The question to Mrs Hamel, that she kindly forwarded to Professor Vennemann :


I appreciated a lot your article about Vascon published in "Pour la Science" and I had a question related to the name of the city of Paris.

As you surely know, the name of Paris comes from the name of the gaulic tribe of the Parisii, and the name of the tribe is supposed to come from the gaulic word paryo, coming itself from the indo-european *kweryos meaning cauldron. I read from a few sources that this interpretation is highly questionable and wonder if the name could in fact come from the vascon ibar.

I am not a linguist, and don't know if a vascon "b" could turn into a gaulic "p" but I found the similarity interesting enough to contact you.

Looking forward to reading you,

Best regards,

Daniel Glazman

The answer :

Dear Mr. Glazman:

Thank you for the friendly letter addressed to Mrs. Hamel.

The traditional etymology proposed for the name of the Parisii is indeed not very satisfactory, and there is a general theory about the origin of tribal names, albeit issued by a toponomast held in low repute by most contemporaries, Hans Bahlow, according to which a goodly part of those names derive from toponyms, including e.g. that of the Franks and that of the Swabians. The name element "bar-" is frequent in European hydronyms, and the name of a river flowing a few miles from my village, "Paar", from older "Baraha"(*), i.e.  "Bar-aha", meaning 'Bar river', suggests a hydronymic significance of "bar-", cf. "Ur-ach" (I believe that one is in the article) and others. The loss of initial vowels (called aphaeresis/apheresis by linguists), in your etymology "ibar-" > "bar-", is not uncommon, and missing the exact voice quality of a foreign sound in loan-word adaptation, in your etymology "p-" for "b-", is not either. The "-is-" of "Parisii" (if morphologically "Par-is-i-i") could be the frequent river-name termination, identical with the reconstructible Basque "is-" '(body of) water'. Names possibly deriving from *"Barisa" (e.g. "Berese", now "Beerze", in Brabant) could be investigated (which I have not done); *"Barisa" would be a potential source of *"Baris-i-", and perhaps then, with a Latinizing termination, of "Parisi-i".

So yours is a workable and, indeed, ingenious hypothesis. But, as I have pointed out, it is not an obvious one, because two auxiliary assumptions are required. But this may be compensated by a better semantic fit than in the traditional etymology.

Sorry I have no better news than this.

With best regards,

Theo Vennemann.

17 November 2002

e-Copy to Mrs. Elisabeth Hamel. (Hallo, Frau Hamel!)

(*) With a regular South German sound change "b" > "p".

:-) :-) :-)