It's Wordhord Wednesday #50 and in honour of the occasion, I've decided to make this particular post accessible to all. Thank you so much to each and every goldgifa who has supported my work over the past 50 weeks. I'm hoping to devote even more time to Wordhord things in the future and you guys make this possible. Now on to today's post...
The word 'pearl' is very similar in different languages across Europe: perla (Czech, Icelandic, Italian, Polish, Spanish), perle (Danish, German, French, Norwegian), perlog (Welsh), pärla (Swedish), parel (Dutch), etc. Old English words are often quite similar to words in modern German, Icelandic, and Dutch, so I was surprised to learn that the OE word for pearl is mere-grota.
The OE word for 'pearl' is mere-grota, from Latin margarita. We have μαργαριτάρι (margaritári) in Greek and margaritar in Albanian... but this form of 'pearl' is far less common it seems. I never thought much about the Latin word, but seeing it in OE made me realise the logic of the name: mere (water, lake, sea) + grot (a particle, atom; compare to modern English 'grit').
Mere-grota appears in the Old English Wonders of the East, a fascinating text with griffins, two-headed snakes, gold-gathering ants, and many other marvellous creatures. On an unnamed island there is a sun temple with a golden vineyard.
Ðonne is gylde wingeard æt sunnan upgange se hafað berian hundteontiges fotmæla lange & fiftiges. On ðam bergean beoð cende swylce meregrota oððe gymmas.
Then there is a golden vineyard in the direction of the rising sun that has grapes 150-feet tall. From these grapes are brought forth many pearls or gems.
I can't quite imagine what that means -- perhaps the seeds are pearls or gems? With grapes like that, I'd definitely stop paying more for the seedless ones.