Felix the cat
Posted: 08 November 2008 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22

Is there any connection between the roots for “feline” and those for “felicity”?  Etymonline thinks not, but describes the origins of the latin “feles” to be obscure.  Any further light shed by the OED?

Posted: 08 November 2008 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  6486
Joined  2007-01-03

No, the OED typically doesn’t discuss Latin etymology. The editors stop when they hit a borrowed root.

Posted: 08 November 2008 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  407
Joined  2007-02-14

Of the etymological Latin dictionaries I consulted, two (Walde and Ernout-Meillet) agree that the origin is obscure, and the third (Tucker) offers an etymology from PIE *dhwēi-/dhwei- ‘breathe, smell’ from the ferret’s odor, citing English marten and Latin merda, sable and sabina. The vowel is in some doubt, -ē- or -æ-. The meaning of ‘cat’ is secondary. The primary meaning in Latin being ‘marten’ or ‘ferret’. Walde mentions comparisons with Welsh bele ‘marten’, OCS plъkhъ, Russian белка (belka) ‘squirrel’, and a vague origin from some unknown Alpine language. Also, he mentions Vaniček (Etymologisches Wörterbuch der lateinischen Sprache, 2nd ed., 1881, 195) who does connect it with fēlix ‘fruitful, happy’ (the 1st ed. is on Google Books link), both fēlix and fēles are under the root *bhu ‘to be, become, grow’. Pokorny: “ lat. fulica (vgl. ahd. belihha) und fulix f. `Bläßhuhn’ (*bholik- mit dial. u); aber ob fēlēs, -is f. `Katze, Marder, Iltis’ hierher gehört, ist wegen mēlēs, -is f. `Marder, Dachs’ zweifelhaft;” (link). Another, perhaps related word for marten in Latin is mēles.