Is the "nos" in "nostalgia" of the same origin as the "nos" in "nosotros"?
February 16, 2011 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Spanish etymology question: Is the "nos" in "nostalgia" of the same origin as the "nos" in "nosotros"?

I was curious about the origins of the word nostalgia, and while I'd guessed that the "algia" part had something to do with pain, I wasn't sure about the "nos" part. The OED says it comes from the ancient Greek "nostos":

"ancient Greek νόστος return home, in Hellenistic Greek as plural Νόστοι also the title of a lost poem of the Epic Cycle dealing with the return of the Greeks from the Trojan War < an ablaut variant of the base of νεῖσθαι to return home (cognate with Sanskrit nas- to consort together, astam home, Old English nesan to escape, be saved, survive, Gothic -nisan (in ganisan to be saved, healed), and perhaps Tocharian B nes- to be) + -τος, suffix forming nouns."

The Sanskrit "nas" ("to consort together") sounds like it could be related to "nosotros," but I'm not sure about the primary Greek origin they mention here.

Can anyone offer any insight or other sources for research?
posted by 6and12 to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Nos in nosotros comes from the Latin nos, which means "we". Nostalgia comes straight from the ancient greek. I'm sure there could be more to the story, but it looks like a false cognate to me.
posted by wayland at 12:31 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Brief linguistics rundown: Spanish originated as a local dialect of Latin, which is related to but does not derive from Greek. Latin and Greek both independently and simultaneously derived from some Indo-European language that linguists like to try to reconstruct (Proto-Indo-European).

AFAIK, nosotros is just a version of the Latin nostros, also meaning "we." The ancient Greek for "we/us" is ἡμῖν (pronounced "hey-min"), and isn't cognate with the Latin nostros as far as I know. Maybe someone with more knowledge of Proto-Indo-European can chime in.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:32 PM on February 16, 2011

I can see a connection between "us", "home", and "consorting together". Back then it would seem likely that "us" and "home" would be one in the same; it wasn't like today when every member of your family lives in another state. It doesn't seem far-fetched that they should be related.
posted by amethysts at 12:55 PM on February 16, 2011

Interestingly, nostalgia is a recent (comparatively) vintage, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, coined by a Swiss doctor in 1668 as a French word and adopted into English from French.
posted by bq at 1:39 PM on February 16, 2011

Both Beekes and Sihler say that the Proto-Indo-European first person plural pronoun was "nos". So yes, the "nos" in "nostalgia" can be traced back to that, as can "nosotros".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:42 PM on February 16, 2011

No, they are from different roots, Proto-Indo-European *nes- 'return safely' and *nes- 'us.'

> the "nos" in "nostalgia" can be traced back to that

Huh? Where are you getting that?
posted by languagehat at 10:52 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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