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Most beautiful words in Galician

Today is the Day of the Galician Language, as every May 17th. I will pay homage by researching on the etymology of some of its words consistently voted as the most beautiful.


Lusco-fusco (also luscofusco, lusquefusque) means twilight, and comes from the latin luscus (‘one-eyed’) and fuscus (dark, black). The contraposition clearly express the border between the dim visibility and the complete night.


This word, meaning ‘christmas carol’, has quite a particular origin. It comes from the church hymn “Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium” by St. Thomas Aquinas. The two first words joined to denominate first any religious chant, then, because of their prominent presence, those of Christmas in particular.


This means bell (specially those put on cows or cats) but most commonly a baby rattler. I could only trace the origin one step back to the obvious axouxar (to rattle), but there is no further etymological track. Perhaps it’s onomatopoeic, but seems unlikely. My guess it that it stems from a lost meaning of axouxar in the like of Portuguese ajoujar, “to join”, from Latin adjugare “put/play together” — but careful, this explanation comes from an amateur trying to play philologist!


I left this one for last because it’s the most common favourite word. It means butterfly. The meaning probably has a lot to do with its beloved status 🙂

No definite origin is known for this word (or its Portuguese equivalent borboleta), but there are two theories. One says it comes directly from Latin papilio (for butterfly), through some lost diminutive. The other points to a diminituve as well, but this time *belbellita from Latin bellus “beautiful”. Perhaps, again, because of its poetic significante, this one seems more favoured.


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Originally published in The blind mouse.

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