Word Family - Isolate

Theme: 🦠


Celtic, Greek, and Latin each have words for "island" that involve /n/ and /s/ and cannot be completely explained. One possibility is that they are all borrowings from the same non-Indo-European source.

Even if those three are all connected, it would still be beyond credibility for Malayo-Polynesian *nusa: "island" to be related. ... Right?


Indonesia, isle, isolate, insulate, peninsula

Full Text

  • Unknown substrate *?n?s?
    • Celtic *enistī island [1]
      • Brythonic *ɨnɨs island
        • Welsh ynys island
      • Old Irish inis
        • Irish inis island
          • Irish leithinis peninsula "semi-island"
    • Ancient Greek νῆσος nêsos island [2]
      • Greek νησί nisí island
      • Ancient Greek χερσόνησος khersónēsos peninsula "dry land island"
      • Ancient Greek Πελοπόννησος Pelopónnēsos Peloponnese "island of Pelops"
        • English Peloponnese
      • Coptic ⲛⲏⲥⲟⲥ nēsos island
      • English -nesia
        • English Indonesia
        • English Melanesia
        • English Micronesia
        • English Polynesia
    • Latin īnsula island, tenement, apartment building [3]
      • Sardinian isula island
      • Western Romance
        • Old French isle island
          • French île island
            • Haitian Creole zile
          • English isle [4]
        • Italian isola island
        • Spanish isla island
      • Albanian ishull island
      • Middle High German
        • German Insel island
          • German inselbegabt savant lit. "island-gifted", i.e. "isolated gift"
          • German Inselaffe British person (derogatory): (lit.
        • Yiddish אינדזל indzl island
      • Latin īnsulāris like an island, like things on an island
        • English insular
      • Latin īnsulō I make into an island
        • Western Romance
          • Italian isolare to isolate, to confine, to insulate, to soundproof
          • Spanish *islar
            • Spanish aislar to isolate, to separate, to quarantine "to at-island"
              • Spanish aislarse to self isolate reflexive form
        • Latin īnsulātus made into an island
          • Western Romance
            • Italian isolato isolated, cut off, lonely, insulated
              • English isolated
                • English isolate
              • French isolé
                • French isoler to isolate, to insulate
                • French isolation isolation, insulation
                  • English isolation
          • English insulate
            • English insulation
      • Latin paenīnsula peninsula "almost-island"
        • English peninsula


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Collected English words

Peloponnese, -nesia, Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, isle, insular, isolated, isolate, isolation, insulate, insulation, peninsula


  1. ^

    Matasovic tentatively suggests Celtic *enistī could be derived from *(h₁)eni-sth₂-ih₂: "that which stands in (the water)".

  2. ^

    Other possible origins for Ancient Greek νῆσος nêsos include νήχω: "I swim" (PIE *(s)neh₂- : "to flow, to swim") or from *néh₂s: "nose", similar to Germanic *nasją: "headland, promontory" from "nose".

  3. ^

    For Latin īnsula: "island", Pokorny suggested "(terra) in salō": "(land) in the salty". de Vaan also considers *en-sol-h₂: "the ground in??", but he is not happy with either his idea or Pokorny's.

  4. ^

    isle from Anglo-Norman is the source of the imaginary 's' in island. island is not actually related, being from Old English īeġland, from Germanic *awjōlandą, see the aqua family. But someone thought it was at some point, and added the 's' from isle into island.