Estonian põrgu Cover Image

Estonian põrgu

Author(s): Vilja Oja, Sven-Erik Soosaar
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus
Keywords: etymology; Finnic ’hell’; purgatory; place names; Estonian

Summary/Abstract: The use of the word põrgu ’hell’ in old and modern literary Estonian, as well as in dialects and place names, suggests that the word could have first entered the language as a Christian term. It is obviously a loanword and yet without a generally agreed etymology. In old religious texts, põrgu occurs as the translation equivalent of ’Hades’ and ’hell’. In vernacular use, põrgu is applied to a mythological underworld, which has inspired numerous folk tales and place names. Religious Estonian has been strongly influenced by the Latin used in the Roman Catholic Church. It is true that the Latin terms inferi ’inhabitants of Hades’ and inferna ’place of punishment for demons and sinners’ souls’ are phonetically unlikely sources for põrgu. One cannot exclude, however, the possibility that põrgu may have originated from the Latin stem pūrgō, earlier pūrigō, -āre ’to clean’. Also, the Finnish and Karelian perk-/perg-stem words, which are associated with cleaning, might have originated from the same root.

  • Issue Year: 2012
  • Issue No: 58
  • Page Range: 148-167
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: Estonian