Monday 17 July 2017

Kolac - Golac

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.
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 

When, after this post was published, someone asked me why I believe that this word has come from Irish into Serbian I replied: 

"Because I couldn't find the base word in South Slavic languages that could give the rise to the above word cluster. You find the root words, you find the origin of all the derived words."

Now this is a great example of what happens when one gets struck with a sudden onset of acute blindness, deafness and dumbness. 


Because there actually is a word in Serbian which can give the rise to the above cluster.

That word is "kolac" pronounced "kolats". The word means "stick, stake, pole". 

Serbian Kolac is the exact cognate of Irish "Cleath". The pronunciation is slightly different but the root is the same "klt".

The thing is Kolac is not the actual root word in Serbian. The root word is actually "kol". 

kol, kolj, kalj - stake
kolje - stakes
kolina - large stake.
kolinec, kolje - young forest.
koljenika - spindle

In Gaelic (Irish and Scots) we have these words for stake and pilar:

cuaille, g. id., pl. -acha (cuailne), f., a stake, a pole, a club, a baton; do bhuail sé an ch. comhraic, he brandished the battle-staff; cuaille fir, a tall, slender man;

gallan - pilar, standing stone (Originally people used standing wooden totem and demarcation poles which were only much later replaced with standing stones)

In Danish the word "Kølle" means hockey stick, golf club, baton, nightstick, (slang) penis

These words sound very much like kol, gol which are the root words for kolac, golac. I believe that these words have the same root.  

And that the root comes from Serbian.


This is why. What is the difference between a branch, a sapling and a stick, a stake, a pole? Well, stick, stake, pole are stripped of side branches and leaves. They are made bare, naked. 

Serbian word for naked, bare is "go, gol". This word is the root word of a whole cluster of words:

go, gol, golahan - naked
golać - naked
puž golać - slug
goleti - strip (of clothes, of branches, of vegetation)
ogoleti - make bare, make naked
golet - land stripped of vegetation
golja - poor person, someone who has nothing

If you take a branch and you strip it bare of branches and leaves, if you make it "gol" (bare, naked) you get "kol" (stick, stake, pole). 

I talked about this morphing of the "g" into "k" in my post "Koleno - goleno". There I talked about the Serbian word for knee = koljeno, koleno, kaljen, kalino, kolino, golino which comes from the word "goleno" meaning "naked, bared". 

In my post "Klet" I talked about another South Slavic word "klet, klijet" which means "wooden hut made from poles, logs, sticks". In other Slavic languages and in Baltic languages, this word means a shack, but also more narrowly granary, basket, cage...

Baskets (klet) are made from sticks (kolje) which are branches which were stripped of their leaves, which were made bare (gole) 

The early granaries were basically raised baskets made from sticks, like these primitive granaries from California. 

Which later developed into wattle granaries, like these ones from the Balkans:

And also houses made using wattle and daub technique. 

"Wattling" is a way of building walls by weaving sticks in and out of upright posts. "Daubing" is the method used to weather proof these stick walls using mud or mud mixed with hay. 

Wattle and daub technique was certainly used in Europe in Bronze Age, around 3000 years ago but it could be much older. And it continued to be the main house building technique in continental European villages until very recently.

The second main house, barn building technique in continental European villages was a log cabin, a shack made from interwoven logs, like this Latvian klēts:

These logs are tree trunks which were stripped of the branches and leaves (gol). In Serbian, apart from the word "kol" meaning stick, stake, pole, we also have a word "klada" which means log. This word also comes from the word "gol" meaning "naked, bare". Klada (log) is what bearing, stripping of a tree of its branches and leaves gives us. In Serbian this is "gol + da" = bear, naked + gives...

