Armenian Language Corner

The “Art” of “Ironing” Out the Issues for the Sake of “Justice”

Would you ever think that the English word “art” is related to the Armenian word for “iron”? For once, art and artug (արդուկ “handheld implement to smooth clothes”) sound similar and have a relationship. In the same way, artug and artarutiun (արդարութիւն “justice”) are also related.

You will probably ask in your most casual way: “Stop. Are you kidding me?”

No, it is not a joke. As many times in the past, we go once and again to the fact that both Armenian and English are Indo-European languages, and thus, they share some common vocabulary, which may produce either similar words with a similar meaning or, in this case, words with a totally disparate meaning.

Of course, like so much English vocabulary, “art” derives from Old French art , and like so much French vocabulary, the source was a Latin word, artem (you may be familiar with the nominative form, ars, as in ars nova “new art”), meaning “work of art; practical skill; a business, craft.” The Latin word itself stemmed from a Proto-Indo-European word, * ar(ə)-ti -, whose root was *ar (“to fit together”). To have a skill is to be able to fit something together, right?

The root for the Latin word was also the source for the Sanskrit word rtih (“manner, mode”) and the Greek ártus (“order”), among others. Among those “others” was the Armenian word արդ (Classical/Eastern Armenian ard, Western Armenian art ), with a wide collection of meanings: “manner, mode, order, form, done work, production.” This Armenian term left a very prolific set of derivations, both at the beginning and at the end of words (such as the interesting compound word խորանարդ / khoranart “cube,” which literally means “that has the form (art ) of an altar (khoran )”).

After you wash a shirt, you need to give “form” and “order” to the clean, but yet wrinkled piece of cloth. You need an artug to do that.

What about artarutiun? This is even clearer. Justice is the way to make a decision about those issues that have turned to be against established order. Therefore, justice is called to establish “order.”