Ancient European River Names – Do their Names Derive From African Languages? (Part 2)

https://i0.wp.com/thumb7.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/1666885/210316285/stock-photo-the-river-saar-in-germany-passes-along-a-forest-and-farming-fields-210316285.jpg

Above: River Saar, Germany

 

In my previous post I looked at the similarities between the names of various European rivers (whose names are believed to be thousands of years old), and their close resemblance to words for ‘river’ in a number of African languages.

In today’s post I continue this theme.

Here are several other similar-sounding river names from across Europe with ancient origins:-

  • Soar (England)

  • Soar, formerly known as Saravus (Belgium)

  • Serre, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Cère, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Séran, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Saurunz, formerly known as Serantia (Alsace, France)

  • Schremm, formerly known as Serma (Germany)

  • Sorgwm [Welsh for “Sor Valley“], (Wales)

  • Zorn, formerly known as Sorna (Alsace, France)

  • Saire, formerly known as Sara (Normandy, France)

  • Saar(e) (Brandenburg, Germany)

  • Sar, formerly known as Saros (Spain)

  • Serio, formerly known as Sarius (Lombardy, Italy)

  • Sarià (Lithuania)

  • Saar, formerly known as Saravus (Germany)

  • Sernf, formerly known as Sarnivos? (Switzerland)

Linguists have postulated a Proto-Indo European root *ser-, “to flow”, as a common origin for these names.

As usual, the linguists didn’t care to have a look further south in Africa for languages with potentially related words.

  • sɛ́rɛ́word for “river” in Northern Maa [north Kenya – eastern Nilotic languages];

  • Suriword for “river” in Dazaga [north Chad – Saharan languages];

  • Suri – word for “river” in Tedaga [north Chad – Saharan languages];

Both of the above resemble the word ‘isuri’ [“to pour, spill, flow”] from the Basque language of south-western Europe.

  • Soura River (NW Africa – links Atlas Mountains to the lakes in the Ahnet-Movydir basin);

  • Asuwaword for “stream” in Twi [Ghana – Kwa languages, Tano subgroup of Niger-Congo languages];

    UPDATED 4/12/16

However, the closest resemblance of all [especially in light of the word ‘isuri’ meaning ‘to flow’ etc. in the Basque language of south-western Europe] can be seen in the Ijoid languages of Nigeria, and words meaning “to flow” in various languages of that group, several of which are IDENTICAL to the Basque word:-

“FLOW” (V.I.)
Defaka
NK           sérí
BD
Ịbanị       sírí
Kalaba    sérí
ri
BL
KI             sérí
NE           seri
AK           iheri
BU           isérí
OP
OY           iseri
ET
EO           isórí
BA
KL
AP           isórí
ID            sori
OG           sori
GM
EG
WO
FU            sori
AR            sori
OB            seri
OT
OE            sʊɔ, serí 
ME           sʊɔ, serí 
KU            sérí
KB            serií
WT           serí
ON
IK             súɔ, sérí súɔ
EK            serí
KO            sérí sʊɔ́ 
GB            sérí sʊɔ́ 
OR            sʊɔ́ ɓéni
AT             
BI              

 

Ancient European River Names – Their Origin Might Be From An African Language

Above:  The Isère river running through Grenoble in southeastern France.

There are several rivers across Europe with names which clearly have a similar origin.  The origin of these rivers’ names has been postulated to be either pre-Indo European (and later absorbed by Indo European language speakers); or alternatively from a reconstructed Indo European root.  

These are derived from the old river name ‘Isar’ and include the following:-

  • Isar river [Germany];

  • Isère river [France];

  • Yser river [France/Belgium];

  • Isara river (original name for the Oise) [France];

  • Yzeron river [France];

  • Ézaro river [Spain];

  • Ézara river [Spain];

  • Iseran river [France];

  • Esaro river [Italy];

  • Eisack river [Italy];

  • Isières river [Belgium];

  • Izarillo river [Spain];

  • Éisra and Istrà [Lithuania];

  • Jizera [Czech Republic];

[there are some others also]

These river names resemble the Basque word ‘isuri‘ [“to pour, spill, flow”] which seems to not have been noticed.

However, I also don’t think anyone bothered to look at African languages to see if there might be a relationship with the above European river names.  If they had done so, then they might have noticed the following:-

  • Just like in Basque, the word for ‘to flow’ in several of the Ijoid languages of Nigeria is “iseri“;

  • The word for ‘stream’ in Idũ [Koro cluster, Plateau languages of Nigeria] is: “ìzɛ̃rĩ̀“;

  • The Songhai word for ‘river’ is: “Isa;

  • The Tarifiyt Berber word for ‘river’ is: “Iɣzā;

  • The Toro Tegu (Dogon languages) word for ‘stream’ is: “ísà;

  • The Edo word for ‘river’ is: “Eze;

[There are undoubtedly others which I haven’t found yet].

I will be looking at the possible African origins of other examples of ancient European hydonymy and toponymy in future posts.