Armenian Language Corner


There are people who are in favor of evolutionary change, while others are prone to revolutionary change. After years of waiting for an “evolutionary” change that never arrived, the citizens of Armenia spoke up and the recent political upheaval became the “Velvet Revolution,” an exemplary series of peaceful demonstrations that led to the change of government and a new atmosphere of freedom and hope.

In English, the difference of one letter in the pair “revolution”-“evolution” indicates their common source, as well as their common meaning. The former originates from Latin revolutio, meaning “the act of revolving, rolling” and the latter, from Latin evolutio “unrolling.”

Their Armenian counterparts, curiously, are also separated by one letter. We have two different pairs:


Revolution                                                          Evolution

յեղափոխութիւն (heghapokhootioon)         եղափոխութիւն (yeghapokhootioon)

յեղաշրջում (heghashurchoom)                     եղաշրջում (yeghashurchoom)


(Additionally, we have a third word for “evolution”: բնաշրջում / punashurchoom)


The Armenian pair, however, is a compound word: hegh + pokh + ootioon (suffix) and yegh + pokh + ootioon. It should be noted that the letter յ sounded “y” in Classical Armenian, and ե sound “e”; then, it was originally yeghapokhootioon and eghapokhootioon.

Interestingly, enough, while the English pair revolves (pun intended) around the concept of rolling, the Armenian pair derives from a Proto-Indo-European root, *g’el, meaning “to turn.” However, they modified their meaning over time, which became “change,” exactly the concept behind both revolution and evolution. Both hegh and yegh are primary and secondary forms of the same root, and, thus, the words are formed by a duplication of the same meaning, since pokh is the root of the verb փոխել (pokhel) “change.”

To sum up, people in Armenia were not simply asking to turn around the same tune, but… to change the tune.