Wednesday, September 16, 2015

a carp by any other name...

I heard about some carp or other on the Rachel Maddow Show. It seems such a strange word and I wondered about its origins. Here is what I discovered, thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

The word entered English in the late fourteenth century from the Old French carpe.

 That came directly from Vulgar Latin carpa--which led to the Italian carpa and the Spanish, uh, carpa.

It all seems to go back to the German, as the carp is originally from the Danube. The Online Etymology Dictionary speculates that the German source may be *karpa, because of the Middle Dutch carpe, the Dutch karper, the old High German karpfo and the german karpfen.

Lithuania borrowed the word, hence karpis. So did Russia, breaking boundaries by calling it karp.

So a carp, in a lot of other languages, is still basically a carp.

Except occasionally, when it's a goldfish.


  1. To carp, by the way, is an entirely different kettle of fish...

  2. Interesting that that that other carp, about which I was about to ask when you beat me to it, should come from the Icelandic karpa, to dispute. Interesting because the characters in the Icelandic sagas, when they aren’t cleaving one another in twain or setting up farms, are always arguing and filing lawsuits and chewing one another’s ears off in those lawsuits.

  3. Yes, and that carp, which has much more of the meaning drift than the almost immutable fish name, went back to Old Norse karpa, to brag. It apparently came to have its more current meaning of to find fault with under the influence of the Latin carpare, which meant to slander or revile, or literally to pluck. Which I suppose is related to carpe diem in some way.