Remarks, list of Latinates and Greek words at the bottom.
Someone not long ago asked what would the Air Force be called if we wanted to avoid Latinates and use words of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) or Germanic stock. The frain came up because, needless to say, the Saxons didn’t have an air force so they had no word for it.
That brought up the bigger frain. The militaries (military itself is a Latinate) of not only in the English speaking world, but in many other tungs have taken in many French and some Italian words mainly from Latin. You’ll find a long list of words from private to general, from squad to division, asf. in most militaries.
However, English has taken in more than other Germanic tungs simply because of the Norman French/Latin hold on the minds of folk that made French and Latin the tungs of choice by the upper class and thus the military as well. For several hundred years, England was, in truth, a cultural outpost of France and this is seen in the military.
But why narrow the frain to what we would call the Air Force. What would we call the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps? All of these are built on French/Latin words. In truth, most of our military words and ranks are French! French/Latin military words are found in many militaries in Europe but since English is a Germanic tung, let’s turn our thoughts to other Germanic tungs as we go thru this for likeness (or unlikeness). I won’t go into all the military words ... there are just too many for a short a blog. That would take a book! ... There’s a thought!
First let’s look at the roots of the words.
Military: from Latin militaris, from miles, milit- ‘soldier’. It is also the root of militia. Milite ‘soldier’ and militic ‘military as an adjective’ are found in OE but rarely since the they had other words that they used.
The offshoots are:
Army: from Old French armee, from armata, feminine past participle of Latin armare ‘to arm’.
Navy: from Old French navie ‘ship, fleet’, from popular Latin navia ‘ship’, from Latin navis ‘ship’. Ironically the French now use the term “marine” for their navy (as do the Germans!).
Marine: from Old French marin, marine, from Latin marinus, from mare ‘sea’.
Corps: from French, from Latin corpus ‘body’.
Air: from Old French air, from Latin aer, from Greek aēr, bespeaking the gas. If we’re just staying away from Latinates, then “air” is ok ... it’s Greek!
Force: from Old French force (noun), forcer (verb), based on Latin fortis ‘strong’.
In WWI, the British struck the term “air force”. The US didn't have a selfstanding "air force" until after WWII. Up until 1942 it was the Army Air Corps and then the Army Air Force until it became selfstanding. The British had the opening to "unFrench" a new military offshoot but let it slip away! Likely because the French were their friends and the Germans were their foes. Couldn’t use those Germanic roots for new military words while fighting the Germans!
But if we could redo history and keep away from French or other Latinates, what would we use? As you might think, war and fighting battles were a way life for many Saxons. There are many words for war, battle, peace, asf. Sadly, again owing to the Norman/Latin sway over English, most of those words were swapped out for the Latinates.
Let’s look at other Germanic tungs where the inflow was less.
In Icelandic, military is hernaðarlega (army activities); army is her; navy is sjoher (sea army); marine is sjavar; air force is loftvarnarkerfið.
In Danish, military is militære; army is hær; navy is søværnet; marine is marinesoldater, marinekorps; air force is flyvevåbnet.
In Norwegian, military is militær; army is hær; navy is navy or sjøforsvaret (sea defense); marine is marine, marinekorps; air force is luftforsvaret (air defense).
In German, military is Militär, army is Heer; the navy is officially called the Kriegsmarine, also found was Kriegsflotte (war fleet); marines are Marineinfanterist, Marinesoldat, Marinekorps; air force is Luftwaffee (air weapon).
Swedish and Dutch are similar to those already listed.
Now let’s rewrite English military words and let’s start with the word military. The basic Anglo-Saxon word for combat, battle, warfare was camp. No, that has nothing to do with camping as we now know it. That “camp” has Latin roots. Think more along the lines of German Kampf.
From camp we get campdom ‘military service’ as a noun and camplic for military as an adjective.
Next is the word army. Two common Anglo-Saxon words for an army were here (hey-re) and fierd or fyrd.
Mark that here mostly bespeaks invading armies while fierd/fyrd bespeaks nearby militias raised to fight them. There was no standing fyrd. Campdom was also called fyrdfaru. If you avoided fyrdfaru when called upon, you were fined the fyrdwite.
So, if it hadn’t been for the Normans, we’d likely use here, herr, or fierd, fyrd instead of the word army.
The words for navy were sciphere (sc = sh here, so that would be said as shipheyre) referring to Viking invaders, norðsciphere (Danish invaders) or scipfierd (home defense or military expeditions known as æxfaru (s), æxfara (pl)) and æschere ‘naval force’. There was also flothere referring to pirates. Here or fierd were used for æxfara on sea or land. Of course it was paid for by a tax known as scipgield.
