Sunday 25 May 2014

Colm, Colum, Columb, Golub

In Irish we have a word "colm" which means pigeon, dove. Official etymology of this word is that it comes from Middle Irish "colum", from Old Irish "columb", from Latin "columbus", from Ancient Greek "κόλυμβος" kolumbos. 

In Serbian we have a word golub which means pigeon. Official etymology of this word is that it comes form proto Slavic golǫbь, of unknown origin. Possibly related to Latin columba, columbus.

I would like here to propose an alternative etymology for these two words from Irish and Serbian language. 

I believe that both Irish "columb" and Serbian "golub" come from the same root "golub, gulub" which comes from some old Central European language. I believe that  both Irish "columb" and Serbian "golub" predate Latin words columba, columbus, and that Latin columba, columbus are actually based on the root word "golub" with "a" ending added for feminine dove and "us" ending added for masculine pigeon. I also believe that Old Greek word "κόλυμβος" kolumbos has nothing to do with pigeon or dove. 

Serbian word "golub" is direct cognate of old Irish word "colum(b)". The difference is only in the pronunciation of the interchangeable undifferentiated consonant groups kghj and pvbmf. 

Let me explain what I mean.  

Undifferentiated sound group is a group of sounds, which can all be produced by the same gross mouth position. The differentiated sounds are produces by tiny variation of lip, tong and throat position and pressure. The sounds from the same undifferentiated sound group are interchangeable. Like baba, papa meaning father. Or ban, van meaning white. Or this, dis meaning this. Or pana, bana meaning bread. Of foot, put, meaning foot and road. 

Originally all sounds were undifferentiated, as human ability to speak developed. There was no m,p,b,v,f there was something like mpbvf which is basically undifferentiated sound which is the root sound of the above consonant group. The whole group is produced by the same gross mouth position. The differentiated sounds are produced by tiny variation of lip position and pressure. As people developed their speech abilities, as they used speech more and more, their genes changed, enabling them to control their speech apparatus more and more precisely. This lead to sound differentiation, and  mpbvf turned first to diphthongs, like bv, mp, pf and then to individual sound m,p,b,v,f. And because these sounds are so close together, tiniest change in our ability to hear them and to pronounce them will lead to additional sound changes which can then be propagated to the rest of the family and clan...

As babies learn how to speak they start by using undifferentiated sounds, they bubble. As they developed their speech abilities, as they use speech more and more, their control of their speech apparatus becomes more and more precise. This lead to sound differentiation. What used to be bhfabhfa is now baba. 

These are undifferentiated sound groups:

Vowels can change through these undifferentiated sound groups:


Consonants can change through these undifferentiated sound groups:

m,p,b,v,f - Slowly reduce pressure between your lips while slowly opening your mouth. You will go through all these sounds one after the other.
g,k,h,j - Slowly move pressure in your throat backwards while slowly opening your mouth. You will go through all these sounds one after the other. Difference between j and h is just in tiny adjustment in the shape of the back of your throat. 
r - slowly move your tong backwards while reducing pressure between you tong and the roof of your mouth. You will go from hard to soft r. French r is produced in the throat and is related to Arabic h more than European r. 
l,d,n,t, c(ts) - Put tong in starting position. Slide it outward you get L. Pop it lightly you get T. Apply more pressure and pop it you get D. Don't move it and you get N. Don't move it and slowly reduce pressure and you get C(ts)
s,z,ž,š - Slide your tong backward and you will go through all these sounds one after the other.
č, dž - Pronounce the sound with your teeth apart you get č.  Pronounce the sound with your teeth touching you get dž

dj, lj, nj, tj - These sounds are all produced by sliding tong forward from original J position. 

v,w,u are also interchangeable sounds. The original sound for v was probably undifferentiated wu sound which later became differentiated into v.

m and n are also interchangeable, as you can produce either one of them with the same position of your mouth, by changing slightly the position of your tong.

So depending on pronunciation "golub" can become "colum(b)" through transformation of g --> c and b --> m(b). This means that these two words are effectively one and the same and both come from the same undifferentiated root (kgh)olu(mpbv). 

