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I've heard that the word "dog" does not have cognates in any other known language (checked with etymonline ). That is, this very common words has similar forms in other languages, Germanic, Romance, or Celtic (those that have large overlap in vocabulary etymology with English).

So my question is of two kinds:

  • what are some other (common?) words that -do not- share etymology with words in any other language?

  • what are some ways to such a search automatically? (I feel like oed.com used to allow plain old test search of any entry so that one could have looked for 'unknown' or something similar). Also are there any online English word lists that have some etymological info?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've heard that the word "dog" does not have cognates in any other known language

After your previous question on walk and talk, let's go at it again. First, etymonline (as well as other sources) note that the etymology of dog is still quite foggy. Second, the Old English docga was picked up in other languages, as noted by etymonline, giving the French dogue and the Danish and German dogge (referring to a specific breed).

Third, and most importantly, wiktionary cites the Proto-Germanic dukkōn (“power, strength, muscle”) as the most plausible origin, from which the verb dock also comes. In other languages, the Danish dukke (“doll”) and the German Docke (“small column, bundle, doll, smart girl”) derive from this same root.

As a conclusion, I don't think you can find what you are looking for. There may be words with an etymology so unclear that they might not knowingly be related to any others in known languages, but I don't think you can ever formally exclude the possibility of related cognates.

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Dude, help me out here. So my examples are not so great. Whatever my intro example is, do you have any suggestions about my actual questions? (I'm guessing one might be "be more diligent in multisource search") Any other suggestions (words or methods or reasons why the whole attempt might be misdirected)? –  Mitch Apr 19 '11 at 22:28
This answer seems excessively rude, doesn't it? –  Kosmonaut Apr 19 '11 at 23:43
@Kosmonaut: edited to be more to your taste. –  F'x Apr 20 '11 at 6:34
Thanks for rewording. Yes, my particular examples might be poor. One could take the position that every word comes from somewhere, and that I am looking for words to just study further. Or it could be that some words are born of themselves (idiosyncratically, de novo, by a single speaker or small group), and similarly I'm looking for such words. Whichever, I'm asking for electronic tools to help with creating clarity. –  Mitch Apr 20 '11 at 14:37
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