunked both by dumb popular (mis)usage and by the inevitable question “middle of what?” (It developed out of a simplistic division of Ages which has long been discarded.)

  18. I think the redundancy is what itches me, as in “the medieval period” = “the age of the Middle Ages”.

  19. Ah, the etymological fallacy.

  20. John Emerson says

    Oh come on guys. DARK AGES.

  21. Maybe, but I’m feeling it. It’s like “the medieval ages”.

    “The Renaissance period” also bugs me whe I see it (I’d omit “period”).

  22. January First-of-May says

    Is there a good comprehensive history of Crimea, at least for the Middle Ages?

    If there is, and it’s in a language I understand, I’d be interested in reading it. Though IIRC it’s a very under-researched subject, and discoveries keep being made…

  23. John Emerson says

    I was kidding , but I actually think that 500-800 AD was pretty dark in W Europe. Even at the end of that period Alcuin and Dicuil and Hrabanus Maurus and Einhard and Balbulus Notker really are not powerhouses unless I totally missed something.

  24. PlasticPaddy says
  25. David Marjanović says

    I saw Green’s post half a year ago and have been itching for an opportunity to mention it 🙂

    English as an explanation for the seemingly West Germanic words in Busbecq’s list occurred to me, too. The list presents a confusing picture, though; for example, “hand” is given as handa, with a final vowel that can hardly come from anything in West Germanic, but doesn’t fit Biblical Gothic handus either…

    Someone should add Old English to the comparisons…

    BTW, why is malthata “said” compared to OHG gimahalta “said” rather than NHG meldete “announced”? And why does it have -ta and not -da?!?

  26. Why did Crimea, at such a strategic place, with such a cosmopolitan population, not become the site of a large city? Sevastopol and (not quite Crimean) Odessa weren’t founded until the 18th century.

  27. John Emerson says

    Paddy: Isidore and Bede outrank the others and are perfectly fine as such, but in a Non-Dark Age I don’t think that either would stand out.

  28. Ironically, Harald Hardrada’s invasion force that (one universe away) could have conquered England in 1066 probably included a substantial number of former Varangians (including Harald himself, of course) who had returned from Constantinople to Norway in the 1040s.

  29. Y, there is no fresh water in Crimea.

  30. That would do it.

    So people there lived on cistern water half the year? Does Odessa also bring its water from elsewhere?

  31. There is river Bug somewhere nearby, but I really don’t know and my Googling skills are no beter than average…

  32. I see now. Crimea is almost an island, so it would have to rely on wells or cisterns. Odessa is indeed near the mouths of several rivers. Which begs the question again, why wasn’t Odessa founded much earlier?

  33. January First-of-May says

    Sevastopol and (not quite Crimean) Odessa weren’t founded until the 18th century.

    Sevastopol was founded right next to the ruins of medieval Cherson, which AFAIK was a decent-sized city in its heyday. My impression is that so were Pantikapaion and Caffa. Not sure about others.

  34. Bug

  35. Bug. This is the feature, the other one was a bug.

  36. Giacomo Ponzetto says


  37. PlasticPaddy says

    apel = appel
    malthata = meldōde/meldede
    handa = hand
    schuuester = sweostor
    hus = hus
    reghen = regn (n) / rignan (v)
    singhen = singan
    geen = gán (this verb fits better than gangan)
    ano = hána
    rintsch = hrycg
    hána is not there but in Skeat.
    For (h)rycg > rintsch I can offer a parallel midge > minge in (U.S.) English
    Looking at these if you want to show ancestry you have to say that Crimean Gothic made changes like
    d > th after l;
    s > sh before w;
    a/á is sometimes interchanged with e/ee due to a vowel shift or dialect mixing.
    But you would need more examples.

  38. David Marjanović says


    Yeah, forgot to mention that if that’s real, it’s strong evidence of English.

  39. Main problem of any city in the Black Sea steppe was defense, because the steppes were inhabited by warlike nomads who liked to capture people and sell them for profit.

    This naturally limited growth of cities – they necessarily had to be quite small so that the entire population could fit inside the city walls during siege.

  40. @Y: “Which begs the question again, why wasn’t Odessa founded much earlier?”

