sarasvatI (etymology)

Dominique.Thillaud thillaud at UNICE.FR
Sun May 31 17:49:55 UTC 1998

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal answer:
>>        *sel- is known by Greek "hals", currently (salt) but earlier (sea)
>>and homeric and ritual uses show that the word designates properly the
>>water-part of a beach, where the boats can land and the bath can occur. The
>>"bath" sense is very clear in an old formula such that "halade mustai!"
>>used in Eleusinian initiation. Hence, "saras" could be simply a bathing
>>place, able to give a common name for a river (the Greek hydronymy shows
>>many hal- for sweet waters).
>*Sal- is also one of Krahe's "Alteuropaeische" hydronyms, giving
>river names from Scandinavia (Sala) to Spain (Jalón) and from Wales
>(Hail) to the Ukraine (Solja), passing through the Saumur, the Saale
>and the Szala.
>Are you suggesting that the original sense of the IE root was "water,
>bathing place" rather than "salt"?   Or were you referring only to

        My research is mainly based on Greek files but Skr. saras (if
cognate) could suggest a greater extension. I'm not sure that the
opposition salted/sweet is the key and, when kRSNa evokes His preeminence
in all sort of things, He says (BhG X,24d = Mbh VI,32,24d): "sarasAm asmi
sAgaraH", implying that the ocean is a saras and, even, the better.
        Knowing if salt > sea or sea > salt is not clear but I could prefer
the second choice by the simple evidence that the salt comes from the sea.
This fact is perhaps sustained by the gender: hals "sea" is feminine, but
the salt is commonly masculine, frequently neutral as the fruit of a tree.
        An other puzzling fact is the Skr. lavaNa, perhaps a witness of the
same semantic shift if we think to Latin lavere, Greek loutron ...
        Probably a file to open again.

Dominique THILLAUD
Universite' de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France

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