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-therium & deer



The English word "deer" and its cognates in the other Germanic
languages (German "Tier," Icelandic "dyr," etc.), meaning "animal"
or "wild animal" (with a more restricted meaning in English), seem
to go back to a different Indo-European root (*dhus-) than does Greek
ther/therion or Latin ferus.  *dhus- seems to have the basic meaning
of "to breathe."  The new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary
under "deer" says "Not connected with Greek _ther_ wild beast."  
Cf. also Alexander Johannesson, _Islaendisches Etymologisches
Woerterbuch_ (Bern, 1951-56), 507f.; _Deutsches Woerterbuch von Jacob
Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm_ rev. by Matthias Lexer et al. (Leipzig, 1935)
under "Thier, Tier."

Apparently the Icelandic word applies especially to deerlike animals,
so the English development of the word isn't too strange.  Shakespeare
still has the original sense in _King Lear_ "But Mice, and Rats, and
such small Deer, have been Tom's food, for seven long year."

George Pesely           <peselyg@apsu01.apsu.edu>
Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee
via telnet from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign