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 and surely derives from Gaulish *borwā (f.), whose supposed meaning 'hot, boiling spring' accroding to standard dictionaries, which link it to Welsh berwi, Breton bervi 'to boil'1. 

However, in my opinion this etymology is semantically unsatisfactory, and I'd prefer 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'
1 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, pp. 82-83.

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