The Mysterious Case of the Foot Leg

Someone recently asked me if I’m a linguist, and I’m afraid I replied in a somewhat saucy manner simply because the question tickles me.

In all seriousness, no I am not a linguist. I can barely speak English good on a day :P

I do, however, greatly enjoy languages, especially their quirks and oddities. One of them is the Romanian word for a body part, namely picior (pee-chore), straight from the Latin, meaning “foot”.

In Spanish, think pie. in Italian think piede and in French think pied.

But wait a second! In Romanian, picior also means “leg”. Yes, it means both “leg” and “foot” at the same time. If Romanians absolutely must differentiate the two, the leg becomes the “upper foot” and the foot is the “lower leg”.

Conversely, Romanians have words for several body parts that don’t “exist” separately in English, including ceafa (the back of the neck) and cearcane (bags under your eyes).


13 thoughts on “The Mysterious Case of the Foot Leg

  1. I tease my husband constantly about this… if he hits his shin on something, for instance, he often says that his foot hurts rather than his leg hurts. So, now if I hit my foot on something, I tell him my leg hurts – just to point out to him that it doesn’t make the same kinda sense in English to switch them like that (he can tell that it’s weird to say that your leg hurts when you’ve hurt your foot, but the distinction isn’t as clear the other way around…)
    But it’s fun to notice how he thinks differently because of his first language (Romanian).


  2. languages are mysterious and marvelous things.
    But most of them, at least in countries where medicine is a science with universities and specialised schools, have words for every body part. Not all of them are so widespread but the words are there.


  3. Or how about how in Romanian there’s no differentiation between fingers and toes. It’s simply hand fingers and foot fingers. Or, more precisely, leg fingers :D ‘degete de la mana’, ‘degete de la picior’.
    Same goes with the thumb: we only have ‘the big finger'(degetul mare).
    The Big Finger. Sounds rather epic, hehe.


  4. “Cearcane” is not a body part. You can say “ai cearcane” when you have darker skin under your eyes, from not sleeping. i think in english that is caled “dark circles” If you want to name that part of the face you can say “pleoapa inferioara”.
    I love how you solve “the mysterios cases” of romanian language. :D


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