    A bigger question would be, why wasn’t the steppe north and northeast of the Black and Azov Seas settled until the 18th century? The most likely answer is the nomads that had dominated the region for centuries, perhaps millennia, until the Russian Empire drove them out. It brought settlers (mostly Ukrainian) to cultivate the land and founded cities that soon became multiethnic (Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Armenian, Greek, German, Polish).

    Odessa soon became the largest of them but don’t forget Kherson, Nikolaev, Rostov and a couple of others. By the way, Odessa gets its water from the Dniester; Mykolaiv (Nikolaev) from the Southern Bug; Kherson, from the Dnieper, and Rostov (predictably!) from the Don. Odessa got built on the site of an Ottoman fortress and a Tatar village nearby. Some kind of settlement had existed there for a long time but had never grown into anything serious until José de Ribas took over.

  41. Is there a case for a relationship between Varangian and Ferengi — a word used in the Middle and farther East to describe Europeans?


  42. David Eddyshaw says

    No. It’s Norse for “sworn companions.”

    “Ferengi” is ultimately from “Franks”, via Greek.

  43. David Eddyshaw says

    What’s the Old English for “dacha”?

  44. It would appear to be sumorhus: Ælfric, Lives of Saints (Julius): “Thomas..cwæð þæt he wolde wyrcan..þa oþre gebytlu bæftan þære healle, bæðhus and kycenan, and winterhus and sumorhus.”

  45. Certainly off topic for this particular discussion, but of a similar if more modern notion:

    There is a settlement in the South Pacific called Palmerston Atoll/Island, formed by a roving sailor from Gloucestershire. Now, years later, the local language (of less than 100 inhabitants) remains sprinkled with Gloucester influences. it’s a really interesting story.

    Apologies if this is old news.

  46. Getting back to Crimea, where did all those Krimchaks/Goths/Varangians live, while the steppes were uninhabited? Where did they get water for drinking and irrigation? Was Crimea subject to nomad depredations?

  47. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    New England’ is now firmly associated with the east coast of America

    By Americans, maybe, but New South Wales also has a well known New England.

  48. Is a comment of mine from maybe 2 hours ago just stuck in moderation (perhaps it contained what the software thought a suspiciously large amount of cut-and-pasted text in a non-Latin script?) or just mysteriously gone. If the latter it probably wasn’t good enough to try to reconstruct …

  49. Dammit, another one that’s neither in spam nor moderation. I hope the new hosting isn’t inspiring Akismet to even greater vigilance…

  50. “Crimea is almost an island, so it would have to rely on wells or cisterns.” So sad: like, Crimea river.

  51. If you’ve been waiting all your life for the right moment to say that, I’m glad to have been of service.

  52. @hat: almost certainly not worth reconstructing – not because it involved huge amounts of now-wasted effort, but because the payoff for the readers would likely not be worth the buildup.

  53. @Y:

    i’ve had a book on the history of odessa on my to-read pile (not actually a pile) for a long time, but can’t seem to lay my hands on it. i do know there was an ottoman fortress roughly there for quite some time before that part of the black sea coast was ceded to russia, but i think the idea of founding a city there is part of the big early modern european shift in how to have states and borders.

    over the 18th/19th centuries, more and more european states (and their settler colonies) decided that it wasn’t in their interest to continue having non-state* buffer zones between them, like the ‘wild field’ between the russian, ottoman, and austro-hungarian empires northwest of the black sea. so they embarked on all kinds of colonization processes to assert practical control in those regions. odessa is, i think, a great – and very successful – example of how that played out in novorossiya: a pin to hold the southwest corner of the empire. chicago is arguably a parallel example in north america, doing similar work for the u.s. as it pushed into the non-state territory between it and the (similarly state-ifying) french and spanish colonial territories.

    * in practice, whatever the folks in the palaces might have claimed in their titles.

  54. My understanding is that Chicago is where it is because it is situated well to connect the Mississippi with the Great Lakes.

  55. Nature’s Metropolis gives a good sense of why Chicago grew, as the logistics hub for things coming on the lakes or rail from New York and headed to points west and Northwest, and vice versa. Certainly there were no French or Spanish colonial territories anywhere near by the time Chicago began to expand. The US only begins to survey the route from Detroit to Chicago in March, 1803, and the Louisiana Purchase takes place a couple months later. 37 years later, it’s still a town of 4,500. It’s really the railroads (and the settlement of Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.) that make Chicago a huge city. If it were just lake traffic, Milwaukee and Green Bay would have siphoned away much volume. But the southern end of Lake Michigan was a bottleneck for the railroads (and remains one today) that made Chicago a natural hub.

