The Universe of Discourse


Sun, 18 Dec 2022

Minor etymological victory

A few days ago I was thinking about Rosneft (Росне́фть), the Russian national oil company. The “Ros” is obviously short for Rossiya, the Russian word for Russia, but what is neft?

“Hmm,” I wondered. “Maybe it is akin to naphtha?”

Yes! Ultimately both words are from Persian naft, which is the Old Persian word for petroleum. Then the Greeks borrowed it as νάφθα (naphtha) and the Russians, via Turkish. Petroleum is neft in many other languages, not just the ones you would expect like Azeri, Dari, and Turkmen., but also Finnish, French, Hebrew, and Japanese.

Sometimes I guess this stuff and it's just wrong, but it's fun when I get it right. I love puzzles!


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