Q: Where does the word”bear” come out? –Etymology Eddie
A: Can a bear by any other name be as scary? Frankly, I really don’t know. But I’m awfully proud of my own moniker. The word”bear” has a much more intriguing history behind it than many creatures’ titles –one that speaks to the long and complicated history between us and people.
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So there you have it. Our old name is not just lost, though: It lives on from the brown bear’s scientific designation, Ursus arctos, in addition to in the English word”Arctic.”
We believe that evolved out of the term bero, or even”brown one” in Proto-Germanic, a classical language spoken by a set of tribes from northern Europe from roughly 500 B.C.E. And that is where things get very interesting. You see, the parent language of Proto-Germanic, known as Proto-Indo-European, had its very own, different word for bear, quite roughly pronounced”hrktos.”
Why did people devise a new name for your bear? Back then, before fences and guns and houses, brown bears were the apex predator of northern Europe. Hunters were so cautious of hrktos that they came to believe that even talking about them was asking for trouble. Finally, linguists believe, the term became so taboo that Germanic people began using a euphemism, bero, rather than
Of your questions are answered by our resident bruin expert in our’Ask A Bear’ column.