Lexical Doublets

One of the interesting things about studying the Romanian language is the number of lexical doublets, meaning that quite often two similar words are used, one from a Latin root and one from a non-Latin (usually Slavic) root.

English has many of these, including lord and master, venison and deer, fire and flame or sheep and ewe.

If you are familiar with other Romance languages (and don’t speak a Slavic language), Romanian can be quite confusing as some of these words are recognizable while the non-Latin ones seem quite bizarre.

Let’s look at a few examples!

Latin origin English non-Latin English
caine dog pisica cat
subsol basement/cellar pivnita basement/cellar
fereastra window geam window
salariu salary banii money
cui nail ciocan hammer
aliat ally dusman enemy
voce voice glas voice
picior foot glezna ankle
frunza leaf copac tree
pamant dirt/earth noroi mud
ninge (to) snow zapada snow
sunet sound zgomot sound/noise
cascaval cheese branza cheese
liber free slobod free
spirit spirit duh spirit
mincinos liar cinstit honest
camarad comrade tovaras comrade
egal equal deopotriva equal
tristete sorrow jale sorrow
speranta hope nadejde hope
sanatos healthy bolnav sick/ill
pierdut lost gasit found
pace peace razboi war
puternic powerful slab weak
corp body trup body
plaja beach nisip sand
ora hour ceas hour
seminte seeds boabe seeds/grains
tortura torture chin torture
petrecere party chef party
serviciu work/job slujba work/job
dormi to sleep trezi to awaken
dormitor bedroom pat bed
cer heaven/sky rai heaven
piata market targ market
coada line/queue rand line/queue
barca boat lotca boat
public public obstesc public
nu no da yes

Just for fun, try saying organizaţiile obşteşti!

Can you think of any more examples?

UPDATE: As far as I’m aware, there are no true lexical doublets in Romanian. The only one in this post is “lord and master” as the term refers to two words, often used together in a pair, that come from different origins. My point in writing this post was as a handy way for people learning Romanian (esp from a Romance-language background) to identify related (or identical) words from different sources.

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Wisdom says:

    Thanks Emmette! Things are going great for the band and we would love to see you when you’re in town as we haven’t seen you in ages. Take care and drop a line sometime.


  2. exmodia says:

    Technically these are not linguistic doublets but opposites. An example of a double would be “pork” and “swine” where pork is from Latin/Romance and swine is from Germanic and both reference the same thing (in this case the “pig”, which when included, would make this a “triplet” by the addition the Nordic loan-word for the same animal).


  3. Lavinia says:

    er….ceas also means watch/clock. :D


    1. Natasha says:

      Ohhhh yeaa,you are really so beituaful !! And stunning,no kidding <3 <3 Gorgeous eyes you have.Love love the details on your new scarf and I'm excited on your new purchases !And I love your new profile photo :)


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