Sunday, 16 July 2017


In my post about Prokletija - the Cursing ceremony, I described a strange Serbian custom in which a stake was cursed and stoned in place of an unknown or missing offender. I explained that in South Slavic languages the word "klet, klijet" means curse and I wondered where could that word have come from. 

I then proposed that the word "klet, kliet" could have come into Slavic languages from Irish where we find a whole cluster of words based on the base word "cleath" meaning stick, pole. 

cleath, -eithe, -eatha, f., a goad, a wattle, pole, stake; a fishing-rod;

That this is indeed a possibility can be seen from the fact that in South Slavic languages the word "klet, klijet" has another meaning: wooden hut made from poles, logs, sticks. Like this one from Rudno in Serbia:

This word is also present in other Slavic languages with the same meaning. 

Old Church Slavonic клѣть ‎(klětǐ), Russian клеть ‎(klet'), Belarusian клець ‎(klec'), Ukrainian кліть ‎(klit'), Bulgarian клет ‎(klet), Czech klec, Polish kleć. This is kleć (shack) from Kudricze in Polesia in Belarus.

In Baltic languages (Latvian klēts, Lithuanian klė́tis, Old Prussian clenan) and in some Slavic languages the word is found with narrower meaning of granary, cage, crate, basket, container. 

Baltic granaries are made from interwoven logs, like this Latvian klēts:

You can see that this is basically a raises log cabin. I have already written in my post "Log cabin" that this type of house construction was brought to Baltic by Slavs. So the name for these structures must also have been brought to Baltic by Slavs and that Latvian klēts, Lithuanian klė́tis, Old Prussian clenan have Slavic origin. And guess what. Before Slavs the log cabins were in central Europe built by Celts. 

And in Irish, a Celtic language, we find a whole cluster of words based on the base word "cleath" meaning stick, pole. 

cleath, -eithe, -eatha, f., a goad, a wattle, pole, stake; a fishing-rod.
cleath thiomána, a goad.
cleath-ailpín, a short stick with a knob.
cleathach, -aighe, a., ribbed, composed of wattle-work (cage, basket, granary).
cleathar, -air, pl. id., m., a stake, a pole; a pile or post; fig., a prince, a chief.
cleatharáil, -ála, f., a severe beating, a dressing, a flogging.
cleath-chur, m., a planting of trees; hence the correlative or collateral branches of a pedigree 

Which means that the original name for these structures was Celtic cleathach based on the root cleath meaning a goad, a wattle, pole, stake, the building material used for making wooden shacks, both log cabins and wattle and daub ones.

Everything fits perfectly.

Well almost. But more about this in my next post :)


  1. Interesting associations... It calls to mind the Irish word for switch, goad, wattle, fishing rod, etc. "slat". Although not mentioned in the Irish-English Dictionary you linked to above (thank you for that!), another meaning/association I've found connected to the root word "slat" is "slatara"... also relating to a switch, but implying one could withstand a good beating (sometimes translated as "strong"). Above, "cleatharáil" is translated as "a severe beating." I'm really curious now... what's the association here between these two root words? And they appear so different... Both words Celtic in origin? If so, then why the need for two words to refer to something as simple as a switch or pole?

  2. exists two different roots of words:ć
    andąć with a nasal vowel (lost except lekhitic group)

  3. The next root is: "klejati" (to glue), "klьpěti" (to clap), "lьpěti" (to stick), "lьgnąti" (to cling). They all mean connection, closeness, application.
    Strange couple: glina = clay, klej = glue, what was the direction of borrowing?