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Does "pig" (fat animal) come from the Latin pinguedo (fat)?

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    pig: Middle English pigge "a young pig" (mid-13c., late 12c. as a surname), probably from Old English *picg, found in compounds, but, like dog, its further etymology unknown. etymonline.com/word/pig
    – user 66974
    Oct 26 '21 at 18:35
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    @66974 Thanks for not giving this basic research as an 'answer'. There is a school on ELU that would censure 'answers in comments', but I think it's far worse, far less in tune with ELU's objectives, to encourage questions lacking reasonable basic research. Oct 26 '21 at 18:42
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    I did do research. I linked to the OED and Lewis & Short, neither etymologies of which say there's any connection.
    – Geremia
    Oct 26 '21 at 20:42
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    If you've done research, you should state in the question what research you've done and what you found out.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 27 '21 at 8:53
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    @Geremia "I did do research. I linked to the OED and Lewis & Short, neither etymologies of which say there's any connection." It is therefore surprising that you should ask the question...
    – Greybeard
    Oct 27 '21 at 16:02
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No, there is no evidence that Modern English 'pig' is derived or even cognate to Classical Latin 'pinguedo'.

Etymonline gives the accepted history of 'pig' as:

Middle English pigge "a young pig" (mid-13c., late 12c. as a surname), probably from Old English *picg, found in compounds, but, like dog, its further etymology unknown. The older general word for adults was swine, if female, sow, if male, boar. Apparently related to Low German bigge, Dutch big ("but the phonology is difficult" -- OED).

Semantically the 13 c 'pigge' drifted from a small swine to all sizes, and modern pronunciation 'pig' has the connotation of fat now since most modern adult pigs are bred to be fat.

In Latin 'pinguedo' is derived from 'pinguis' which means 'dull, stupid, fat'. Semantically, yes, the Latin original. word has drifted into 'fat'.

However, there is no historical evidence of any sound change, if 'pinguedo' were borrowed in any time of history of English (even back to the Roman occupation of Britain), that the sound changes at any of those time would have naturally led to changing the two syllable 'pinguo' to 'pig'.


Here are some details about borrowings and sound changes (I'll be abusing notation in the use of spelling for sound. as it makes things easier to write). What we're looking for is the word 'pinguedo' or other derivations of pinguo' in Classical Latin or any derived variety (dialects of Italian, Spanish, French) from before the time 'pig' first appeared in English. Mid 13th c really says Old French or classical Latin would be an obvious source.

Since word initial 'p' and stressed (or single syllable word) 'i' are fairly stable in English from Old to Modern, they don't rule out a borrowing from Latin or Romance.

What makes an unlikely borrowing is the '-ngu-' /ŋg/ or /ŋgw/ in Latin/Romance. If borrowed, it is unlikely that English would drop the /ŋ/. Every word in OE with word final /ŋ/ (really /ŋg/) maintains it, instead of dropping it as what should happen to get pingue -> pig. This is the primary reason not to believe a relation between the Latin word and the English one.

Proving a negative is much harder than proving a positive (for a positive just show the example, for a negative you have to appeal to a lot of rules that don't seem to work and in linguistics there can always be a one-off exception). And one of this says that the Latin source is impossible, but it since there's no direct positive evidence of a link (written used words), we have to work with likelihood and the strongest data points to 'no connection'.

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    This answer could be improved immensely by giving the sound change rules that would be relevant, showing that they did not in fact apply.
    – Mitch
    Oct 27 '21 at 11:30
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    How is the answering of this question justifiable? Oct 27 '21 at 11:43
  • @EdwinAshworth The forebears of 'pig' are unknown and this is an attempt at showing -how- the connection hypothesized is unlikely, which explanation doesn't seem likely to be documented.
    – Mitch
    Oct 27 '21 at 13:39
  • @Mitch Given the purpose of your answer, I would recommend one minor edit. In the paragraph beginning "Semantically", I would edit thusly: "and today has the connotation of fat, since . . .". This would be for clarity, in that perceiving pigs as fat is a modern phenomena, which you noted by using "now", but I think it needs a bit more focus. Personally, I agree with Edwin that the question doesn't rate an answer, as, since generations of etymologists have found no relation to 'pinguedo' to document, there is, ipso facto, nothing TO document.
    – Mark G B
    Oct 27 '21 at 16:35
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    @MarkGB “Thusly”? I would edit your comment thus: “thus”.
    – David
    Oct 28 '21 at 19:41

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