  56. @David Noble: Whenever I encounter a references to “roving” by a sailor, I wonder whether the (per the OED) “practice piracy” meaning or the later “travel from place to place without fixed route or destination, esp. over a wide area; to wander in an aimless or unsystematic way; to roam” meaning of rove is intended. While the two are typically conflated today (The OED says the former is “in later use often understood as a contextual use of” of the latter), they are etymologically unrelated. The piracy meaning is a borrowing from a Dutch or low German cognate of reave, while the roaming meaning is probably cognate to rave.

    @Y: The one time I participated in the National Geography Bee, the last question that I answered in winning the school-level competition was about that very feature of Chicago.

  57. It wasn’t until 1880 that Chicago’s population overtook that of St. Louis, whose location had been dictated by pre-railroad considerations of where River A flowed into River B. In fact, the fellow conventionally considered to have been the first permanent non-indigenous resident of what is now Chicago (Jean Baptiste Point du Sable) relocated circa 1800 to the St. Louis region, presumably at least in part because he found it more economically lucrative.

    (In an interesting footnote, the fellow to whom he sold his proto-Chicago property, a Canadian fur trader named Jean La Lime, was ultimately killed in 1812 by another Canadian fur trader named John Kinzie, thus kicking off Chicago’s storied history as a metropolis famed for homicide.)

  58. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Is there anywhere a plain, English language, New Scotland?

    It is a bit odd things people feel the need to replicate. Why Hampshire? Why only South Wales?

  59. It may lack the glamor of PNG’s New Ireland, but about a two and a half hour drive north of my house is,_New_York.

    EDITED TO ADD: I had forgotten that PNG’s New Ireland had previously been New Mecklenburg. Such are the fortunes of war.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    New Caledonia is neither plain nor English-speaking, but does have some very interesting languages.

  61. January First-of-May says

    Why only South Wales?

    I used to think that New South Wales meant “New Wales in the South”, which would make sense geographically, but apparently it was, in fact, intended specifically as a replication of South Wales.

    Is there anywhere a plain, English language, New Scotland?

    Wikipedia says there’s one in New York, plus a bunch of more obscure ones.
    [EDIT: ninja-ed by J.W. Brewer.]

  62. I don’t claim that the New Scotland in New York is the most prominent of the lot as opposed to merely the closest to where I live. Interesting to note that it’s near Albany, not New Albany. How commonly Albany was used in the same context as Alba, Caledonia, etc. is not entirely clear to me, but the onomastically relevant Duke of York (later James II) was apparently when north of the Border the Duke of Albany (later James VII).

  63. Getting back to Crimea, where did all those Krimchaks/Goths/Varangians live, while the steppes were uninhabited

    Geographically, Crimea is neatly divided into steppe Crimea – arid steppe inhabited by nomads which occupies most of the peninsula – and mountain Crimea on the southern coast.

    Mountain castles were really hard to capture for nomads who lacked appropriate artillery and sieges were impractical for coastal towns which could be supplied from the sea.

    It is said that the Black Death started when Khan Janibek of the Golden Horde, unable to capture the Genoese fortress of Caffa in Crimea and his army withering from the plague after protracted siege, in frustration ordered to catapult plague-infected corpses into the city.

    The Genoese ships brought supplies to the besieged city and then returned to Western Europe carrying the Black Death.

  64. The waters of the Black Sea are unmixed layers of salt water beneath flowing in from the Mediterranean, and fresh water above, from the basins it drains. Is the surface water just salty enough that it’s not potable?

  65. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The Dukes of Albany go back a long way – they generally seem to have been Stewart cousins, and often hanging about being regents or would-be regents when the king was a child, as so often happened. But I don’t know why it’s not New Albany when it is New York.,_Mpumalanga seems to be closest to what I was thinking of – an area rather than a village.

    Nova Scotia always makes me think of being laughed at for sticking ‘Ecosse’ on the back of cars – can’t even use our own language…

  66. Why Hampshire?

    The quick answer is that Captain John Mason decided that should be the name for his land grant back in 1622. But why “Hampshire” I have no idea since Mason was from Norfolk. Maybe he had spent a lot of time in Portsmouth and Southampton. Or maybe looking at the map the coastline just reminded him of Hampshire.

