From where does the Greek word for chair, karekla, originate?  And, why on earth am I even thinking about this?  The question came about from my recent stint substituting for Rubina as teacher of the senior Greek School class.  In addition to the lessons in the book we did some stuff on etymology, transliteration, metathesis, and other fun language things.  At one point I commented on how there are many Greek words for clothing, food and other cultural stuff that actually come from French, for various reasons.  Arabic shares this to some extent; very often things that didn’t exist in central Arabia back in the day take their name from French or another language.  The word for snow, telj, comes from the French neige, for example.

I was idly wondering if the Greek karekla and the Arabic kursi (chair) somehow were related, despite being from different language families.  The krk of the Greek matches up with the triconsonantal root of the Arabic krs – the hard k can become an s in certain word travels.  However, karekla is not attested in ancient Greek.  Kathedra in Greek matches up nicely with karekla – the vowels are the same (usually it is all about the consonants in these matters but vowels have a role as well) as is the syllabification.  And as it turns out, karekla does come from kathedra (where we get Cathedral) via Venetian – kathedra went to Latin and then Venetian and came back to Greek as karekla.

The Arabic kursi is in the Qur’an as a word for footstool or throne, and it is cognate to kisseh in Hebrew which also means throne (it is similar in most other semitic languages).  How about the English word chair itself?  Well, it too comes from kathedra, eventually.  More here.

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