Armenian Language Corner


What does a hat have in common with a prisoner? What about haggling and defaming?

There is a little word in Armenian that means “projectile,” արկ (arg), and it is essentially used in a military context. More importantly, it is the origin of many words commonly used today. The word arg, of Iranian origin, was never used alone in Classical Armenian, but became the root of the verb արկանել (arganel) “to throw.” Instead, it developed lots of different meanings (“to introduce,” “to spread,” “to take out,” “to ascribe”), and this is how we came out with words like արկած (argadz “accident”), ակնարկել (agnargel “to allude”), առարկայ (ararga “object”), ձեռնարկել (tzernargel “to undertake”), թուարկութիւն (tuvargootioon “enumeration”), et cetera. You have here interesting compound words like agnargel literally means “to throw an eye” (agn “eye” + arg “throw”), tzernargel “to throw a hand” (tzern/tzerk “hand” + arg “throw”), tuvargootioon “throwing numbers” (tiv “number” + arg “throw”).

More meanings developed after the word, including “to fill,” “to cover,” “animal’s skin,” “to build,” and further words came up, such as վերարկու (verargoo “coat”), literally meaning “to throw upon”; գլխարկ (kulkharg “hat”), namely, “to throw [on the] head”; յարկ (harg “building; floor, story”), which combines ի (i “place”) and արկ (arg). (*)

Here we have “hat” (գլխարկ/kulkharg) and “prisoner” (բանտարկեալ/pandargeal), which means “thrown [into] jail.” We also have “haggling” (սակարկութիւն/ (sagargootioon) and “defaming” (անուանարկութիւն/anvanargootioon), where sagargootioon means “to throw a price” and anvanargootioon means “to throw [down] a name.”

We are far from exhausting the list of words where “throwing” has a role. This will be matter for another column in the future.

(*) The preposition ի (i), when combined with a vowel, became յ, which sounded y in Classical Armenian, and today sounds h at the beginning of a word.

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