  67. David Marjanović says

    By Americans, maybe, but New South Wales also has a well known New England.

    That’s where the University of New England is.

    The waters of the Black Sea are unmixed layers of salt water beneath flowing in from the Mediterranean, and fresh water above, from the basins it drains.

    “Fresh” is not true, says Wikipedia. Freshwater contains less than 0.05% salt; the oxic layer of the Black Sea has 1.7% salt, which is close to the upper limit of what humans can live on (we can make urine with up to 2% salt), while the anoxic layer has an unspectacular salt content of 3.4%.

  68. And the anoxic layer originated a few thousand years ago when the Mediterranean became high enough to flood what had been a freshwater lake, killing everything in it except decay microbes.

  69. Spent an hour trying to remember if I visited Australian New England region quarter century ago.

    I think I did.

    We crossed back into New South Wales at Goondiwindi and turned east passing Tenterfield and Lismore until reaching the coastal highway.

    The definitions of New England apparently vary, but I distinctly remember our guide telling us that this region is called New England.

    Well, maybe the northern end of New England.

    At the time however I was more interested in different geographical question – is this technically the Outback?

    Again, the answer was yes, but now I think, just barely – the northeastern end of Outback NSW maybe.

  70. John Emerson says

    New Munish, MN, pop. 320. New Prague, MN, pop 321 (really). A little overoptimistic. New Prague is the home of a famed accordion-maker and there are lots of Czech accordion musicians about.

    New Munich wasn’t name dafter the German Munich, but after Munich, MN a few miles away (,now a ghost town) which WAS named after German Munich.

    The advantage of the Crimea was that it was a peninsula connected to the mainland only by a narrow neck of land, so it was defensible.

    The steppe is actually good farm land (wheat), but can’t be farmed before the nomads are suppressed. It wasn’t uninhabited, but was inhabited by thin populations of warring nomads.

  71. Wikipedia claims that New Ulm, Minnesota is not actually named for the original Ulm but for Neu-Ulm, which is also in Germany but right across the Danube from Ulm proper and thus technically in Bavaria rather than Württemberg. . (I spent a teenage summer as an exchange student in Neu-Ulm once upon a time, but have never been to the one in Minnesota.)

  72. John Emerson says

    There is a big statue of Arminius in New Ulm (MN). The mayor of New Ulm was deposed during WWI on accusations of German sympathies.

    Germans are actually the largest ethnic group in MN, more than all Scandinavians combined.

  73. Maybe the Minnesota place should have been New Neu-Ulm, or the anglicized New New Ulm?

  74. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    When we were on our way to visit to visit Burghausen (on the border between Bavaria and Austria — location of the longest castle in the world) we passed a place called Altötting, I misanalysed it as Al tötting, and the name meant nothing in particular. On the way back we passed Neuötting, and all became clear.

  75. PlasticPaddy says

    Re Alt/NeuÖtting, the original name is Autingas, where the first element comes from the name Auto. The change Au > Ö is expected (compare Austria/Österreich). But Augsburg is found in the same area of “Roman” Bavaria/Franconia. What prevented the change here?

  76. Lack of a following front vowel?

  77. David Marjanović says

    Öster- isn’t derived from Austria; Austria is its etymological nativization into Latin, equating Germanic *austr- “east” with Latin auster “wind from the south”. The change in High German is not simply au > ö, but au > [ɔː], followed by i-umlaut to [œː].

    Easter is Ostern, likewise with a long first vowel. “Monastery”, from claustrum, is Kloster, likewise with a long first vowel.

    But that doesn’t explain why the diphthong is preserved in Augsburg (which it is even locally, where the sb comes out as [ʃp]). I have to guess this name was borrowed later, or actually updated because Castra Augusta was still known.


    Otto “Ed” is in fact a case in point.

  78. >equating Germanic *austr- “east” with Latin auster “wind from the south”.

    Coreolis effect.

  79. Auster: Direction of the sun at some notable time.

  80. PlasticPaddy says

    Thanks. It may also be relevant that Augsburg is within (currently at the edge of) the Suabian dialect area, rather than Bavarian or Franconian. The administrative area was at one time the Augstgau/Ougsgouwe, but I think the Ou is just MHG reflex of Au.

