Ancient India's Contribtuion to Modern Civilization

Birgit Kellner kellner at
Sat Jun 14 13:49:54 UTC 1997

Mr B.Philip.Jonsson wrote:
> At 02:23 14.6.1997, Robert Zydenbos wrote:
> >"Cash" is from the Tamil kaacu, which is an old Dravidian word. In Kannada it
> >is the cognate kaasu, about which Kittel says (vol. 2 of his Kannada-English
> >Ditcionary, Madras, 1977, p. 442): "the smallest copper coin, a cash [N.B.!]; a
> >coin or money in general", and he mentions that the same word "kaasu" exists in
> >Telugu and Tulu too. Marathi has kaa;su (ibid.). That the word means "coin" can
> >be seen from an expression like "taamrada kaasu" (a kaasu of copper).
> a you sure of this derivation?  SKEAT derives "cash" from French "casse",
> in turn from Latin "capsa" 'box'.  MEYER-LUEBKE /romanisches etymol.
> woerterbuch/ gives Portuguese "caixa" /kaiSa/ from "capsa", which of course
> can have undergone a shift in meaning from denoting the 'cash-box' /cf.
> German "kasse"/ to denoting its contents, or had such a shift reinforced,
> under influence of the Indic word.  the English "cash" looks like derived
> from the Portuguese more than anything else.
According to Donald F. Lach, who gives a list of "words of Asiatic
origin introduced into the European 
Vocabulary (sixteenth century)" (Asia in the making of Europe, vol. II,
A Century of Wonder, book three: The Scholarly Disciplines, Chicago
1977: Univ. o. Chicago Press, p.544ff.), the English word "cash"
appeared in 1621, and is derived from Portuguese/Italian "caixa", first
attested in 1510. Lach gives both the Sanskrit and the Tamil expressions
as bases for derivation. Lach also gives a useful list of reference
works for similar word-lists. 

At any rate, when explaining European vocabulary as deriving from Asian
languages, one always has to go back to the first attested European
usage. Jumping straight from Sanskrit/Tamil to English doesn't really
seem useful if the Sanskrit/Tamil expression entered Europe through a
language other than English. 

Birgit Kellner
Department for Indian Philosophy
Hiroshima University

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