Where's were now?
August 25, 2011 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Are there any other modern examples of "were" from the old english meaning "man" apart from "virility" and "werewolf"?

Sometimes it's hard to find in a modern word the lineage from a much older usage of a word, but I've discovered that the were in "werewolf" comes from old English meaning "man": so "werewolf" literally means "man-wolf".

Any other awesome examples in modern usage that come from this old version of the word "man"? Thanks!
posted by fantasticninety to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:20 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that "virility" comes from the Latin for "man" - vir (genitive viri, gender obviously masculine). Another of its derivatives is "virtue," because vir also implied someone of honor or courage.
posted by Devika at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2011

"World" comes in part from this, apparently: "with a literal sense of 'age of man,' from P.Gmc. *wer 'man' (O.E. wer, still in werewolf; see virile) + *ald 'age' (see old)." source
posted by Paragon at 4:25 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want to go back to proto indo european you get all the uses of 'vir' from Latin that Devika cites (PIE *uiHro "freeman").

Other references:

place names

posted by bq at 4:34 PM on August 25, 2011

If you love snazzy German compound words, you're in luck!

Pronunciation: velt-ahn-shæw-ung
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: World view, outlook on life, philosophy of life.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a German word made up of Welt "world" + Anschauung "outlook". The German word Welt "world" goes back to Old High German weralt from an older compound wer-ald- "life or age of man", from wer- "man" + ald "age, old". The same compound came down to English as world. The word wer- "man" shares the same origin as Latin vir "man", which we see in borrowed words like virile, virtue (aren't all men virile and virtuous?), and triumvirate. While the Old English word did not survive to Modern English, we find remnants of it in words like the name of the wolf man, werewolf.
Also neat:
wormwood replaced Old English wermod (cf. vermouth, a borrowing through French of the equivalent German term Wermuth). Old English wermod may originally have stemmed from wer "man" + mōd "proud", in reference to its supposed powers as an aphrodisiac.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2011

From the OED's entry for "werewolf": The first element has usually been identified with Old English wer man were n.1, but the form were- in place of wer- (compare however were- and wergildwergeld n.), and the variants in war-, var-, makes this somewhat doubtful.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:32 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by brujita at 8:26 PM on August 25, 2011

The "vir-" words (virile, virtue, virago) are all from Latin, though it's obviously (distantly) related to the English.

have you tried looking in the OED starting with "were-"? the OED is excellent for etymology.
posted by jb at 8:54 PM on August 25, 2011

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