Doublet (linguistics)
In etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

, two or more words in the same language are called doublets or etymological twins (or possibly triplets, etc.) when they have different phonological forms but the same etymological root. Often, but not always, the variants have entered the language through different routes. Because the relationship between words that have the same root and the same meaning is fairly obvious, the term is mostly used to characterize pairs of words that have diverged in meaning.

For example English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 pyre and fire are doublets. Subtle differences in the resulting modern words contribute to the richness of the English language, as indicated by the doublets frail and fragile (which share the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 root, fragilis): one might refer to a fragile tea cup and a frail old woman, but frail tea cup and fragile old woman are uncommon.

Another example of nearly synonymous doublets is aperture and overture (the commonality behind the meanings is "opening"), but doublets may develop divergent meanings, such as the opposite words, host and guest from the same PIE
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 root, which occur as a doublet in Latin and then Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 hospes, before having been borrowed into English. Doublets also vary with respect to how far their forms have diverged. For example, the resemblance between levy and levee is obvious, whereas the connection between sovereign and soprano is harder to guess synchronically from the forms of the words alone.

Etymological twins are often a result of chronologically separate borrowing from a source language. In the case of English, this usually means once from French during the Norman invasion
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

, and again later, after the word had evolved separately in French. An example of this is warranty and guarantee. Another possibility is borrowing from both a language and its daughter language (usually Latin and some other Romance language – see Latin influence in English
Latin influence in English
English is a Germanic language, having a grammar and core vocabulary inherited from Proto-Germanic. However, a significant portion of the English wordhoard comes from Romance and Latinate sources. Estimates of native words range from 20%–33%, with the rest made up of foreign borrowings...


Alternatively, a word may be inherited from a parent language, and a cognate borrowed from a separate sister language – in English this means one word inherited from a Germanic source, with a Latinate cognate term borrowed from Latin or a Romance language. In English this is most common with words which can be traced back to Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

, such as the Romance "beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

" and the Germanic "cow", which in many cases actually do share the same proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 root. However, in some cases the branching is more recent, dating only to proto-Germanic, not to PIE – many words of Germanic origin occur in French and other Latinate languages, and hence in some cases were both inherited by English (from proto-Germanic) and borrowed from French or another source – see List of English Latinates of Germanic origin. The forward linguistic path also reflects cultural and historical transactions; often the name of an animal comes from Germanic while the name of its cooked meat comes from Romance. Since English is unusual in that it borrowed heavily from two distinct branches of the same language family tree
Family tree
A family tree, or pedigree chart, is a chart representing family relationships in a conventional tree structure. The more detailed family trees used in medicine, genealogy, and social work are known as genograms.-Family tree representations:...

 – Germanic and Latinate/Romance – it has a relatively high number of this latter type of etymological twin. See list of Germanic and Latinate equivalents in English for further examples and discussion.

Examples in English

Examples in English include:
  • shadow
    A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

    , shade
    Shade is the blocking of sunlight by any object, and also the shadow created by that object. Shade also consists of the colors grey, black, white, etc...

     and shed
    A shed is typically a simple, single-storey structure in a back garden or on an allotment that is used for storage, hobbies, or as a workshop....

     (all three from Old English sceadu "shadow, shade")
  • stand, stay, state, status and static (native, Middle French, Latin (twice) and Ancient Greek via Latin, from the same Indo-European root)
  • chief
    Tribal chief
    A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

     and chef
    A chef is a person who cooks professionally for other people. Although over time the term has come to describe any person who cooks for a living, traditionally it refers to a highly skilled professional who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation.-Etymology:The word "chef" is borrowed ...

     (both from French at different times)
  • secure and sure (from Latin, the latter via French)
  • plant and clan (from Latin, the latter via Old Irish)
  • right, rich, raj, regalia, reign, royal and real
    Brazilian real
    The real is the present-day currency of Brazil. Its sign is R$ and its ISO code is BRL. It is subdivided into 100 centavos ....

     (from Germanic, Celtic, Sanskrit, Latin, French (twice) and Portuguese cognates, respectively)
  • carton
    Carton is the name of certain types of containers typically made from paperboard which is also sometimes known as cardboard. Many types of cartons are used in packaging. Sometimes a carton is also called a box.-Folding cartons:...

     and cartoon
    A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works...

    , both ultimately the augmentative
    An augmentative is a morphological form of a word which expresses greater intensity, often in size, but also in other attributes...

     of Latin carta
  • ward and guard (from Norman, the latter via French, both from Germanic); also warden and guardian.
  • chrism
    Chrism , also called "Myrrh" , Holy anointing oil, or "Consecrated Oil", is a consecrated oil used in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Rite Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, in the Assyrian Church of the East, and in Old-Catholic churches, as well as Anglican churches in the administration...

    , creme and grime
    Grime is a style of music that emerged from Bow, East London, England in the early 2000s, primarily as a development of UK garage, dancehall, and hip hop...

     (the first two from French, in the 14th and 19th centuries, respectively, the last from Germanic)
  • cow and beef
    Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

     (from Proto-Indo-European; the former through Germanic – i.e. natively via Old English – the latter through Latin via French)
  • wheel
    A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

    , whorl, cyclone
    In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. Most large-scale...

    , cycle, circle
    A circle is a simple shape of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane that are a given distance from a given point, the centre. The distance between any of the points and the centre is called the radius....

     and chakra
    Chakra is a concept originating in Hindu texts, featured in tantric and yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Its name derives from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning" .Chakra is a concept referring to wheel-like vortices...