  81. auster


    From Proto-Balto-Slavic *auš(t)ra- (“dawn, morning”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ews-ro-, from *h₂ews-. Cognate to Latvian àustra, aũstra (“dawn light”), Proto-Slavic *utro (“morning”), Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ (“Easter, springtime”), Latin aurora (“dawn”).

    IPA(key): [ɐuʃˈrɐ]
    aušrà f (plural aũšros) stress pattern 4

    1. dawn, daybreak


  82. David Eddyshaw says

    Just to be different, Welsh has gwawr “dawn”, and Old Irish fáir “rising of the sun, East”, from *u̯ōsri-.

  83. PlasticPaddy says

    There are a lot of ways to say dawn in Modern Irish (fáir is one, but this is a literary word–in fact, I was puzzled, since what I know is “ní bhfuair mé fáir ná freagra” = I got no response, where fáir means a shout in response to a “halloo” and freagra means an answer).

  84. David Marjanović says


    *au > ô only happens when some conditioning factor or other is present. A following alveolar consonant is one. Augsburg lacks that, so of course the au was preserved (through OHG, MHG ou).

    is within (currently at the edge of) the Suabian dialect area, rather than Bavarian or Franconian.

    That explains why the au doesn’t seem to be a monophthong /a/ locally.


    Yup, cognate. *sr > *str under Grimm conditions is regular in Germanic. It’s unconditionally regular in Slavic, too. The Baltic situation is confusing and probably involves loaning somehow; that also holds for the seemingly irregular š > phenomenon in Lithuanian – aukšra has 516 ghits, and one of them is a company that apparently employs both an Aukšra Grikštaitė and an Aušra Grikštaitė.

  85. *au > ô only happens when some conditioning factor or other is present. A following alveolar consonant is one.

    Not in Scandinavia, it seems:

    From Old Swedish ø̄gha, from Old Norse auga, from Proto-Germanic *augô, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₃ekʷ- (“eye; to see”).

    IPA(key): /ˈøːˌɡa/

    öga n

    1. (anatomy) eye
    2. eye (a hole at the blunt end of a needle)
    3. eye (the center of a hurricane)
    4. eye (a reproductive bud in a potato)
    5. eye (the capability of perception)
    Han har ett öga för talanger.
    He has a good eye for talents.

    Usage notes
    Compounds are formed with the plural ögon.


    From Old Swedish gø̄ker, from Old Norse gaukr, from Proto-Germanic *gaukaz.

    IPA(key): /jøːk/
    gök c

    1. cuckoo; a bird
    2. (slang) penis
    3. (colloquial) liquor, of a mouthful size



    From Old Swedish køpunger, from Old Norse kaupangr.

    köping c

    1. a market town, a small town (official status as a smaller town in Sweden before 1971, in Finland before 1977)


  86. David Marjanović says

    Not in Scandinavia, it seems:

    Specifically in High German.

  87. Words for dawn and the associated direction give easily identified cognates all over Indo-European. Thus we get east, Asia, and Ushas. However, there is a famous anomaly is Romance; in Latin austr- changed to indicating the south rather than the east, because of the particular geometry of the Italian peninsula. (In order to travel a substantial distance east on peninsular Italy, one generally has to go an even greater distance south.)

    I mention these well-known facts because I have often been amused by discussions people have (or had; elsewhere on the Internet, I recently encountered an animated discussion of the topic, but probably for the first time in ten or fifteen years) about how referring to people as oriental is offensive because its etymology just means “of the East”; the preferred terminology is therefore Asian*—which has the same purely etymological meaning. Obviously, the directional etymology of the Orient is much more transparent than that of Asia, so I understand how one term can feel qualitatively different from the other; amusing as it is, the choice of terminology is not just an incomplete application of the etymological fallacy.

    * I personally don’t like the norm of referring to people from China, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, etc. as “Asian,” because this usage is actually implicitly racial, rather than geographical. You can get funny looks by referring to Caucasian people from Arabia, Iran, India, etc. as “Asian.”

  88. I remember my third/fourth grade teacher explaining to us that Israel is geographically in Asia but culturally in Europe. I was thinking, “huh, okay.” There were a few non-Ashkenazi kids in the class, and I don’t know what they were thinking.

