etymology of seanmháthair

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etymology of seanmháthair

Post by s1m0n »

I just ran into seanmháthair, glossed as grandmother, in a novel and it started me pondering indo-european cognate words. The second element is clearly mother/mater/madre/etc., (possibly the 'first' word in indo-european - the literal mother word of the mother tongue). Does the first element (sean~) mean something like old/venerated/senior, which would make it cognate with other IE words like señor/senile/senator, etc? My examples all came through Latin, and I can't think of a good non-latinate germanic example. Do the gaelic languages have a branch of this limb? Is this it?
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Re: etymology of seanmháthair

Post by l.brook »

[Thread revival. - Mod]

I am not a philologist but I've check the wikipedia article Sean (it's about the name) but it's quite interesting anyway. Maybe you will find some clues there.
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Re: etymology of seanmháthair

Post by Nanohedron »

Unfortunately Audrey, the moderator and consultant to this forum, hasn't been around lately. Fortunately there are also other boards on the Web for this sort of thing.

Somehow I missed this thread. There are a lot of Irish words that have much in common with the Latin branch. The Irish "cathaoir" (chair) and the Latin "cathedra" (seat) are evidently related, for one example. The idea that "sean" would have a relationship to the Latin "senator" or "senile" is no stretch at all, I think.

I wouldn't go so far as to place Celtic languages within the Latin branch, however. IIRC their commonalities are held to point to a time before these groups split off from each other, before there were even Latin or Celtic branches.
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Re: etymology of seanmháthair

Post by whistlecollector »

Nanohedron wrote:Somehow I missed this thread. There are a lot of Irish words that have much in common with the Latin branch. The Irish "cathaoir" (chair) and the Latin "cathedra" (seat) are evidently related, for one example.
I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't a borrowing.
The idea that "sean" would have a relationship to the Latin "senator" or "senile" is no stretch at all, I think.
No stretch at all! Both the Irish sean and the Latin senex (and therefore, senator) and also Welsh hen derive ultimately from IE *senos. There are sororal words in Sanskrit, Greek, Gothic and Avestan as well.
I wouldn't go so far as to place Celtic languages within the Latin branch, however. IIRC their commonalities are held to point to a time before these groups split off from each other, before there were even Latin or Celtic branches.
Indeed not the same branch. They are distinct. Though there are / have been hypotheses that place both the ancestral Celtic and Italic languages in an IE "Italo-Celtic" subgroup together.
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Re: etymology of seanmháthair

Post by KerryMaid »

Hi!

Sean-mháthair or Seana mháthair means old mother. Other words we use are Mamó, Nain, Máthair Críona (Wis/Old Mother) and Máthair Mhór (Big Mother) : )
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