Czech-Slovak word of the week: cemetery vs. cemetery

Czech-Slovak word of the week: cemetery vs. cemetery
Czech-Slovak word of the week: cemetery vs. cemetery

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A few words about the word cemetery

Do you feel that comforting silence as you walk through the final resting places? Cemeteries have a special atmosphere: as if time has stopped there. The world of the dead and the living is connected here, and you can even feel a pantheistic fusion with nature.

We even have a special word for people fascinated by cemetery genius loci and funeral themes taphophyll: one who loves graves.

Tafophilia was especially popular among pre-romantics and romantics, Josef Jungmann helped to import the fashion for cemetery images to us already when he translated Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard from 1751 in 1807.

In his translation it was called Elegy on the Tombs of the Villages – and it is surprising that he did not use the word cemetery. He knew it, it is in his dictionary (along with the dialect cinteryn) stated and was common in his time. Jaroslav Vrchlický did not hesitate in his younger translation.

A few centuries before Jungmann, but Czech cemetery he looked different. In old Czech (and still today in the Chod dialect) we find it as britov whose razor blade.

It is a takeover of the Old High German compound frithof (fried “to defend, to hide” + hof “courtyard”), which our ancestors transformed into the form known to Jungmann and us by attaching it to the verb (after) the backin an older form spindles (in the 1st person present tense I’m playing), referring to (reconstructed) Proto-Slavic *scratch (dig, rake).

After all, folk etymology ran rampant in Germany as well, where the unfortunate frithof became considerably more poetic Friedhof (Courtyard of Peace).

We have an alternative to the cemetery in dialects or more expressive layers of language – hut. She is also of Germanic origin (Kirchhof – cemetery yard). Other dialect synonyms like cintor/cemetery we find in the east not only linguistically, but also geographically close to the Slovaks cemeteries.

Czech about the word cemetery

If we dig deep enough, we will find ourselves in the search for the origin cemetery to Greek coimētērion – that meant instead of sleeping. However, he got to Slovakia via a detour via Latin, which first welcomed him as coemētērium and later transformed into cīmītērium.

Not only did it arise from this in Slovakia cemeterybut also a number of other regional names such as cemetery, cimeter, cemetery, cemetery, cemetery, belt etc. And the English word is also of the same Greek-Latin origin cemeteriesFrench cemeteryItalian cemeterySpanish cementeryPolish cemeteryCroatian or Serbian cemetery.

Well, how many languages ​​can you speak, you know so many places to sleep, you even have a room in Germany. Only Czechs can go and bury themselves…

Marika Kimatraiová, philologist, teacher, translator from Germanic and Finno-Ugric languages

Something about the word cemetery

We usually deal with linguistic taboos about death by using euphemisms. We try to mitigate its finality and irreversibility by comparing it to a journey or to sleep.

The metaphor of laying to rest or marking the dead as deceased can be found, for example, in prayers, on tombstones or obituaries.

The word is also etymologically related to sleep cemetery. It was taken from Greek coimētērion (Latin coemētērium), what does it mean place to sleep.

The Latin name became the basis of naming in Romance languages ​​(Spanish, Italian, French) and a related term is also used in Polish cemetery. But it wasn’t always quiet in this bedroom.

He still served in the Middle Ages cemetery as a public forum, square and promenade. The change in his perception occurred during the Reformation, when he broke away from the church (the connection with the sacral building can be seen from the German designation Kirchhofchurchyard).

The burial ground began to be perceived as a space intended for contemplation and moved outside the residential units. There, outside the village on the hill or behind the water, the deceased finally got to rest in peace in accordance with the etymology.

Slovak about the word cemetery

Has any of your Czech friends asked you where that Marína from the folk song is going? And why on cemeterywhen in our geographical latitudes, funeral tourism is not very popular and graves are visited mainly on All Saints’ Day and to direct čečina?

She could come here looking for a room, but what if she was Marína Čeka? That would be worse, because it could even lead to exhumation.

However, the Czech thanatological dictionary is somewhat more consistent than the Slovak one, because the verb rake or mushroom is based on words cemetery, funeral and to bury.

If there was a Slovak translation of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s cult Irish novel, I’m afraid that it wouldn’t be able to convey the feeling of digging underground to the lady from Červov as successfully as the Czech version of Cemetery Dirt.

Monika Sechovcová, comparatist and editor of Plav magazine

The Czech-Slovak word of the week/week is a joint project of the Czech National Corpus and the Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics of the Slovak Academy of Sciences on the occasion of 30 years since the dissolution of the Czechoslovakia. You can find more information on the website

We invite you to the live broadcast of Studio N. On Wednesday, November 8, in the Prague cultural center Vzlet. We will talk about the transformations of the Castle with the lyricist and former presidential candidate Michal Horáček. This will be followed by a discussion with leading Czech journalists who follow events at the Castle: Zdislava Pokorna from Deník N, Adéla Paclíková from Czech Television and Robert Čásenský from Reportér magazine. Tickets can be found on the website.

The article is in Czech

Tags: CzechSlovak word week cemetery cemetery


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