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Words for "Woman" in IE

From:Paul Bennett <paul.bennett@...>
Date:Thursday, December 2, 1999, 9:55
While we're on the subject of intrinsic linguistic sexism in Indo-European, I
thought I'd check it all out:

The most common words for "woman" in Indo-European come from several sources:

1) The majority of roots are from PIE *gweni-, probably cogn w PIE *ghen- "to

2) Regularly inflected female forms of roots that take masculine inflection to
mean "man", "person", "boy"

3) A few cognates of "to suck", generally meaning literally "to give suck"

4) ON "vi:p", OHG "wi:b" > Eng. "wife", (ME "wi:f-man" > "woman") Du. "wijf",
NHG. "weib", ety uncertain?

5) Sp. "mujer" (etc) < a Lat. word for "delicate", prob orig in an obscene sense

6) It. "donna" (etc) < Lat. "domina"

7) The Rum. is < Lat. "familius"="household"

Generally, these terms are fairly functional and lack intrinsic bias, IMHO,
though possibly you could argue that the Rumanian term indicates that it has
traditionally been a female role to manage the affairs of the home.

The only ety I know for (4) is that it is cognate with terms for "has been
taught", "wise".

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