A tree by any type of various other name would sucount still be a tree. But why is it tree, exactly? Wright here did the English word come from? The answer to the question lies in a tale that spans 6 thousand also years and also covers the entire European continent.

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Words tree hasn’t actually changed for a great fifty percent a millennium. For Shakespeare, a tree was simply a tree, precisely like it is in today’s Modern English.

And, that I love the tree from whence thou sprang’stWitness the loving kiss I offer the fruit.(Henry IV Part III, 1591)

We must go even more back prior to we begin to notice any alters. When Chaucer composed his Canterbury Tales in the late 1fourth century, he too offered the word tree. But looks deserve to deceive, for Chaucer’s Center English pronunciation of the word differs from the way we or Shakespeare would say it. Observe these two rhyming lines from The Miller’s Tale:

What, Absolon! For Cristes sweete treeWhy rise ye so rathe? Ey, benedicitee!

For Chaucer, the word tree rhymed with the Latin word benedicitee. And if your Latin is a little rusty, the suggest here is that Chaucer’s vowel was various from what we usage this particular day. In fact, the vowel which he used no much longer exists in English at all. For him, the word tree sounded pretty a lot prefer the unconnected word tre (“three”) in modern Swedish, a pronunciation of which you can hear here.

For a non-English speaker this actually makes perfect feeling — in the majority of other languperiods the letter e is supplied to note this or a similar sound. English was happily doing the very same till what we speak to the Great Vowel Shift happened and adjusted the vowels in English. Spelling never recorded up, and also in some ways although we sheight Modern English, we still create Center English.


So, what did their ancestors contact a tree? Well, we don’t have actual created evidence, but linguists have been able to rebuild their language based upon evidence obtainable to us. We speak to the language Proto-Germanic, as it was the ancestor of not only English, yet likewise German, Dutch, Scandinavian langueras and others in the region. The word for tree in Proto-Germanic was something choose treuwaz. Just attempt pronouncing it. There is something extremely Germanic to it.

But we can go also further ago with the linguistic proof. The next stop is at approximately 1000 BCE, perhaps somewhere a small eastern from wright here we met the Proto-Germanic speakers. The word that these Bronze Age civilization used for tree was most most likely something like dreuom.

And we deserve to travel also even more ago still, all the means to approximately 4000 BCE. This takes us to somewhere at the edge of Eastern Europe, perhaps to around the shores of the Caspian Sea. This is the argued homeland also of the Kurgan culture, a group of people who spoke a language which linguists this day speak to Proto Indo-European (PIE). It is the oldest well-known predecessor of modern day English, just favor it is the ancestor of the majority of languperiods spoken this particular day in Europe, the Center East and the Indian subcontinent. It was not the first language of course — human beings have been speaking for tens, probably numerous countless years — yet it is the earliest ancestor of English that we have any kind of real knowledge of. This is wbelow the trail of tree etymology ends.


PIE is so old that we don’t really recognize exactly what it sounded choose, and also there is no sign that it was ever composed dvery own. But based upon etymological evidence we are able to say via some confidence that once the speakers of PIE referred to trees, they provided the word dóru. This 6 thousand also year old word is the direct ancestor of not just the English word tree, however also words prefer the Albanian dru, Hittite ???????? (taru), Persianدار (dâr), Russian де́рево (derevo), Sanskrit द्रु (drú), and many kind of others. Still now, they all have actually the very same definition as the English word tree.

But here’s an interesting thing: the PIE speakers show up to have actually acquired dóru from another word. This was deru, an adjective which brought meanings prefer “hard”, “sturdy” and “strong”.

So, for the speakers of PIE, the etymological ancestors of a lot of the civilization, trees literally were the sturdy ones.

But there is a better final twist to the story. Many kind of have actually said that dóru did in fact not suppose simply any tree, yet particularly an oak tree, that specifically hard and sturdy species which the speakers of PIE thought about the prototypical tree. We suspect this from the reality that while the PIE dóru became tree in English, in some other languages such as Welsh (where the word is derwen) and Greek (which has drys) it actually suggests oak today.

So, perhaps in a means all English trees really are oak trees.

And tright here you have it, tree etymology. Or, if you will certainly, the roots of ‘a tree’.

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The image of the Proto Indo-European language family members by Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock.com.