Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Due to a misreading, a group including myself have searched for the definition of the word "farth" and come up with nothing. We now know that the original text did not actually use this word, but the word still strikes us as feeling eerily familiar and somehow fitting of the context in which is was found - a geographic feature found in uncivilized wilderness.

The original quote (we thought we read) was:

North past forest, farth, and furrow

You must go to reach the feathered mound

We later found out that the word that was meant to be there was farm. Nonetheless, we have found a fascination with this potentially made-up word.

Is "farth" actually a word in any version of English, Latin, or other Roman-character-using languages?

share|improve this question
    
Have you checked any dictionaries? –  simchona Jan 17 '13 at 3:15
    
Indeed. I've done a decent amount of Google searching through online dictionaries, and have found no matches at all. –  Southpaw Hare Jan 17 '13 at 3:18
    
Would you mind giving us the sentence where this word appears? Depending on the context, it might well end up being an obvious misprint for farthing, as starwed suggests. –  Branimir Ćaćić Jan 17 '13 at 3:31
    
Urban Dictionary has a suggestion. It is just a silly joke, though. –  Jon Hanna Jan 17 '13 at 4:02
1  
I look and look at this word, and all I see is 'fart' –  JAM Jan 17 '13 at 4:26
show 1 more comment

3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Oxford English Dictionary says it was once used in English:

farth: alleged synonym of farrow n. 2.

1688 R. Holme Armoury ii. 134/1: "The young ones...of a sow...are called a Farth, a Farrow of Pigs."

So a farrow is the/an act of giving birth to a nest of piglets.

share|improve this answer
    
This is, ironically, very related to the actual word, "farm", that we misread. Amusing! –  Southpaw Hare Jan 17 '13 at 4:42
add comment

Very few languages have th sounds, much less following another consonant at the end of a word. However, there is apparently such a word in Icelandic. A post on this page uses the form, though my Icelandic is really a bit too rusty to say for sure ;-)

farð að vinna.
Jájá fer að vinna á laugardaginn!

share|improve this answer
    
"Visit", "journey", "go". It might be cognate with the first part of "Ferdinand", but it's not the only possible etymology of that name. (And yeah, I just checked up further on your suggestion). –  Jon Hanna Jan 17 '13 at 3:59
    
I don't speak Icelandic either, but from a bit of Googling, it looks like farð in your sample is a contraction of farðu, the imperative form of fara, "to go". There does, however, exist the (presumably related) noun ferð ("trip", "journey"). (Ps. The top search results for either farð or farðu on Google seem to be rather, um, colorful.) –  Ilmari Karonen Jan 17 '13 at 11:22
    
Could you give a reference for the claim that "Very few languages have th sounds"? Of the 5 I can comment on, only two do not have a th sound. I am referring to 'th' as in thin not th as in this. –  terdon Aug 29 '13 at 17:33
1  
@terdon look at wals.info chapter 19A, showing less than 10% in a sample of 500+ languages having either sound. –  jlovegren Aug 30 '13 at 1:20
    
And that's why one cannot draw robust conclusions from a random sample of five elements. Thank you, I had no idea that phoneme was rare, and thanks for that site, I think I am going to have a lot of fun with it. –  terdon Aug 30 '13 at 1:24
add comment

Perhaps you were thinking of the farthing?

share|improve this answer
    
That's exactly what came to mind when I first read the question. As in the poem: A penny loaf to feed the Pope. / A farthing o' cheese to choke him. / A pint of beer to rinse it down. / A faggot of sticks to burn him. –  Magnus Jan 17 '13 at 7:23
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.