Galardón may deserve a galardón, i.e. ‘a reward, a recompense,’ for having changed so much from its ultimate source. Formerly gualardón, the word was borrowed, or more accurately garbled, from a Germanic form like *withralaun, which meant ‘recompense.’ To find the corresponding English term, we begin with the Old High German cognate widarlōn, a compound of widar ‘back, against,’ and lōn ‘reward.’ The first part is a cognate of native English with, which preserves its original sense in verbs like withhold and withstand and in a statement like “He got so angry at his boss that he fought with him.” Medieval Latin adopted the Old High German term as widerdōnum, with the change from l to d due to influence from Latin dōnum ‘gift.’ Old French borrowed the Latin word and ended up phonetically simplifying it to guerdon, which then passed into English. Granted, guerdon is an uncommon word and rarely found outside old or old-fashioned writing.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Dec 29, 2018 @ 09:29:12

    I’ve come across ‘Guerdon’ as a name of individuals or companies. One that comes to mind is Guerdon Trueblood, who mostly did television screenwriting, although he has other credits.

    Another interesting word is one I’ve only heard in older literature. An example is Portia’s exchange with Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar:

    “I grant I am a woman, but withal
    A woman that Lord Brutus took to wife.
    I grant I am a woman, but withal
    A woman well-reputed, Cato’s daughter.”

    After some digging, I decided ‘withal’ probably isn’t related to ‘withstand’ or ‘withhold’, but after I read that ‘withal’ could be used instead of ‘nevertheless,’ it seemed as though the sense of opposition was there. What say you?


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 29, 2018 @ 09:46:52

      Withal is just a conglomeration of with + all, meaning ‘with all [that],’ so it does indeed incorporate the same first element as withstand and does convey a sense of opposition. We can imagine someone saying in modern English: “With all she’s done for you, you haven’t shown much gratitude.”

      I never heard of Guerdon Trueblood. What a name, and even more so his full name: Guerdon Saltowstall Trueblood. There’s almost no chance anyone would ever confuse him with someone else.


  2. Maria
    Jan 16, 2019 @ 00:55:09

    This is incredible. I couldn’t believe this word descended from a Germanic form.

    Most of what I can think of as a reason may be the Germanic tribes invasion of Spain in the late third century AD when the Roman Empire was showing signs of its coming collapse. In 410 AD, the Suevi and the Vandals, other Germanic tribes, were forced into the Iberian Peninsula because the Huns were displacing them in Europe. These were followed by the Visigoths. They were the western branches of the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples referred to collectively as the Goths. These tribes flourished and spread throughout the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or what is known as the Migration Period

    This is a great animated GIF illustrating the Yamnaya culture, the habitants of the region where the Proto-Indo-European language emerged and developed:


    • Maria
      Jan 16, 2019 @ 01:14:26

      The Yamnaya culture was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region dating to 3300–2600 BC. They are known to have also invaded Spain:


      • Steve Schwartzman
        Jan 16, 2019 @ 06:59:18

        Thanks for that link. This is the first I’ve heard of the Yamna culture and its great influence on the Iberian Peninsula. I’m impressed with how much scholars keep figuring out about ancient history.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jan 16, 2019 @ 06:56:24

      My impression is that most people, especially outside Spain, don’t know about the Germanic influence on the Spanish language. It’s hiding in plain sight, so to speak, in Spanish-language names of Germanic origin, including for example Guitiérrez, Guillermo, Ramón, Armando, Rodríguez, and Roberto.


      • Maria
        Jan 16, 2019 @ 09:06:15

        It’s hard to believe too. There’s probably a misconception about time references. I had to read up on the the Yamnaya culture to understand the origin of Proto-Indo-European languages dating from 3300–2600 BC. There’s a gross misconception that Latin came first. Old Latin was found as far back as 600 BC but Proto-Indo-European languages were in use before then.


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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