Pagan, põrgu, and papp: Three Christian Terms Cover Image

Pagan, põrgu ja papp: kolm kristlikku terminit
Pagan, põrgu, and papp: Three Christian Terms

Author(s): Tiit-Rein Viitso
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: Estonian; etymology; language contacts; borrowings; Christian terms

Summary/Abstract: Except when used for cursing, the Estonian pagan and its Livonian and Finnish equivalents mean 'heathen, non-Christian', while their Votic, Ingrian, Karelian, Lude, and Veps equivalents have (mostly) the meaning 'unclean'. Unlike the existing etymological dictionaries, which regard the stem as an Old Russian borrowing in all Finnic languages, here the Estonian, Livonian, and Finnish nouns with the meaning 'heathen' are explained as a borrowing from Latin. In fact, there is no proof that the Old Russian adjective poganŭ – the cognates of which in Church Slavonic and modern Slavic languages have the meaning 'unclean' – and the Old Russian nouns poganinŭ, poganyi, poganĭcĭ – without equivalents in other Slavic languages and translated as 'heathen' by more recent Russian philologists – have ever had any meanings other than 'unclean person'. On the other hand, Livonians and Estonians were characterized as pagani by the crusader chronicler Henry of Livonia in the first half of the 13th century. Differently from the tradition of associating the Estonian noun põrgu 'hell' with the Baltic stem for 'thunder' (cf. Lithuanian perkūnas, Latvian pērkons), here the stem is considered to be either a Germanic or a West Slavic borrowing, cf. Old English beorg 'barrow, mound', English barrow, Czech brh 'cave'. As is known, the word was used in Credo in the meaning 'grave', at first separately (porke) in the 1520s and starting from 1632 in the compound põrguhaud (Pörgkohaud). The Estonian word papp (gen. papi) 'clergyman (pejorative); Orthodox clergyman' and its etymological parallels occurring in other Finnic languages are usually treated as borrowings from Old Russian. As the word has an i-stem in Finnic, one might suggest that the stem was rather borrowed from Middle Low German pape (into Estonian and Livonian) and from Scandinavian, cf. Old Nordic and Old Swedish papi (into Finnish and Karelian). The earlier arguments levelled against the Germanic origin of the stem are based on incorrect historical assumptions.

  • Issue Year: XLIX/2006
  • Issue No: 11
  • Page Range: 894-902
  • Page Count: 9
  • Language: Estonian