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This part is independently ministered by our German colleagues from Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Professor Hans Sauer and Ulrike Krischke.

We use the term ‘etymology’ as a cover for several related aspects, which have distinct subheadings, namely {A} etymology; {B} morphology, especially word-formation, and {C} semantic structure plus motivation.

  • Ad {A}: ‘Etymology’ is here understood in the stricter sense, that is, the age and origin of the plant-name in question is given, whether it is of Indo-European (IE), Germanic (Gmc), West-Germanic (WGmc) or Old English (OE) origin. Furthermore we indicate whether a plant-name is a loan-word or a loan-formation. Under āc, for example, the information is given that it is a Germanic (Gmc) word; under candelwyrt it is stated that it is an Old English formation and also a loan-translation.
  • Ad {B}: Under the heading ‘word-formation’ we deal with the morphologic shape of the name, e.g. with the distinction between morphologically simple and morphologically complex words. Thus āc is explained as a simplex, i.e. as a monomorphemic word with no synchronically recognizable internal structure. Candelwyrt, on the other hand, is labelled as a noun/noun compound.
  • Ad {C}: The headings ‘semantics’ and ‘motivation’ mainly concern complex words: Here we try to elucidate the relation between the elements as well as the motivation of the name. Morphologically simplex words such as āc normally also do not have a motivation or a semantic structure, at least not a synchronic one. A complex word such as candelwyrt is explained according to the formula ‘B (plant, wyrt) resembles A (a candle), i.e. here we have the relation of resemblance, or a comparison of the plant to something else. We also make a distinction as to whether the second element refers to a plant (as in candelwyrt, lit. ‘candle-plant’), to a part of a plant (as in æscæppel ‘service-tree’, lit. ‘ash-apple’), or to neither (as in foxes glōfa ‘foxglove’, lit. ‘fox-glove’). In the second case (æscæppel) there is often a metonymic relation, i.e. a part or the product of the plant stands for the entire plant; in the third case there is often a metaphoric relation, i.e. the plant or a part of it is compared to something else. Thus the formula for foxes glōfa could be ‘X (plant) resembles AB (i.e. a fox’s glove)’, which perhaps originated as a humorous coinage. In any case we therefore get two subtypes of comparison, namely ‘B (plant) resembles A’ (as with candelwyrt), which we call partial metaphor, and ‘X (plant) resembles AB’ (as with foxes glōfa), which we call total metaphor. Other motivations and relations include, e.g.: the colour of the plant (or a part of it such as its flower or its fruit), as in brūn-wyrt ‘brown back’ or ‘hart’s tongue’, lit. ‘brown plant, brownwort’ (this relation is frequent with adjective/noun compounds and combinations; formula: ‘B [plant] is A’), or its place of growth (habitat), as in brōcminte ‘watermint’ or ‘horsemint’, lit. ‘brookmint’ (formula: ‘B [plant] grows in/at/near A’), etc.
    Under the headings ‘etymology’ and ‘word-formation’ we only give a brief and formulaic classification. This has the advantage that the user can start different searches, e.g., for all OE plant-names of Indo-European origin, or for all loan-translations, or combined searches, e.g. for all noun/noun compounds which are loan-formations based on Latin models. If the plant-names in question require further discussion, we add the sections ‘Etymology-Comment’ and ‘Word-Formation-Comment’. Under the former we indicate, for example, the reconstructed IE or Gmc form as well as cognates in other languages (The sequence of cognates follows that of the OED.); also, if an Old English simple name was (certainly or possibly) complex at an earlier stage. Thus æspe ‘poplar’ (G ‘Espe‘) is a simplex in Old English, but originally (i.e. in Indo-European) it may have been an onomatopoeic formation, based on the famous whispering of the poplars (cf. Biggam 2003,204ff.).