Thursday, July 13, 2017

Homecoming of ‘cousin’ - from Sanskrit to English and back in the laps of Sanskrit’s daughters

A few decades ago, we in India adopted the English words 'aunt' and ‘uncle’ in our languages. Now we have adopted another relationship word 'cousin'. The English have also used this word in the sense of a distant relative. We are doing the same and why not? Cousin can be spoken easily and just one word can replace several specific words for sons and daughters of maternal and paternal uncles and aunts. According to linguists, the Latin word ‘consobrinus’ (= the mother's sister's daughter) is the origin of the English word cousin and some of its synonyms in European languages. But, I propose that the word cousin originated from the Sanskrit word 'svajana' स्वजन = my people. Therefore, the current use of ‘cousin’ in Hindi and other Indian languages is a sort of homecoming.  Let's have a look at the journey of this word from India to Europe and back.
svajana स्वजन [Sanskrit] = my own people, relatives >
chvajana (s > ch) >
kvajana (ch > k) >
kyajana  (v > y) >
kyasana (j > s)
cosin  [mid-12c., Old French] > 
cousin [Modern French] >
cousin [English] >
cugino [Italian]
kusine [Danish] 
kuzyn [ Polish]  
And now 'svajana' स्वजन of Sanskrit has come back to Indic languages via English, in the form of ‘cousin’. Interesting, isn’t it!

Note: The etymology of 'cousin' presented here is my personal view. It is different from the established etymology by linguists who say that the European languages came from proto-Indo-European language and not from Sanskrit. 

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