Latin columba meaning dove and columbus meaning pigeon, are actually based on the root word "(c)golu(m)b" with "a" ending added for feminine dove and "us" ending added for masculine pigeon. Official etymology is that this word is derived from Ancient Greek κόλυμβος. However word κόλυμβος, kolumbos means “a diver”, from κολυμβάω (kolumbao, “dive, plunge headlong, swim”). If you look at Old Greek dictionaries you will see that this word is never applied to pigeon. 

Aristophanes [Birds, 304] lists various birds one of them is pigeon and another one was diver. This is the excerpt in question:
Epops, Pointing to the various species:
Here is the magpie, the turtle-dove, the swallow, the horned-owl, the buzzard, the pigeon, the falcon, the ring-dove, the cuckoo, the red-foot, the red-cap, the purple-cap, the kestrel, the diver, the ousel, the osprey, the woodpecker . . .
Old Greek dictionary gives us this list of pigeon words. κόλυμβος, kolumbos is not one of them:

φάσσα, φάψ, πέλεια, περιστερά...

The last word περιστερά (peristera) is modern Greek word for pigeon, dove.

The result is the same for dove words. κόλυμβος, kolumbos is not one of them:


So Latin words columbus, columba could not be derived from old Greek κόλυμβος. 

If we look at Evroasian languages, we see that the only language groups in which word for pigeon is (c)golu(m)b are Slavic and Gaelic - Gallic languages groups. 

All Slavic languages use word "golub" for pigeon (golub, holub, holb, golob, gulab). 

Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton all use version of "colum". 

Welsh colomen
Cornish colom 
Breton coulm

This shows clear transformation of g-->c and b-->m. 

It is very interesting that word for pigeon, brakes the P Celtic - Q Celtic transformation rule of C transforming to P. 

Apart from Slavic, Gaelic and Gallic languages, these languages also have a word based on the root (c)golu(m)b:

French: colombe - white dove, not pigeon. Word for pigeon is pigeon. Probably from Breton.
Italian: colomba - dove, not pigeon. Word for pigeon is piccione.
Hungarian: galamb - pigeon. Probably from surrounding Slavic languages.  
Romanian: columbă, columbofil - pigeon. Probably from surrounding Slavic languages. Romanian has another word for pigeon: porumbei.
Catalan: colom - pigeon, dove.

Compare this with Germanic words for pigeon, dove:
From Middle English dove, douve, duve, from Old English *dūfe (“dove, pigeon”), from Proto-Germanic *dūbǭ (“dove”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (“to whisk, smoke, be obscure”). Cognate with Scots doo, dow (“dove”), West Frisian do (“dove”), Dutch duif (“dove, pigeon”), Low German (Low Saxon) Duuv (“dove, pigeon”), German Taube (“dove, pigeon”), Danish due (“dove”), Swedish duva (“dove”), Icelandic dúfa (“dove”), Gothic dubo.
Apparent root for all the above words is apparently "Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (“to whisk, smoke, be obscure”)" which is frankly very unlikely. The real root is probably something like Proto-Germanic *dūbǭ (“dove”). Please compare this with the word for pigeon, dove from the most westerly Slavic languge, Polabian: ďölǫb. We see how here Slavic, Gallic, Gaelic golub becomes dolQb. This word sits between Slavic golub and Germanic dūbǭ. This is one example of the linguistic Slavic - Germanic continuum with Polabian language being the link which shows how languages mixed.

I believe that the original word golub (colum) arose somewhere in the Balkans or in Central Europe. I also believe that the word is very old, probably even dating from neolithic times. 

Common pigeon or wood pigeon is common to all of Europe. 

It is the same for European dove:

The call made by wood pigeon sounds like cucu, gugu, gogo, huhu. The name for Eurasian collared dove, of just dove in Serbian is gugutka, which means bird that says gugu. Eurasian collared dove call does sound like cucu, gugu, gogo, huhu. 

