Armenian Language Corner

Three Words of the Twenty-First Century

It is very difficult to keep pace with the novelties of language, especially these days. Most current English-Armenian dictionaries do not help us in our search for the Armenian equivalents of very new words. Sometimes the Internet may give you a clue, but it can also mislead you, if you lack enough criteria to decide whether this or that translation is the real thing.

Say, Internet. If you think by logic, you would say that the Armenian equivalent might be michtsants (միջցանց), with mich “inter” and tsants “net.” In the 90s, when the Internet explosion started worldwide, some people used this translation in the Armenian press. However, neologisms (newly invented words) have a life of their own; some people like them, while others do not. For a few years, different words were used, until hamatsants (համացանց) came out in the prestigious daily Haratch of Paris around 1996 or 1997, and it picked traction. It was not a literal translation, but was easier to pronounce than michtsants and gave the idea of a worldwide tool. It literally means “all-net” or “netwide”: hama “all,” as in hamamerigian (համամերիկեան “all-American”), and tsants “net.”

Another similar example is online. The literal translation would be something like verakidz (վերագիծ), with ver “on” and kidz “line.” However, it was never ever attempted. One day, in the early 2000s, the Armenian translation appeared in Eastern Armenian websites and became most common: artsants (առցանց). It means “at” (ar, a prefix that has many different meanings) the “net” (tsants). Again, it was not grounded in a literal translation, but followed the logic of the language: to be online is to be on (“at”) the Net, right?

Since we mentioned it above, the final word should be website. It is another term that had many different attempts at translation in the 90s, until the best translation appeared again in the daily Haratch of Paris in 1998: gaykech (կայքէջ). It was formed by the combination of gayk (“place, site”) and ech (“page”), and expressed very well a solution of its own. Sometimes it is even used in the shortened form gayk (կայք), but of course you need to have the context to realize that you are talking about a website and not any other kind of site.