Romanian Synonymy: Latin and Slavic

Romanian synonym sets formed from Latin and Slavic components.

Nouns (Latin ~ Slavic ‘English gloss’):

  • lac ~ iezer ‘lake’
  • cale ~ drum ‘road’
  • călare ~ potecă ‘path’
  • pulbure ~ praf ‘dust’
  • nea ~ zăpadă ‘snow’
  • timp ~ vreme ‘time’
  • secure ~ topor ‘axe’
  • piuă ~ dârstă ‘mortar, fulling vat’
  • mâncare ~ hrană ‘food’
  • stup ~ ulei (regional) ‘beehive’
  • scoarţă ~ coajă ‘bark, crust’
  • vită ~ dobitoc ‘cow, ox, cattle’
  • fiară ~ dihanie ‘beast, monster’
  • vacă ~ ialoviţă (obsolete) ‘cow’
  • corp ~ trup ‘body’
  • cap ~ glavă (obs.) ‘head’
  • faţă ~ obraz ‘face’
  • popor ~ norod ‘people’
  • şerb ~ sclav, rob ‘serf’
  • spaimă ~ groază ‘fear’
  • tristeţe ~ jale ‘sorrow’
  • ştire ~ veste ‘news’
  • ceartă ~ svadă ‘quarrel’

Adjectives (Latin ~ Slavic ‘English gloss’):

  • deşert ~ gol ‘empty, barren’
  • roşu ~ rumen ‘red, ruddy’
  • umed ~ jilav ‘damp, moist’
  • sănătos ~ citov (obs.) ‘healthy’

Verbs (Latin ~ Slavic ‘English gloss’):

  • a lucra ~ a munci/trudi ‘to work, labor’
  • a treiera ~ a îmblăti (regional) ‘to thresh’
  • a săpa ~ a prăşi ‘to dig, weed’
  • a înnegri ~ a cerni ‘to blacken’
  • a păcătui ~ a greşi ‘to sin, err’
  • a se deprinde/învăţa ~ a se obişnui ‘to get used to’
  • a vindeca ~ a lecui ‘to cure’

SOURCE: “Synonymy and dialects” (4.1.1.4) in Probleme de sinonimie, by Onufrie Vinţeler (Bucureşti: Editură Sţiinţifică şi Encliclopedică, 1983) [my translation].

The nature of the borrowings that gave rise to these synonym sets suggests to me intermixed language communities with high degrees of bilingualism, and not contact between old and new technologies at a linguistic frontier, as was typical during the expansion of colonial languages across the globe.

UPDATE: There are also synonym sets of purely Slavic origin, but some of the alternates are rare, regional, or even obsolete:

  • nămol ~ tină ‘mud, silt’
  • mlacă ~ mlaştină ~ mocirlă ‘marsh, swamp, mud’
  • stog ~ claie ~ căpită ‘hayrick, shock (of hair)’
  • coteţ ~ cocină ‘sty, kennel’
  • război ~ stative ‘loom’
  • cobiliţă ~ coromâslă ‘carrying pole’
  • cârpă ~ zdreanţă ~ otreapă ‘rag’
  • lele ~ nană ‘auntie’ (term of address for older women)
  • doică ~ mancă ‘wetnurse’
  • a osteni ~ a obosi ‘to tire’

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