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The Etymology of Friends

May 30, 2017

Friend. Amigo. Habib. Ven.


Friend. A simple word, yet one that holds such a multitude of meanings for so many people. This is a word that is said thousands of times a day, around the world and in a huge variety of situations, to people of all backgrounds and cultures and perhaps with a slightly different meaning each time it is used.


On the surface of it, it seems fairly simple to translate ‘friend’ into any number of languages. The picture above (photo credit: Oxford Dictionary) gives just a tiny picture of the many translations around the world.


But what happens when you dig a little deeper into the etymology of the word and see how it has evolved - does it mean the same thing for us as it does for people from another country?


Looking at the word 'friend' in English, it is derived from the Old English word ‘freond’ which meant to love or to favour. This is similar to Italian, Spanish and Portugese that their word for friend is also derived from the verb, to love. However, when you look at Arabic, for example, ‘Sadeeq*’ (صديق), (from Sadaqa (صدق)), one of many words for friend in Arabic, the root of the word means ‘truth’ from a saying ‘Who is your friend? The one who tells you the truth’. In Danish, the root of ‘ven’ means beautiful. If the root of the word is different between countries, does that change the subtle meanings of the word, or is that solely dependent on the context of the word?


Translation and localisation is almost like decoding hidden messages that you have to explore in order to create a rounded and complete meaning of words and phrases, as they are meant in their original version. There are so many intricacies within these codes, the formal versus the informal as well as the different meanings a word can have that people might not know where to start if they want to translate it properly. The solution lies with experts like GoLocalise. Translation and localisation is an art that requires the very best to solve the puzzle!

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