    Middle Eastern food in Israel is usually labeled “oriental” in English, to the amusement of anglophone visitors.

  89. @Y: Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times. That’s pretty European.

    More seriously, there is a real tendency among the political Left to view Israel as basically a European colonial state in the Levant—with all the political legitimacy of Bohemond de Hauteville’s Principality of Antioch.

  90. oriental is offensive because its etymology just means “of the East”; the preferred terminology is therefore Asian*—which has the same purely etymological meaning.

    That’s an old speculation for the origin of “Asia”, but the OED doesn’t buy it. From Asian, updated September 2021:

    In ancient Greek, the place name was used for the continent forming the eastern part of the known world, as viewed from the Eastern Mediterranean (alongside Africa to the south and Europe to the north); in classical Latin, it was additionally used for the Roman province of Asia in the western part of the Anatolian peninsula and (hence) the peninsula itself (Asia Minor). The origin of the name is uncertain; a relationship with Hittite Assuwa , the name of a confederation of states in eastern Anatolia, has been suggested (Akkadian aṣū ‘to go out’, (of a celestial object) ‘to rise’ is unlikely to be etymologically related).

    “Anatolia”, of course, definitely means ‘rising’ (i.e., sunrise, east) in Ancient Greek.

  91. Brett: other Middle Eastern countries (Lebanon, Tunisia) would have participated in the Eurovision at various points, but didn’t want to share the event with Israel. Morocco did once, in 1980, when Israel did not participate, due to conflict with its version of Memorial Day.

    The Israel Football Association joined the Union of European Football Associations in 1993, having been expelled from the Asian Football Confederation in 1974.

    Israel’s connections cultural connections to Europe are as undeniable as the fact that it was settled by a majority of European immigrants. That said, my teacher’s comment was without a doubt motivated by a belief in European superiority over both Arabs and Mizrahi Jews.

    As to the how “the political Left” views Israel, there is no single “political Left”; certainly some have the views you describe, certainly others don’t.

  92. Israel is quite obviously a colonial settler state.

    However, it’s a colonial settler state which managed to achieve a population majority for the settlers (and is currently busy getting an even bigger majority).

    Fair or not, but such colonial settler states are here to stay as evidenced by examples of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

  93. “It’s complicated,” as they say, and this has been hashed by politicians, historians, etc. for at least about, oh, 130 years now.

    I’ll just say that within the 1967 borders of Israel, its Jewish population fraction peaked at 89% in 1955, and is now at 74%. Of the combined population of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, Arabs form a slight majority. Hilarious hijinx ensue.

  94. I had an impression that the idea of annexing the Gaza strip has been ruled out even by the most radical Zionists.

    The idea now is to have Jewish majority in Israel+East Jerusalem+West Bank.

    Currently, Israel proper is 74% Jewish, East Jerusalem over 40% Jewish and West Bank is about 15% Jewish.

    Taken together, the current total I believe comes to about 6.5 million Jews vs 4.5 million Arabs (1.8 mln Israeli Arabs in Israel and East Jerusalem, 2.7 mln Palestinians in the West Bank).

    Not quite New Zealand yet, but getting there.

    At some point in the future, when they feel that the Jewish demographic ascendancy is safely assured, the Israeli government will simply grant Israeli citizenship to the West Bank Palestinians and close the issue.

  95. there is a famous anomaly is Romance

    Cf. lounas/lõuna

  96. Israel will reach its carrying capacity before that happens.

  97. Y: … certainly some have the views you describe, certainly others don’t.

    Hence my use of the word tendency.

  98. Did you conclude on anything here while I was away? Looking through Busbeck’s wordlist again I find forms that look Swedish (miera “ant”, boga “bow”, oeghene “eyes”), others that look High German, but all strangely modern. I’ve speculated before that Busbecq’s Goths might have been displaced Saxon settlers from Transilvania, but that doesn’t explain Swedish.

    Anyway, we should add the 2016 thread Medieval Gothic Graffiti from the Crimea for reference.

  99. David L. Gold says

    @David Marjanović. “English as an explanation for the seemingly West Germanic words in Busbecq’s list occurred to me, too. The list presents a confusing picture, though; for example, “hand” is given as handa, with a final vowel that can hardly come from anything in West Germanic, but doesn’t fit Biblical Gothic handus either… Someone should add Old English to the comparisons…”

    That has been done in the entries in Winfred Lehmann’s A Gothic Etymological Dictionary, which mention more than 2900 English words (pp. 470-486), most of them Old English, a few Middle English, and very few New English.

