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Carnival is upon us! Such a great display of colors and parades.

The most famous is probably that of Venice, and it is actually from Italian that the word carnivale spread to first French and then Spanish, Portuguese and English. It had come from Middle Latin carnelevale, from carnem “meat” and levāre “reduce”, since in Catholic tradition those were the dates when you had to stop consuming meat to prepare for the holy days of Easter.

The word also reached German as Karneval, though they have a whole other family of words with equivalent meaning derived from Fast “fast” (as in “not eating”). Both Fastnacht (combined with Nacht, “night”), and Fastelovend, (with Abend, “evening”) refer to the last time before the prohibition comes down. This last one was borrowed into Danish, as Fastelavn. Similarly, Fasching, evolved from Fastenschank (using Schank from ausschenken “to serve/pour”) means “last sip before fasting”.

Most European languages take the word from either Italian or German. But there are some outliers. Like Greeks, who refer to the same concept of saying farewell to meat, but in their own terms: Αποκριές (apokriés). Or Icelanders, that eat bread when fasting, so they name that Monday bolludagur (bolla “bun” + dagur “day”). Walloons just look at the costumes and simply speak of a mascaråde (“masquerade”).

And finally, Galicians refer to those festivities as entroido (also antroido or entrudio). The word comes from Latin introĭtus, meaning “entrance” as entroido marks the beginning of Lent. The word entrudo was present as well in its brother Portuguese until a bit after the Middle Ages, but was eventually dropped in favor of carnaval, while Galicians liked the term and kept it.

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Originally published in The blind mouse.

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