     (Germanic twice, Greek, Greek via Latin, Latin via French, and Sanskrit)
  • frenetic and frantic (both from Greek, via Old French and Latin)
  • cave
    A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. The term applies to natural cavities some part of which is in total darkness. The word cave also includes smaller spaces like rock shelters, sea caves, and grottos.Speleology is the science of exploration and study...

     and cavern (from Latin 'cavus', via French and Germanic languages respectively)
  • price, prize, praise, pry (a lever) and prix
    -Definition:In ordinary usage, price is the quantity of payment or compensation given by one party to another in return for goods or services.In modern economies, prices are generally expressed in units of some form of currency...

     (all from French, some diverged in English)
  • corn, kernel and grain (all ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *grnóm, the first two natively via Proto-Germanic (g → k), the last via Latin, borrowed from Old French)
  • pique, pike (weapon) – both from Middle French pique
  • mister
    Mister may refer to:* Mister , a common English language honorific* MISTER, a personal rapid transit system* A device that makes or sprays mist* Mr. Mister, a 1980s pop band* Mister , a Canto-rock band...

    , master
    Master or Masters are terms denoting some kind of rank or status, and may refer to:-Ranks and titles:* Master craftsman in the Medieval guilds* Master , a title...

    , meister
    Meister means master in German . The word is akin to maestro. Many modern day German police forces use the title Meister. During the Second World War, Meister was the highest enlisted rank of the Ordnungspolizei.Meister has been borrowed into English slang, where it is used in compound nouns...

    , maestro
    Maestro is a title of extreme respect given to a master musician. The term is most commonly used in the context of Western classical music and opera. This is associated with the ubiquitous use of Italian vocabulary for classical music terms...

    , Mistral
    Mistral (wind)
    The mistral is a strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, coming from the north or northwest, which accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhone and the Durance Rivers to the coast of the Mediterranean around the Camargue region. It affects the northeast of the plain...

     (the name of a Mediterranean wind), magistrate
    A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

     are all ultimately derived from Latin magister, which means greater.

Norman vs. Modern French

Many words of French origin were borrowed twice or more. Most frequently, the first borrowing occurred shortly after the Normans took over England following the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

, while the second borrowing may have come into English during the sixteenth to nineteenth century, when France was at the height of its power and international influence. Notice that there are multiple doublets caused by the w → g sound change in French, which happened well after the Norman conquest. Several of these examples also reflect changes in French after the Norman period which caused the possible environments of [s] to be greatly reduced.
Norman Modern
car chariot
castle chateau
catch chase
cattle chattel
convey convoy
paste pate or pâté
feast fete or fête
hostel hotel
pocket pouch
glamour grammar
reward regard
wallop gallop
warden guardian
wardrobe garderobe
warranty guarantee
wile, wily guile

Examples in Chinese

Derivative cognates are a classification of Chinese characters
Chinese character classification
All Chinese characters are logograms, but there are several derivative types. These include a handful which derive from pictograms and a number which are ideographic in origin, but the vast majority originated as phono-semantic compounds . In older literature, Chinese characters in general may be...

 which have similar meanings and often the same etymological root, but which have diverged in pronunciation and meaning. An example is the doublet and . At one time they were pronounced similarly and meant "old (person)." Now is pronounced /lɑʊ̯˨˩˦/ in Standard Mandarin
Standard Mandarin
Standard Chinese or Modern Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China , and is one of the four official languages of Singapore....

 and mainly means "old" and is pronounced /kʰɑʊ̯˨˩˦/ and mainly means "examine."

Differing literary and colloquial readings of certain Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

s are common doublets in many Chinese language
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

s and the reading distinctions for certain phonetic features often typify a dialect group. Literary readings are usually used in formal loan words or names, when reading aloud and in formal settings, while colloquial readings are usually used in vernacular speech
Speech is the human faculty of speaking.It may also refer to:* Public speaking, the process of speaking to a group of people* Manner of articulation, how the body parts involved in making speech are manipulated...

. For a given Chinese language
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, colloquial readings typically reflect native phonology, while literary readings typically originate from other Chinese languages, typically more prestigious varieties
Variety (linguistics)
In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself...

. Sometimes literary and colloquial readings of the same character have different meanings. For example, in Cantonese
Cantonese is a dialect spoken primarily in south China.Cantonese may also refer to:* Yue Chinese, the Chinese language that includes Cantonese* Cantonese cuisine, the cuisine of Guangdong province...

, the character can have the colloquial pronunciation /pʰɛŋ˨˩/ which means "inexpensive," or the literary pronunciation /pʰɪŋ˨˩/ which means "flat."

Examples in Polish

  • (o-) pierdolić (fuck, babble, condemn, vulgar language), (o-) pierdzielić (babble, condemn, informal language)—cognate to Russian определять (determine)
  • Bogdan
    Bogdan or Bohdan - is a Slavic masculine name. It is derived from the Slavic words Bog/Boh , meaning "god", and dan , meaning "given". Other names with similar meaning include South Slavic Božidar, Polish Bożydar, Greek Theodore, Hebrew Nathanael and Jonathan, Latin Deodatus and French Dieudonné...

    , Bohdan
    (first names)

  • upiór , wąpierz, wampir (English vampire
    Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

    detailed out in Polish Wikipedia entry on etymology of wampir)
  • szczać (piss, gross wording), sikać (spout, plain, informal wording), siusiać (pee, childish, polite euphemism; however one could argue the latter being simply an irregular diminutive derivation from the former)
  • magister, majster, mistrz—from German Meister, Dutch meester, and from Latin magister; cognate to Italian maestro, English master, mister

See also

  • Reborrowing
    Reborrowing is the process where a word travels from one language to another and then back to the originating language in a different form or with a different meaning.This is indicated by A→B→A, where A is the originating language....

  • Cognate
    In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

    , specifically, those within the same language
  • Paronym
  • False friend
    False friend
    False friends are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning....

    s that may develop in the same way
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