24 July 2014

French bourbe 'sludge' (updated)










French bourbe 'sludge' (collective form bourbier) designates a kind of dark, thick mud deposited by stagnant or waste waters. Although standard dictionaries derive it from Gaulish *borwā (f.), supposedly meaning 'hot, boiling spring' and cognate to Welsh berwi, Breton bervi 'to boil'1, in my opinion this etymology is semantically unsatisfactory. 

In my opinion, this would be a substrate loanword from Baltic *purwā > Lithuanian pũrva 'smudge, dregs', Latvian pùrvs, purve 'morass, swamp', a word with parallels in Indo-Aryan: Sanskrit púrīa- 'crumbling or loose earth, rubbish; feces, excrement, ordure', Sinhalese puraṇa 'fallow or waste land'
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1 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, pp. 82-83.

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