  100. John Emerson says

    I explained once to an American with Israeli connections that Americans could hardly point fingers at the Israelis just because the Israelis had failed to massacre the “natives”. The import of this argument is quite uncertain and potentially horrible, so my point was not warmly accepted.

  101. John Cowan says

    “Monastery”, from claustrum, is Kloster, likewise with a long first vowel.

    Which is why it is spelled klooster in Low German, back from when they had Damenstifte down in Lutherania, a century or more after the Reformation. (Convents had been a great place for the rich and powerful to dump their extra daughters: why should that change? At least the secularized versions were no longer actually enclosed.) In Dutch klooster is purely historical and onomastic.

  102. klooster

    Kloostrimetsa (Estonian for “Convent Forest”) is a subdistrict (Estonian: asum) in the district of Pirita, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It’s located north of the Pirita River and is mostly covered by the park forest Kloostrimets (Cloister Forest, which name comes from the nearby Pirita monastery). Kloostrimetsa has a population of 80 (As of 1 January 2014).

  103. Trond Engen says

    Klosterskogen “Convent forest” is a neighbourhood in my hometown, nationally moslly known for the racetrack. The convent was the nunnery of Gimsøy, which the forest once belonged to.

    Norw. kloster n. has a short o. The word is attested in Old Norse as klaustr n. The modern form must have come from English or Low German through Danish.

  104. PlasticPaddy says

    @trond, dlg, dm
    has more examples. I found lemmas for most of them in Bosworth-Toller online and could posit some regular sound changes, assuming OE as a starting point. The problem is (a) I have no way of judging whether this is better (especially given the sample size) than taking Gothic + areal effects as a starting point; (b) vowel correspondences seem irregular and suggest some extended vowel shift in CG; however the OE records have variant vowels in some or even most cases, so what would be the starting point? (c) sample is still small and there is no Busbeck manuscript to check for errors in the printed version.

  105. Trond Engen says

    Interesting. Do you want to share it?

    I did use that very list, but I didn’t compare to any actual dictionaries. I’m now wondering if Busbecq’s Gothic could be a “Varangian Koine”. If exiled Anglo-Saxons were allowed to settle in Crimea, why not also Scandinavians? The 11th century was not a good time for losing factions anywhere.

  106. PlasticPaddy says

    Some words seem closer than would be expected if there is no close relationship within Germanic. However there is 300-500 years time difference, so more divergence might be expected.
    Some regular correspondences can be found.
    rn > r (end of word)
    d > ts (end of word)
    er > re
    hr > r
    ur > ru
    sl > schl
    sw > schw
    dg > ntsch
    ít > ícht, it > ist
    x > s
    he > ie
    Vowel correspondences are unclear due to a vowel shift in CG (e.g., i suspect á > é and é > í).
    Note that CG appears to end all feminine nouns with a.
    Crimean Gothic numerals:
    ene = one = én
    tua = two = twá / twuá
    tria = three = Þrí
    fyder = four = fyðer (only in compounds)
    fyuf = five = fíf
    seis = six = sex/ six / seix
    sevene = seven = seofon
    athe = eight = ahta
    nyne = nine = nigon (note g is pronounced as a y here in OE)
    thiine = ten = tín / tién
    thiinita = eleven = “ten and one”
    thunetua = twelve = “ten and two”
    thunetria = thirteen = “ten and three”
    stega = twenty = ? (prefix + Greek deka?)
    treithyen = thirty = “three tens”
    furdeithien = forty = “four tens”
    sada = hundred = borrowed from satem language
    hazer = thousand = ?

