On multiple places on-line, including Wikipedia, there is information that Saint Isidore of Seville claimed that the name of the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, got his name from "baculus" meaning "walking stick", as drunk people need a walking stick to walk.

An idea of the quality of Isidore's etymological knowledge is given by Peter Jones: "Now we know most of his derivations are total nonsense (eg, he derives baculus, 'walking-stick', from Bacchus, god of drink, because you need one to walk straight after sinking a few)".

It's a lovely story to tell, but is that true? I can't find anything like that in the original works of Isidore of Seville. The only thing I could find Isidore of Seville wrote about the name "Bacchius" is the following:

Bacchius appellatus est eo, quod eo pede Bacchia, id est Liberi sacra celebrabantur.

Most of his etymologies are in the scroll 10 of Etymologiae, but it doesn't mention either "Bacchius" or "baculus" (you can search digitally here: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/isidore/10.shtml).
So, where does that claim come from?

  • Interesting. By the way, As far as I know Bacchus was associated with the stuff/stick thyrsus, hence the proverb: "Multi thyrsigeri, pauci Bacchi" – d_e Nov 9 '20 at 6:48
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    Please don't cross-post the same question to multiple Stack Exchange sites. If you feel you absolute must do that, at least have the basic decency to link the questions together so that answers don't get needlessly duplicated between sites. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 9 '20 at 17:30

It is found in book 20, chapter XIII:

Baculus a Bacco repertore vitis fertur inventus, quo homines moti vino inniterentur. Sicut autem a Bacco baculus, ita a baculo bacillum per diminutionem.
It is claimed that the staff was invented by Baccus, the inventor of wine, so that people affected by wine might lean on it. As "baculus" from "Baccus," so also "bacillum" from "baculum" by diminuition.

Note: This does of course not derive Bacchus from baculus, as suggested by the question title, but the other way around, as claimed by Mr Jones.

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    and it is of course wrong, if -culus is a common derivational suffix leaving only ba- as a stem for everyone's best guesses, unless it were either inherently tied to the origin of the suffix, which has various origins (cf. wiki/-culum 1. from -cus + -lus, -ulus 2. from *-tlom, *-trom, cp. saeculum, Saturn), whereas wiktionary cites a non-IE form *bak- with En. peg, Ger. Pegel, Gk. baktrion (bacteria, because of the shape) but compare further Pokal "cup", beaker, uncertain, yet certainly related to wine, see Bell-Beaker cult. or the cultic functions cup-bearer. – vectory Nov 9 '20 at 11:10
  • a side note: as the TLL entry mentions (s.v. baculum), "generis masc. certa exempla [...] non ante saec. III", so that there's no confusion about this noun in Classical Latin publikationen.badw.de/en/thesaurus/lemmata#16225 – Alex B. Nov 9 '20 at 15:38

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