*I was wondering if the name Ur means something in an ancient Semitic language. In Hebrew, ‘ir (spelled ‘-y-r) means ‘a town’. In comparative Semitic languages, the consonantal outline is the basis for comparison, while the vowels can vary. The semiconsonants y and w can take each other’s place. That’s why I thought maybe there is a connection between the two words: what is ‘ir in Hebrew could be a cognate of ‘ur in Babylonian or something? Or does the name come from Sumerian? Then it would be a loanword into Semitic? I don’t know if the Hebrew word for town, ‘ir, could be considered a cognate of the Arabic ‘îr meaning ‘caravan’. But the meaning of ‘town’ could be significant since Ur was one of the earliest cities known to archaeology.

Coincidentally, the word ûr in Tamil means ‘a village’.

This may be a hijack, but what does it mean when “ur” is used as a prefix in English? I’ve seen things like “ur-Greek” - does it mean a primordial version of the language in question?

UR fUnNy, DuDeZ!
[sub]Sorry. Most terribly sorry. I realise I should be quietly taken away and shot for that. I just couldn’t resist.[/sub]

I’ve heard the term “Ur of the Caldiz” in relation to something, but I can’t recall what…an epic poem maybe?

Ur- as a prefix is German. It means ‘primordial’ — i.e. from the earliest origins of a thing. In music scores, Urtext is the way the composer wrote it, without any subsequent editor’s interpolations.

It would be interesting to know where German got this word from. When I learned of it, it gave me an eerie feeling since it resonated with Ur of the Chaldees being the oldest known city.

“Ur of the Chaldees” is the name for the city in the Bible (KJV Genesis 11:28, 11:31, 15:7). Chaldea was an ancient name for southern Mesopotamia after the original Sumerian realm had been taken over by Semites.

Ur: The legendary ancient city of Sumer has a name that derives from Sumerian uru, meaning simply ‘city’. In the Bible, the city is always referred to as ‘Ur of the Chaldees’, (Genesis 11.28 and elsewhere). Its present name is Tell Muqayyar, from Arabic tall muqayyar, ‘tarry hill’, ‘hill covered in tar’.

Source: Brewer.

Brewer also states that ‘Urals’, as in the mountain system, is said by some to represent Vogel urala, ‘mountain peak’, from ur, which is ‘mountain’ and ala, which is ‘summit’.

Ur, that’s all I know.

Ah-ha! Very cool. Very cool. Thanks, man!

Slight Hijack- Ir is the Hebrew word for city. Jerusalem
is from “Ir a shalom” which means city of peace.

I always thought that the prefix Ur did refer to the city. Just as Ur is described as the first city, Enniac would be the Ur-computer.

In Hebrew/Aramaic, “Ur” means fire (connected to Or, meaning light). The full name of Abraham’s city, known in the original Hebrew as “Ur Casdim,” means “fire from furnaces” in Hebrew/Aramaic. “Casdim” is also translated as meaning “Chaldeans,” which might mean that the distinguishing feature of Chaldean society was fire worship and/or furnace building.

I feel kinda funny trying to contribute here - I normally think of you, Jomo, as one of the language/word origin experts of this group (okay, not as important as BobT’s or RickJay’s expertise in baseball, but at least you have a rep in something…:)).

Isn’t Ur used in the study of language origins to describe the earliest representation of a word or language? I seem to remember reading an article in the Atlantic a few years ago about the search for an Ur language, even more inclusive and earlier than Indo-European. This is obviously related in use to your earlier example of urtext in music, but the phrase Ur languate seems more formal and recognized than just an application of the phrase.

If I have this correct, then does this use of Ur provide context for your OP?

One of my favorite words is the German for “primordial ooze” - urschleim.

It’s also used exactly like that in Swedish, so I’d say it’s an Urgermanic thing.

Is it legendary or is it real?

Ur, in this context Brewer doubtless uses legendary in the sense of very famous, but the source you give is interesting at that.

IBKDL (I am not a German linguist), but I lucked out in a few searches on the web. You’d think it might be rather difficult to find ur- itself, since the prefix is used a lot for old things. Anyway, I don’t think the two can be easily related.

The first I found was this : ["]Althochdeutscher Bedeutungsbaukasten](http://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/henrike.laehnemann/suffixe.htm#_1.1.er-[ir-/ar-) (yes, it’s in German).

It traces ur- back to Indo-european (which Germans call indo-germanic) ‘*uds-’, which basically means ‘out’ (also gives rise to aus- & er-, see page).

This root can be checked out in the American Heritage Dictionary appendix. See No. 2, extended form.

So it appears to be just a coincidence. Though perhaps the development of ur- (and not er- or ir- or aus-) for ancient was reinforced by some association with the Biblical city.

The prefix is also used in German in the same way we use ‘great’ to increase generations (e.g. great-great-grandfather = Ur-Ur-Grossvater).

Actually, it had been entirely legendary until the mid-19th century, when Sumerian archaeology established it as a fact in the ground, so to speak.

Egyptian pottery from the 18th century BC has been found inscribed with the name Ur-Salem. The phrase Ur-Salem also occurs in Egyptian inscriptions at Tell el-Amarna. What I would like to know is whether the syllable “Ur” in the early name of Jerusalem could be a loanword from the Sumerian word for ‘city’. cmkeller suggests the Semitic etymology of ur=or=‘light’ but to me this seems a fanciful interpretation, as clearly the meaning of ‘city’ is more likely. (But I understand how, in Kabbalistic interpretations of words, the fanciful meaning can open up levels of spiritual insight beyond the objective linguistic analysis.)

WordMan, how do you think I got to learn a lot about languages? By asking a lot of questions!

Jerusalem The famous city that is the capital of Israel has an ancient form of uncertain origin. Cuneiform texts give it in the form Urusalimmi, and Egyptian hieroglyphics as Salam. It is possible that uru means ‘house’, ‘town’, while salim means ‘peace’. On the basis of this the name probably means ‘town of peace’. Some authorities, however, hold that Salem is the name of a Semitic god, regarded as the ‘patron of the city’. The standard Arabic name of Jerusalem is al-quds, ‘the holy one’. Hence its Turkish name of Kudus.
Brewer again, this time with far less authority in his voice, whilst Nostradamus omits a couple of accents.

Here’s Isaac Asimov’s 2¢ on it:

*Ur continued to exist throughout Old Testament times and it is mentioned in documents as late as 324 BC. However, by the Genesis was reduced to writing, Ur was nothing but a decayed and obscure village. The writers of Genesis, in mentioning a town which, thanks to the birth of Abram there, was of surpassing interest to their readers, felt called upon to identify it somewhat. They therefore called it “Ur kasdim,” whic is translated as “Ur of the Chaldees” or, better, “Ur of the Chaldeans,” as in the Revised Standard Version.

–Asimov’s Guide to the Bible

*Wonder if that was the actual recorded date on the document?:smiley: