cot and catre

Because English cot and Spanish catre sound similar and mean the same thing, it’s natural to wonder if one of the languages borrowed from the other. The answer is no, but the words are indeed related. Spanish took catre from Portuguese, which had taken it from kattil, a word in the Tamil language that is spoken on the eastern side of the southern tip of India and in Sri Lanka. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the Tamil verb kattu meant ‘to bind, tie,’ a reference to the way that simple beds were held together. The Tamil word gave rise to Sanskrit khatva, and that in turn to Hindi khat, which is the form that English borrowed as cot when the British first went to India in the 1600s.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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