Is it permissable to inquire about the etymology of uncertain German words, in principle, if there's a reasonable Latin connection to persue?

In principle it seems to be a judgement call, whether it's better suited to this venue, Ger.SE or perhaps ling.SE for etymologies with a wider/deeper impact than any single language. Hence I should seek approval, or advice to formulating the question appropriately.

I have two examples, and in both cases there's the subliminal hope that parallel construction (oops: wrong choice of words) could be either ruled out or vice versa inform the Latin etymology where it's uncertain. These are Ger. Strafe and Messe.


  • is from Latin missa "(lithurg.) mass", "presumably from the phrase ite missa est" (6th century?). On the one hand one has to wonder, why "pressumably", if it's the plethora of senses under the aduced missio is what makes it complicated. On the other hand, it's attractive to compare homonyms and near homonyms, e.g. Ger. messen "to measure", viz Messe "trade fair, meeting".


  • is held to be uncertain, but tentative reconstruction in *sterH- is seeing it akin to latus. Wat! Anyhow, I assume it's still uncertain. Reading the recent post on tribute, tribe, I had the idea compare tribute to Strafe in the sense "fine, poenal payment"--that's not exactly it's primary sense (but similar Ger. Steuer "taxation", commonly derived from "to steer"), so I'm beginning to cringe my teeth at it and could use some help while I'm already here.

    I've begun working out the question. It seems less likely to have possibly had any influence on Latin, given a millenium that lies between first attestations. I can only hope that I'm not the first to come up with the idea, but references are more likely to be confined to Germanistic circles, I guess. Nevertheless, the topic where Latin was spoken reasonably close to Strafe seems to be one relevant to Latin. And who knows, maybe insightful considerations about it can inform the etymology tribe.

Of course I'm not going to ask for blind speculation, but I'm not interested in a stale wiktionary quote either, or an answer that accepts the preponderance without showing any understanding of the preclusive doubt. Whether these questions could pro-miss useful answers depends to a degree on the users. Logicly, if I could predict the answers, I wouldn't need to ask them, but I tend to want ask: My hunch is correct right? Why Not!? Which is admittedly uncompromising. Any better ideas? Reasons to abstain? It's a bit hopeless, granted, open ended in that sense, but not open ended in the sense of endless discussion, because it shouldn't be a matter of opinion. That should be confined to this meta threat.


My gut instinct is, questions specifically about connections between modern languages and Latin are on-topic. For example, if you wanted to ask whether Latin missa is actually the direct ancestor of German Messe, that would be valid.

However, it's entirely possible that the answer to such a question would be "no, there's no evidence of any connection", or "yes, early attestations make it clear it's a borrowing", or something along those lines. Getting deeper into speculation about Proto-Germanic or such is not within this site's purview; that belongs on Linguistics instead.

(Questions like "does Messe come from missa?" are also generally on-topic at Linguistics, if they're interesting and well-formulated; the main reason to ask here would be if you specifically care about a Latin or Ancient Greek influence above all else.)

  • You are aware that Lombard e.g. left a footprint on Italian. You can't just say that "there's no evidence of any connection", you'd need to qualify your statement and constrain your generalizations, not handwave it. But I can see how you would advocate such a statement, if you misunderstand the question. For sake of this venue it would necessarily have to concern influences to itemissaest.
    – vectory
    Oct 1 '20 at 17:35
  • The question is therefore not exactly about proto-germanic, which would be reaching a bit far. I'm aware that there is not much understanding about that to be gotten here. The question would be about the extend of the Latinate cultural sphere up to the setting phrase. If this involves more than one language background, that doesn't readily make it a subject of general linguistics--impossibly so if it has no foundation here to build on. So it should obviously start here. Howbeit, an answer should still be able to display awarenes of the necessary context. The later development ...
    – vectory
    Oct 1 '20 at 17:43
  • ... is also necessary, but mainly in the meta level, for communications sake, so we are on the same page, what connotes mass. Ideally, the Q would supply most of the necessary context. The missing bits would be what's asked about. The etymology of the word, like words in general, would only be a vehicle to motivate the exercise. If that still counts as etymologia related question depends on how strict you want to be. If the etymology and you are verstrickt, you simply shouldn't say anything.
    – vectory
    Oct 1 '20 at 17:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .