Portuguese words of Germanic origin

Although Portuguese is clearly a Romance language, one of the modern successors of Latin, it also has some Germanic loan-words.

içar    alar    berma    colcheia    lastro, mastro    grima    escárnio   


Içar = to hoist, ‘erguer, levantar, alçar, alar’. The Porto Editora Dictionary (8th edition) says it comes from German hissen, by way of French hisser, but I wonder if Dutch hijsen isn't a more likely source. This is considering that earlier stages of that language pronounced what is written as ‘ij’ as [i:], so the sound in French and Portuguese can be explained from it. Also, it is well know that Dutch was a leading sea-faring nation that contributed many words in that area to other languages, even Russian.

In modern Dutch, the sound is more like [EI], with dialectal variants more in the direction of [aI] or [AI], which may explain English hoist with [OI], which may also be from Dutch. The extra t could then be from the third person singular inflectional ending.

The concise Oxford Dictionary explains 16th century English hoist from variant hoise, from 15th century English hysse, probably of Low German origin; confer Low German hissen. This seems more likely than my suggestion of development to [OI] via Dutch, because the diphthongisation of the sound occurred much later, and in Low German (or more correctly, Low Saxon), it didn’t occur until today.

If the development to [OI] occurred in English itself, after the time of the loan, I wonder if there are other English words with this sound development?

I checked a lot of them, and found only:
groin < Middle English grynde < perhaps from Old English grynde = depression.
Not very convincing.

The WNT (Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal; a big historic dictionary of Dutch) suggests that the English occurrences of the word are the oldest. So maybe it is not a loan from Low German, but a cognate.


One of the synonyms of Portuguese içar is alar. Porto Editora says it is from French haler, via Italian. The WNT says all of these are loans from Dutch halen, which is yet another seamen's term.
The general sense is "fetch", "ir buscar", but the special sense is as Dutch "aanhalen", "pull a rope".


Portuguese berma is from French berme, which comes from Dutch berm. It means "(grassy) side of the road" in Dutch.


Colcheia = figura de música com o valor de metade de uma semímina ou de duas semicolcheias.
It entered the Portuguese language from Spanish, where it is corchea. Typically Portuguese trait, to mistake an r for an l. The Spanish word is from French croche, in which we recognise the British English musical term crotchet (from crochet, little croche). But it doesn't have the same meaning!

Música Nederlands British English American English French Portuguese
𝅝 hele noot semibreve whole note ronde semibreve
𝅗𝅥 halve noot minin half-note blanche mínima
𝅘𝅥 kwartnoot crotchet quarter-note noire semínima
𝅘𝅥𝅮 achtste noot quaver eighth-note croche colcheia
𝅘𝅥𝅯 zestiende noot semi-quaver sixteenth-note double croche semicolcheia

See also this musical dictionary and this note chart.

The French word croche is from the Franconian word croc or krok, which meant hook. In French it refers to the little hook in the musical note. Why the Brits changed this to mean the first note (going from short to long) without a hook is beyond me.
Franconian, the language of the Franks, was a Germanic language, and that is what this page is about: Portuguese words of Germanic origin, remember?

The Franconian word krok is cognate with Old Norse krókr, which is related to English crook, and perhaps also to Dutch kreuk (= crease, ruck, wrinkle), and a now disused obsolete Dutch word krook, meaning curly hair. (Source: WNT).

lastro, mastro

Lastro (ballast) and mastro (mast) are both shipping terms, and both of Germanic origin, but the route they took seems to be little different.

Lastro from Dutch last (= cargo, load, ballast), or from English ballast, which in turn is attributed to Scandinavian or Low German.

Mastro from Franconian mast via the identical word in Old-French.


The Portuguese word grima means rage, fury, hatred, antipathy. Porto Editora says it comes from Gothic grimms. Spanish also has the word, grima = aversion, disgust, antipathy.

Cognates in Germanic languages are:

nl, de grimmig furious, fierce, severe
nl gram(schap) anger, wrath, ire
de Grimm anger, wrath, ire
en grim stern, unrelenting, ghastly

In Dutch and other languages, there is a word that seems similar: grimas. It is from French grimace. Some sources say French has it from Germanic, other mention Old-Spanish grimazo (from grima = fright). So it is probably connected to the Portuguese word grima.

That makes Dutch grimas a word of the mannequin kind: Germanic origin, borrowed by Romance languages, borrowed back by Germanic languages. In the case of mannequin: French borrowed it from Dutch manneken. In modern Standard Dutch, that is mannetje, diminutive of man, so it means little man.
Manneke and manneken are still used today, in dialectal and in non-dialectal colloquial spoken Dutch.


Porto Editora traces the Portuguese words escárnio (mockery, joke) and escarnir back to Germanic skirnjan, via medieval Latin *scarnire.
A cognate in Dutch is gekscherend (jocularly, in jest), from "den geck scheren" = play the fool. The word scheren (now hardly recognised with this sense by Dutch speakers) meant "to mock". It is connected to Dutch scherts, from German Schertz. Cf. Italian scherzo.