This is probably the oldest onomatopoeic name for pigeon, dove. "gugu" - a bird that says "gu". If we look at Sanskrit we find these words for pigeon, dove: kokathu, kaukkuTika, kokadeva, ghughukRt... 

So where does the word "golub" come from?

Pigeons and Doves are monogamous, they mate for life. Their courting includes head-bobbing, coo-ing and "kissing". So pigeons and doves are birds which kiss, which are in love. 

If we look at Indoeuropean dictionary we find this word root: *lewbʰ- to love, to desire. We find that all "derived" words, mean desire, praise, love, have sex. 
Albanian: lyp - beg, ask, need, pleadLithuanian: liaupsė - praiseGermanic: *lubō, *leubō, *lubą, *leubaz: love, affectionLatin: libet - it is pleasing; it is agreeableOscan: laufit (could not find this word anywhere)Sanskrit: lubhyati - desire greatly, long for, be interested in, covetSlavic: ljubav - love

What is interesting is that only in Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian, in Western Balkan Slavic languages, the word "lub", "ljub" also means kiss. This is the root of the word "ljubav" meaning love which we find in other Slavic languages. ljubav = ljub + bav = kiss + do, perform. It literally means "doing kissing". The word "ljub" is actually an onomatopoeic word.  It actually describes the act of kissing. You can only produce sound "lj" by sticking your tong out. So "lj" means sticking tong out. Sound "u" means in, into, putting into. So sound "u" means putting tong into. Sounds "b,p,m" are sounds made by smacking your lips, like when sucking. Sound "mama", "baba", "papa" are all made by babies when they are looking for breast to suck, to put into their mouth. So sound "b" means mouth, suck. 

All together "ljub" literally means: stick tong out, put it into someones mouth and then suck it = kiss. When you say "ljub", you are actually going through all the mouth movement involved in kissing. Try it.

It is interesting that only in Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian languages and in Sanskrit, word "ljub" has this old, physical love meaning, but only in Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian languages it means to kiss. 

These are main meanings of word "ljub" in Serbian:

Ljubiti, poljubiti - love, kiss
Ljuba, ljubovca, ljubavnica - mistress, female lover, wife
ljubavnik - male lover
Obljubiti - have sex with
Preljubnik, preljubnica -  adulterer
Ljubav, ljubva - love
Ljubimac - favourite person, pet
Ljubomora - jealousy, literally love dread 
Ljubazan - pleasent
Ljubak, ljubi, ljubljen, ljuven - dear
Priljubiti - stick close together, like when kissing, having sex
Rodoljub - patriot, literally tribe lover

In wiktionary you can find that Latin word Columba means dove, but also is a "term of endearment". In Serbian Golub, Golubica are also terms of endearment. And you can see why. Golub = go + ljub = it, him, her + love.

So where does the word golub come from?

Is golub = coo(goo) + ljub = "sound of cooing" + "kiss, love" = a bird that says cu, gu, co, go and kisses, loves? Maybe. But if we look at South Serbian dialects, the etymology becomes even simpler go lub(i) = it, him, her + kisses, loves = birds that kiss, love each other?
Is this the origin of word Golub? And if so, is old Irish Colum(b) come from Golub and is Latin Columba, Columbus derived from Golub or its derivation Colum(b)? And if this is the case, how old is word Golub? And why is it that again we find that Slavic, Gaelic and Gallic languages seem to be in the same group, even though they are supposed to belong to different distant branches of Indoeuropean language?

There is actually good reason to suspect that "kissing bird" is the actual etymology for word golub. I have written in my post about bran, vran, that word gavran, govran meaning raven can be broken into gav, gov + vran = speaking + blac, crow. This is a perfect description of a raven, as it is the only European talking bird. Golub, bird that kisses is a perfect description of a pigeon, dove, as they are the only European kissing birds.

What does this mean for our St Columban? I wrote in my last post that his name means white dove. Columban = Colum + ban = pigeon + white. His name stay Irish and is not Latin. Which is in keeping with what we find when we look at the list of early Irish saints. All of them have Irish names. So Columban being derived from Latin would have been a glaring exception impossible to explain. 

