Tolnai Translations

Three semantically different equivalents for ”tree” in Romanian

Here’s a fun fact about Romanian language. There are three semantically distinct equivalents for the English ”tree” in Romanian. Depending on the context, this word can be equated with ”copac”, ”pom” or ”arbore”. So what do they each mean?

”Copac” is a tree which doesn’t bear edible fruit. Basically, all trees you would find in a forest are designated by ”copac” (oak, beech, fir, birch etc.).

The word ”pom” designates a tree which bears edible fruit. This means that all orchard trees are ”pomi”.

The latter word, ”arbore”, is the neutral denominator for the concept ”tree”. It can designate both a fruit-bearing tree and a non-fruit-bearing tree.

This distinction shows the degree at which language and culture are interconnected. Traditionally, Romanian culture has been closely linked to nature and everything pertaining to it. Romanians have thus developed a very deep relationship with the environment which is clearly reflected in language. This is only one of the many examples of words, idioms and metaphors depicting this very old symbiosis.

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