Saturday, 19 July 2014


Located at the top of the heavens the stars of the two bear-constellations, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, never set, i.e., they never disappear below the horizon, they are always visible in the night sky, all night, every night, throughout the year. One of these stars, Polaris, the Pole Star in Ursa Minor, appears to stand still making it a good reference point for navigators at sea to identify, while the other stars in these two constellations, called circumpolar stars, revolve around it.


The Ursa of Ursa Major is from the Indo-European root *rtko, 'Bear'. Derivatives: arctic (meaning north from Latin arcticus, from Greek arktikos), ursine (bear-like), from Latin ursus, Greek arktos. [Pokorny rktho-s875. Watkins]. 


In the northern branches of the Indo-European languages, the name of the bear was subject to a taboo and there was a proliferation of euphemisms; 'honey-licker', 'honey eater', 'shaggy', etc. The word for bear in Russian is 'medved', and the same in Czech. In Polish, bear is a similar word 'niedzwiedz', and in Old Church Slavonic, bear is 'medvedi'. All of these words mean something like 'honey-eater' and are derived from the common Slavic words 'medu' = 'honey' (PIE *medhu-, from which we also get the English word 'mead', an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water) plus 'ed-' = 'eat' [2]. Our word bear2appears to be another taboo term, from Dutch 'bruin', meaning 'the brown one', French 'brun' and 'brunette'. Related to the Norse name Bjorn, and place-names BerlinBerne

Our word bear, the animal, comes from the Indo-European root *bher2, 'Bright, brown.' Derivatives: brown(one meaning of brown was 'shining', and it was often used to describe swords in Old English poetry), bruin(a bear), Bruno (name), brunetburnetburnish (meant to make something brown.), from Old French brun, shining, brown, beaver (a semiaquatic rodent noted for felling trees to build dams and partially submerged dens called lodges), Bernard (name, 'bold bear'), bear² (the animal), from Old English bera, bear, from Germanic *ber, 'the brown animal'), berserker, from Old Norse björn, bear, from Germanic *bernuz. [Pokorny 5. bher- 136.]


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