Armenian Language Corner

This Check Does Not Get Paid in the Bank

Checks have expanded over the world since their concept was created in the eighteenth century, and the word check has gone along. We also use the foreign word չէք (chek) in Armenian, even though the word վճարագիր (vujarakir) has been invented to convey that concept (from վճարել/ vujarel “to pay” and գիր/kir “letter,” namely, “letter of payment”).

Interestingly, however, there is another word չէք (chek) in Armenian, which seems to have the same meaning, but actually does not. You find it, for instance, when you pay a commission. The word միջնորդչէք (michnortchek “commission”) is composed by the words միջնորդ (michnort “middleman”) and չէք (chek). Doesn’t it mean a check paid to a middleman?

No, it does not. You can pay in cash too. The word simply means “payment” or “gift,” and it is not a foreign word.

Its origin may be traced back to Classical Armenian and the suffix չեայ (cheay). The double sound այ (ay) turned into է (e) in colloquial language, especially before the plural suffix ք (ք). Thus, այք (ay) became էք (ek), and for instance երեխայք (yerekhayk) in popular language –you can find it today in Eastern Armenian—became երեխէք (yerekhek).

By the same token, a word like առհաւատչեայք (arhavadcheayk “guarantees”) became առհաւատչէք (arhavadchek), with the sound ե (e in Classical Armenian) subsumed into the է (a long e in Classical Armenian). This is how the suffix չէք (chek) developed, with the meaning of “payment” or “present.”

For example, the abovementioned michnortchek developed in Modern Armenian together with words like կարողչէք (garoghchek “sewer’s payment”), տանողչէք (danoghchek “carrier’s payment”) or շինողչէք (shinoghchek “builder’s payment”) among many other similar terms. You even have a word for a gift of New Year: Կաղանդչէք (Gaghantchek).

Of course, it may happen that you receive a check as Gaghantchek. In that case, you will go and deposit it. Otherwise, the banks have nothing to do with that… chek