Ksiądz / księża / książę
Ksiądz / księża / książę

Academic Journal of Modern Philology vol. 2 (2013)

Tomasz Czarnecki
Uniwersytet Warszawski

Ksiądz / księża / książę [priest / priests / duke]


The article tries, once again, to explore the etymology of Polish words ksiądz / książę / księża. Since new linguistic and historical facts as well as reconstructions may be presented in this fi eld, the author draws the following conclusions:

  1. the Polish term ksiądz comes from the Germanic *kuning, which main meaning could be interpreted as “Franks’ ruler”. The word was borrowed by Slavic languages twice:
    a) in the fi rst half of the 7th century as a West-Slavic word *kъnędzь;
    b) in the fi  rst half of the 8th century as a South-Slavic word *kъnęgъ. In the second half of the 9th century, the two borrowings meet, which is connected with the Cyril and Methodius’s Christianization in Great Moravia. Th  e word was present in all Slavic languages and its meaning could be interpreted as “the uncrowned ruler of the country” = ‘principes’/Polish ‘książę’.
  2. Polish księża (< Slav. *kъnęžьja) is a continuation of a plural form of the Germanic *kuning-, *kuninga.
  3. The word książę (< West-Slavonic *kъnęžę) appeared as a derivative of Slavonic *kъnędzь and at fi rst meant ‘a young man who was a member of a ruling family’ and most commonly was ‘the son of a ruler’.
  4. At the turn of the 9th and the 10th century Western-Slavonic people changed the meaning of both terms *kъnędzь and *knęžę the first word, both among Czechs and Poles, referred only to the word ‘principes’, whereas the second term began to be understood as “a common prince” or “the uncrowned ruler”. From the 13th century until the 16th century, Polish ksiądz became – under the influence of the Czech language – the term for a clergyman (fi  rstly used as the reference only to the bishop, and later as the reference to an ordinary priest).

Keywords: etymology, Slavonic languages, Germanic languages, borrowing, language reconstruction, clergy.

Full text: Language in Interaction: Ksiądz / księża / książę [priest / priests / duke]

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