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I was reading about the French word orgueil recently, and I learned that it derives from the Frankish word *urgōl.

(980, Passion), orgolz, puis (1080, Chanson de Roland) orgoill et (1130, Eneas) orgueil. Du vieux-francique *urgôli « fierté » (cf. ancien haut allemand urguol « remarquable, excellent »), romanisé en *urgolius, qui a remplacé le latin classique superbia « orgueil, fierté » (espagnol orgullo, italien orgoglio, portugais orgulho, occitan orguèlh).

The connection to the Frankish word actually becomes more evident if we look at the corresponding entry on Wiktionary (en).

From Middle French, from Old French orgoill (“pride”), from Frankish *urgōl (“pride”), from Proto-Germanic *urgōljō (“pride”). Cognate with Old High German urguol (“outstanding, distinguished”), Old Saxon urgôl (“outstanding, distinguished”), Old English orgel, orgello (“pride”). Compare Italian orgoglio, Spanish orgullo, Catalan orgull.

I was interested to find out more about the Latin word urgolius, so I looked it up on the Perseus Latin word study tool. Unfortunately, I got no results. Did the Frankish word ever truly make it into the Latin language (as Wiktionnaire seems to imply)? Or is the Wiktionnaire entry simply giving an abstract ancestor for its descendants in the Romance languages?

My main point of confusion is the French phrases, romanisé en *urgolius, qui a remplacé le latin classique superbia (Romanised in *urgolius, which replaced the classical Latin superbia). I thought this implied the existence of the word in Latin, but the more I think about it, the more it looks like a reconstructed root, as the asterisk would imply.


I feel almost silly now, thinking that urgolius made it into the Latin language. It looks like that's not the case. But I'll keep this question just to receive confirmation.

  • What kind of Latin do you mean? I’m struggling to understand how “a word was borrowed from Old French into Latin.” – Alex B. Nov 23 '17 at 14:53
  • @AlexB.I feel like there's a question lurking somewhere but I just haven't found it yet. I've re-worded the question several times and hopefully it will end up decent :) – ktm5124 Nov 24 '17 at 1:08
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romanisé en *urgolius, qui a remplacé le latin classique superbia

The asterisk before the word is a universally accepted indication that the word has not been attested, which means it was not found in documents, but rather linguistically reconstructed from daughter languages (or sometimes a single language) only. It's not therefore surprising that your attempt to find it in sources did not yield anything!

Romanisé in this context should be understood not as “latinized,” but rather narrowly as “romanized,” as this has to have occurred at the Proto-Romance, late Vulgar Latin stage. The Vulgar language was widely spoken, but very little writing of it exists. In the territories of modern France (Gaul) it heavily borrowed from Gaulic (Celtic) and later Frankish (Germanic) languages. The unattested Germanic borrowing could have occurred any time past the 5th c. AD, when Frankish started taking over Gaul, and likely before the 8th c., when Old French differentiated from the language continuum. A specialist in early Romance languages could have probably dated it narrower for you, but I am not one.

  • Oh. I see the asterisk used with proto-languages all the time, but its denotation that a word is unattested simply escaped me. Thanks for the good answer. The history was enlightening. – ktm5124 Nov 24 '17 at 2:47

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