So Columban is an Irish name, but Irish name with root in some old Balkan language, which is preserved in Western South Slavic languages, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian...

More and more questions...


  1. My last name is "Golob", I'm studying german philology and one of my favourite TV series is "Columbo", for me it's very interesting to read, that there is a etymological connection. :) ty for this

  2. You are one of the few who I came across online that actually notice these things.

    It is of high significance, as it might indicate that the Indo-European language family, and actually all language families, did not spread the way as they are described in research. They seem rather artificial than naturally developped.

    The encryption is based on the direct opposite of grammar rules and linguistic ensconces. Compare [OE] to [ENG] for example, also trace down the roots in (Roman) Latin and Greek, and very often the definition of a word is entirely different or exactly the opposite.

  3. How did I get here?
    My last name is Columbeanu. The sufix ”-eanu” in Romanian refers to place of origin. Such as ”New York-ER”. So ”man from Columb”. Is there a place called Columb in Romania? No, it isnt. But there is a village in the hilly south called GOLUMBU (golumb + definit article). Due to a birocratic error in the early XIX-th century a branch of the family GOLUMBEANU (man from Golumb) shifted to the similar sounding Columbeanu. (even now, most Columbeanus can be found only in that region).
    Romania has a rich slavic heritage from the 6th - 10th centuries and a latin cultural heritage that predates it (Second and Third Centuries and continuos influence from the southern Bizantin Empire). I was curious how a village lost between the hills got its name. Was it via Latin? Was it via a Slavic dialect? Amazing read either way.

  4. Also the Romanian verb for to LOVE is ”a iubi”. So basically its the slavic ”ljubi” without the initial ”L” sound. Romania is Serbias neighbour to the North East.
    You mentioned the word ljubavnica which of course has a correspondent in the old-timely Romanian word ”ibovnica” meaning mistress, out-of-wedlock partner. (I know the word from an old folk song :)))
    In the old days the verb ”a iubi” in its transitive form was used to mark affection of any kind. ”s-au iubit” literally means ”they loved each other” which can refer to the sentiment but also as an active verb, in this case kissing, petting or even intercourse.

  5. I too have a related name (Golbe, an Americanization of Golombek)

    Came here trying to figure out if Golub/Columb/Paloma etc are also related to the Biblical name Jemima. Any idea?

  6. I am from Scots-Irish descent, and my last name McKown seems to be descendent from Colm --> Columba (dove) --> then traceable to Greek "κόλυμβος" "kolumbos" (Diver, Pearl Diver)

    The connection that I think you're missing is "which people were named for "Doves" / why", and how it can be traced through occupation, culture, and religion.

    The connection from my perspective is seafaring, that is trading and occupations of the sea. I believe the Dove is representative of sailors and seafaring in early Akkadian / Sumerian culture --- 2300-2200BC --- In a most prominent depiction, King Sargon is surrounded by a cloud of doves --- This king and those who preceeded / succeeded him were called "masters of the universe, and "of the four corners" --- which referred to their dynastic successes in shipping between the Mediterranean, the Persian gulf, and beyond.

    The Anatolian / Greek island of Kalymnos is known as "the pearl divers island", and is within the territory of their prominent maritime power of Ancient times. Neighboring locales, Ionia and Miletus also figure heavily in the rise of maritime industries including Navies that acted as mercenaries in the region (Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamian impacts and influences at different times)

    In my perspective the "doves" are not indistinct from the "pearl divers" --- to me, the doves would have followed the ships and their captains, and the crew mates they employed as well --- this is why the word "Columb" has such an extensive cross-cultural translation

    In Czech, the words "Holi / Holub" are associated with this, and they also bring a slightly different interpretation, meaning in most cases "bare / naked" --- this makes more sense when you find that the original pearl divers of Greece were known to descend from boats with rocks tied to their completely nude bodies

    I hope you will appreciate this contribution - it is a little bit personally interesting to me

  7. Моя фамилия Голубан. Благодарю за статью.