    Crimean Gothic – English

    ada = egg = aeg (again the g is pronounced like y)
    ael = stone = ?ael (awl, not stone) note Irish ail cognate with German Fels, but the Irish word is not known to have been borrowed.
    alt = old = ald
    ano = hen, chicken = hána
    apel = apple = appel
    atochta = evil = ? either atol [ Dire, terrific, terrible, horrid, foul, loathsome] + suffix or participial form of tūcian “afflicted, “vexed”
    baar = boy = barn (child)
    bars = beard = beard
    boga = bow (and arrows), arch, bend = boga
    borrotsch = wish = ? (verbal noun of be-reótan = to deplore?)
    breen = to roast = bernan (but cf. brenning)
    broe = bread = breód
    bruder = brother = broder
    brunna = spring, well = burna
    cadariou = warrior, soldier = Katharius ex Greek
    daur = door = dór
    eriten = to cry = grétan (g pronounced like y)–there is also grístan, but note the same vowel shift in English and Scottish “greet”.

    fers = man = ?wer (cf. Irish fear?) or ex Latin persona
    fisct = fish = fisc
    gadeltha = beautiful =? (no relation to modern English “doll”)
    geen = to go = gán
    goltz = gold = (like beard > bars?)
    handa = hand = hand
    hoef = head = heáfod / heófad
    hus = house = hús
    ich = I = ic
    ich malthata = I say = ic meldede
    iel = hail, health = hál
    ieltsch = hails, whole = hál + suffix
    iel vburt = be whole, be healthy, wassail = ?hál + imperative of weorþan
    ies = he = he
    ies varthata = he did = he + past of weorþan
    kilemschkop = draining/emptying the cup = ? ciellan + scop/scofl
    knauen = good = ? cyn or céne + suffix / second element (e.g. ó = always)
    knauen tag = good day = ? + dæg
    kommen = to come = cuman
    kop = cup = copp
    kor = corn, wheat = corn (compare barn > barr)
    lachen = to laugh = hlæhan
    lista = little = litel (+superlative or *tt > st)
    marzus = wedding = ? ex Latin maritare?
    menus = meat, flesh = ? ex Latin minutius (cf. menu) or mensa?
    miera = ant = míre
    mine = moon = móna
    mycha = sword = méce
    oeghene = eyes = eágen
    plut = blood = blód
    reghen = rain = regn
    rinck = ring (circle) = hring (from variant hringc ?)
    ringo = ring (finger) = hring
    rintsch = mountain, hill = hrycg
    salt = salt = sealt
    schediit = light = ? scead + suffix
    schieten = to shoot = sceótan
    schlipen = to sleep = slépan
    schuos = betrothal gift = ? scot in meaning “contribution”
    schuualth = death = ? ex swelan
    schuuester = sister = swester
    siluir = silver = seolfor (variant e.g. silfer) but note Goth. silubr
    singhen = to sing = singan
    stap = she-goat = ? note stapa = “one who steps”
    statz = earth, ground, land = stede
    stein = star = steorran
    stul = stool, chair = stól
    sune = sun = sunne
    tag = day = dæg
    telich = foolish = dól-líc
    thurn = entrance, gate = ? ex thurh
    thurn daur = entry door = ? + dór
    tzo = you = þú / tú
    tzo warthata = you did = þú + past of weorþan
    vburt = be, become = imperative of weorþan
    waghen = wagon = wægn
    wicht = white = hwít
    wichtgata = ‘white thing’, list, writing table = hwit + ? sceatt?
    wingart = vineyard = wín + geard
    wintch = wind = [Is this windan or wind?]

  107. hazer

    Old Ossetic: *æzræ, *æzæræ
    Ossetian: ӕрзӕ (ærzæ)
    → Hungarian: ezer


  108. Trond Engen says

    PP: Note that CG appears to end all feminine nouns with a.

    Yes, that’s what made me see Swedish.

    sada = hundred = borrowed from satem language
    hazer = thousand = ?

    This could be evidence for something older (in Crimea) than English. I don’t think any Iranians were near Crimea after the Ossetians fled the Mongols and settled in the Caucasus.

    borrotsch = wish = ? (verbal noun of be-reótan = to deplore?)

    Or ‘borrow’ with a different development of OE borgian “pledge”.

  109. J.W. Brewer says

    Speaking of Anglo-Saxon Varangians, as we were, I happened over the weekend to stumble into the fun fact that the Grand Prince of Kiev Mstislav the Great (reigned 1125-32) is also known in some sources (largely those in Norse) as Harald, which was a family name, the doomed King Harold II of England having been his maternal grandfather. (In yet other sources, he’s Theodore, which was his baptismal name. Good thing for him that Rus’ had probably not yet developed those Czarist-era internal passports we were talking about in another thread.)

  110. “My sword [actually gun] is my passport.”

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