War - late OE (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from O.N.Fr. werre ‘war’ (Fr. guerre), from Frankish. *werra, from P.Gmc. *werso (cf. O.S. werran, O.H.G. werran, Ger. verwirren ‘to confuse, perplex’). There was no common Germanic word for "war" at the dawn of historical times. OE itself had many words for "war" (beadu, guð, heaðo, hild, wig), but the usual one to translate L. bellum was gewin ‘struggle, strife’ (related to win).
For navy, we can start with the word fleet - OE fleot ‘ship, raft, floating vessel’, from fleotan ‘to float’. Sense of ‘naval force’ is pre-1200.
To use the Anglo-Saxon stock for navy, we could go sundry ways ... seaherr, seafierd, warfleet, fleetherr, fleetfierd, guthfleet, beadufleet, hildfleet, wigfleet, gewinfleet, asf.
I think seaherr and seafierd would be better for what we now call marines. There are many words that could be used in place of corps. The word band, as in a band of brothers, has Germanic origins and it is likely that troop does as well. OE has many words that could be used: mægen (magen - which also means ‘force, power’ and is seen in nowadays English as "main"), fylce (folke), getrum, heap (which is still used today with a slight different sense), scolu, asf. The Marine Corps would likely be Seaherrmagen, Seaherrmain, Seafiermain, or Seafierdmagen.
And air force?
For air force, we have the choice of luft (loft), sky or fly/flight to make kennings with fleet, fierd, war, breadu, guth, asf.: luftmægen, luftfierd, skymægen, skyfierd, skywarfleet, skyfleet, asf.
We wouldn't need to come up with a word for "winged fighter" since 'wing' comes from Old Norse and 'fight' come from Anglo-Saxon as there is already word for it from Beowulf: guthfloga - guðfloga (also guþfloga). It is a kenning for "one who flies to battle" or "winged fighter" as in a dragon, of guð + floga (battle, war + flier).
Your þeod (theod - nation) has been attacked so you hurry to enlist in the campdom but you can’t make up your mind whether to choose the Herr, the Seawarfleet, the Seaherrmagen, or the Skymagen.
OE = Old English
Remark - 1630s, "to mark out, distinguish" modeled on Fr. remarquer "to mark, note, heed," from M.Fr. re-, intensive prefix, + marquer "to mark," of German origin see mark.
mark - OE mearc (W.Saxon), merc (Mercian) "boundary, sign, limit, mark" from P.Gmc. *marko (cf. O.N. merki "boundary, sign," mörk "forest," which often marked a frontier; O.Fris. merke, Goth. marka "boundary, frontier," Du. merk "mark, brand," Ger. Mark "boundary, boundary land").
note - OE not (s) notas (pl), fore-Norman Latinate, from Latin nota ‘a mark’, notare ‘to mark’.
asf - and so forth
frain - question
rank - from O.Fr. ranc, from Frankish *hring (cf. O.H.G. hring "circle, ring")
tung - tongue, language OE tunge
adjective - OE togeicenlic 'adding to'
cultural - from Latin cultura ‘tillage’ + -al . --- OE landsidu 'country's custum', þeodscipe 'nation, connection, association'.
defense - from Old French defens, from late Latin defensum (neuter), defensa (feminine), past participles of defendere ‘defend’. --- OE utwaru ‘foreign defense’.
invader - from Latin invadere, from in- ‘into’ + vadere ‘go’. --- OE inswogen ‘to invade’, guðsceadða ‘ravaging invader’, ingenga ‘intruder, invader’
modern - nowadays
prefix - forefast
re- prefix --- OE forefasts with same meaning ed-, eft- or a-
use - from Old French user, from Latin usus, from uti ‘to use’ ; --- could use English brook, OE brūcan ‘use, possess’ or benote, OE benotian ‘use, consume’ (compare to German benutzen). I like use.
history - from Greek historia ‘finding out, narrative, history,’ from histōr ‘learned, wise man,’ from an Indo-European root shared by wit (OE witan ‘to be aware of or conscious of, know, understand’). --- OE fyrngemynd ‘history - former memory’, (ge)recednes, recennes, saga, soðsaga, soðspell, spell, stær(e), lar
ironically - from French ironique or late Latin ironicus, from Greek eirōnikos ‘dissembling, feigning ignorance,’ from eirōn ‘dissembler’. --- OE hiwung ‘irony’.
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