What happens when you strip branch, sapling of its branches and leaves is that you turn a bushy branch into a smooth stick, stake pole. In Serbian the word for smooth is "gladak".  This word has its cognate in all Slavic languages, but also in Baltic languages, Germanic languages and Latin. But not in Celtic languages. I believe that this word comes from the same root "gol" meaning bare, naked and not from Proto-Indo-European *gʰelh₂- (“to shine”). Shininess is a consequence of smoothness which is a consequence of bareness, nakedness. Incidentally the Serbian word "gol" (naked) comes from Proto-Indo-European *galw- (*kalw- ) meaning naked, bare. There are words in Indoiranian, Baltic, Slavic, Italic and Germanic languages based on this root. But not in Celtic...

In my post "Klet" I pointed at the fact that Latvian klēts, Lithuanian klė́tis, Old Prussian clenan are basically raised log cabins. I mentioned that I have already written in my post "Log cabin" that this type of house construction was brought to Baltic by Slavs. So I concluded the name for these structures must also have been brought to Baltic by Slavs. 

Now that we know about the "kol" (stake) and "gol" (naked) root there is no doubt any more that these words are indeed of Slavic origin. 

But then I said that before Slavs the log cabins were in central Europe built by Celts. Which means that the original name for these structures was Celtic "cleathach" based on the root "cleath" meaning a goad, a wattle, pole, stake, which I already mentioned above.

Well, was it? Or was it the other way round? :) Are these Irish words based on Serbian (Slavic) words "kol" (stick, stake, pole) and "kolje" (sticks, stakes, poles)?

I am glad the attack of blindness, deafness and dumbness was just temporary...


  1. Iz kolac nastaje I klin,klinac(mali kolac)...
    Kada posadimo seme,iz njegove KLice,prokl-ija(prokl-etije) stOBLO,odnosno KOLOac. Moje je misljenje da je mozda I kOLO nastalo bas od tog obicaja,O-kretnja OKO,tog kolca,prilikom kog su se mozda I izgovarale,pevale,drale,jaukale ciukale...neke magijske reci,ili OR(O)ile-(OR(O)atio)...
    Kada covek uzme ralo(kolac) I volove,da OR(O)e zemlju,posle toga sa svojim drugovima orachima zaigra k-OLO-ORO,pa se zaori ili zaore I celo nebo da Perun,baci g(O)ROm,da krene kisha...znaci da je to bio neki dokon narod koji se stalno vrteo u krug,kolut-neki KOLUTI!😂
    Vas rad podstice ljude na razmisljanje...

  2. Have you investigated the origin of the word 'Europe'? Apparently etymology in question, and one source I read thought it was related to 'yew' tree.

  3. Hi there.
    I just discovered your blog and it has some interesting posts...although the goal is quite ambitious, good luck on that journey! You might discover something very valuable.
    I was wondering if you could do a little research on a word, maybe? The word is 'dobitoc', meaning 'animal'. I find it interesting that the Japanese, for example, have the word 'dobutsu', which seems very close to the European any case, if you could write an article on this topic, it would be very interesting to all.

    1. I doubt there is any connection. Japanese Dobutsu is a compound word. "Do" means "Move", and "Butsu" simply means "Thing". Do-butsu means "a thing that moves".

  4. I speak Ukrainian and Russian. In Russian they do have "kol" and "klet" in the meanings you write about, but in Ukraiian "kol" is called "palia" and "klet" is not used. At the same time archeologists find some celtic artefacts in western Ukraine but I cant find any information about same things on the territory of Russia. I dont know if it can be an argument, but it is also possible that "kol" is a slavonic root.

    1. This is exactly what I am saying. But how did this root end up in Irish, a Celtic language, and when?

    2. Palia has the same root as English Pole. From Middle English pole, pal, from Old English pāl (“a pole, stake, post; a kind of hoe or spade”), from Proto-Germanic *palaz, *pālaz (“pole”), from Latin pālus (“stake, pale, prop, stay”) from Old Latin *paglus

  5. "kol, kyjь" (stake, stick) is cognate to old irish "cellach" (strife) comes from "kolti, kovati" (prick, beat/forge) and there are rather no links witch "gol" (bald/naked/callow), "goliti" (shave), "gladiti" (to smooth), "glazъ" (smooth stone) of which we have irish "gloine" (glass)