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I just read about the symbol of Venice, the winged lion of Venice. As a German the German word die Schwingen for wings came to my mind. English has the word in the verb to swing.The connection between wings and to swing is obvious. By means of its wings a bird can swing up into the air.

To my amazement, etymonline does not see the connection of "wing" with "to swing" and German schwingen and the noun die Schwingen. In my view etymonline gets on a wrong track by trying to make a connection with wind.

I would like to hear other views.

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I assume they employ professionals, and they've examined the evidence in detail. None of the dictionaries I've checked in mentions 'wind' and 'swing' as being related. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '14 at 13:39
@Edwin Ashwood There are more dubious explanations, errors and blunders in etymological dictionaries than you think. And I would say 90 per cent is compiled from older dictionaries. New research is relatively rare. And even in etymology common sense is not wrong. – rogermue Apr 21 '14 at 13:58
But I'd give more credence to what an accepted authority such as Online Etymology has to say than to those who can't manage to reproduce information accurately. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '14 at 14:03
This appears to be off-topic because it isn't a question at all: OP has had an idea he wants us to admire, and won't hear anything against it. – TimLymington Apr 21 '14 at 19:21
'I wouldn't like to hear other views'? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '14 at 19:49

They come from two separate protolanguage roots, according to the AHD of PIE.

  • wing comes from the PIE root *wē-, as do weather, wind, window, vent, and nirvana.
  • swing comes from a Germanic root (i.e, it's unique to Germanic languages): *sweng(w)
    Other English cognates are swinge, swank, and swag.

Nobody knows any earlier source for *sweng(w). The Proto-Germans might have felt like the words were related, too. They certainly sound related. But so do pull and pulley, and they're not related. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Since you're German, you can read Pokorny in the original Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch.

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And do you really believe that the wings of a bird have anything to do with wind and weather. If a whole community of thousands of speakers accept a common name for the parts of a bird used for flying then such a name must have more logic than "parts for wind/weather". Don't believe that what you read about PIE is proven.There is a lot of guess work in it. – rogermue Apr 21 '14 at 14:37
I'm glad I'm not a Professor Emeritus of Linguistics who's written at least one article on PIE. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '14 at 15:26
If you've ever observed a bird, you will realize that wind and weather are its natural element, like fish and water. If words for fish and water turned out to be related, would you also be surprised? – John Lawler Apr 21 '14 at 15:39
@rogermue I don't get your point. JL shows how there is an accepted reference that distinguishes the wing and swing. You're talking about wing and wind. Is all you're saying is that AHD maybe has mistakes? – Mitch Apr 21 '14 at 20:34
Indeed it is. However, PIE is about a well-established as etymology ever gets, and systematic sound correspondences are demonstrable, and like all demonstrable facts, they are not a matter of faith or opinion. – John Lawler Apr 21 '14 at 21:36

The Norwegian etymological dictionary Våre Arveord by Harald Bjorvand and Fredrik Otto Lindeman (revised and expanded edition, 2007) states in the entry vingle, referred to from the entry vinge (the source of English wing):

Nonetheless, it seems fairly clear that we from a Germanic point of view are dealing with entities with s-mobile, [...], i. e. Germanic *(s)wenk-, *⁠(s)weng- and possibly (also) older *⁠(s)wénh-.

(The forms with 'k' are not necessarily related, but might be, and in any case shows the same variation with regards to the 's'). They admit that the forms with 's' could be – and have traditionally been – analysed as deriving from Indo-European roots with an integral 's', but they do not concur with this view.

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Good source! So basically the origin of the Germanic root *(s)wenk/sweng(w)- meaning "swing" is still unclear. – Cerberus Apr 21 '14 at 20:25
They interpret vinge (wing) as the (Germanic) verbal root *wē- with the suffix *inga. While the root is the same as in vind (wind), they assume an alternate meaning 'sway (back and forth)' rather than 'blow'. This root is given an IE etymology in the entry for vind (wind). – Tor Gjerde Apr 21 '14 at 20:47
Do they give a sound reason for their assumption? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '14 at 23:10
They criticise the traditional etymology Germ. *sweng- < IE *swenk- on the grounds that the Germanic reflex does not show the expected variation *h : *g as per Verner's law; this absence would rather require a pregermanic *swengh-. In the absence of cognates to this, as well as the semantic closeness of forms with and without 's', they conclude that s-mobile is the preferable explanation. – Tor Gjerde Apr 22 '14 at 14:38

Wing and swing seem to have no connection etymologically. They just happen to have a bunch of letters the same - this happens a lot in English, as we have acquired words from so many languages over a long time frame.

No English speaker would ever say that a bird swings up into the air anyway, a swing is a very definite movement, which is entirely unlike what a bird does.

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I would never say a bird swings... petsolutions.com/C/Bird-Perches-Swings-Playlands+SAll.aspx – RyeɃreḁd Apr 21 '14 at 14:19
@Rory Alsop In etymology it is not so important how a word is use today as words can change in their meaning But when in German there still exists the expression Schingen for Flügel (wings) and sich in die Luft schwingen you may assume that is was a common use, if not the basic use of the word. – rogermue Apr 21 '14 at 14:19
I have just seen that Skeat in his Etymological Dictionary has the same entry as etymonline and Skeat's dictionary was published in 1882, ie since that time that article was not revised. One sees a similar word beginning with ving in Scandinavian languages, but one does not see the same word when it has an s at the beginning. – rogermue Apr 21 '14 at 14:23
@RyeɃreḁd I can think of one exception, and I can think of another when you might swing at a bird. – Elliott Frisch Apr 21 '14 at 19:26
@RyeɃreḁd: Charlie Parker was known as Bird, and he certainly swung... but that's another illustration that English is overloaded with false cognates. – keshlam Apr 22 '14 at 0:42

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