Fwd: Message on "Austria," "Australia"

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sat Apr 20 14:12:32 UTC 2002

   Here is an interesting message sent to the American Name Society in
response to a query reproduced at the end (is the Austr- of Austria
and Australia related or the result of coincidence?)

Gerald Cohen

Date:         Sat, 20 Apr 2002 08:49:35 -0400
Reply-To: American Name Society <ANS-L at LISTSERV.BINGHAMTON.EDU>
From: Sheila Embleton <embleton at YORKU.CA>
Organization: York University
Subject:      Re: "Austria" & "Australia"

It is not coincidence -- they are from the same Indo-European root.

Australia (and other words such as austral, australopithecus, etc.)
reflect the Latin "australis" meaning "southern", the adjective form
related to "auster", meaning "south wind" or "the south", from an
Indo-European form variously cited as *aus- or *aues-, meaning "shine" and
associated with east (see below for why).

Austria (and other words in English such as east, Easter, etc.; and many
other words in other Germanic languages, such as German "Ost" meaning
"east", or the element "Ostro-" in e.g. "Ostrogoth") go back ultimately to
roots meaning "east". More than you want to know, likely, but this goes
back to an IE root for "shining" (hence Latin "aurora" meaning "dawn",
where the sun rises in the east, but also "aurum"  meaning "gold", which
shines, etc.).

Why the change in meaning? I'm not sure how widely accepted this is, but
the hypothesis that I know of is that it was due to a confusion, or false
assumption might be a better phrasing, about the direction of the axis of

So, you ask, what does it "really" mean? Of these two meaning, "east" and
"south", one would have to say that "east" is the primary, and that
"south" is the result of a shift. You also ask what the relation of the
two languages is. The Germanic languages (including German, English, etc.)
form one of the branches of the Indo-European family. Latin is a member of
another branch (Italic) of the Indo-European family. Since you ask...
Greek is a member of yet another branch (Hellenic) of the Indo-European
family, but it's actually irrelevant here, as Terra Australis is Latin not

There would of course be much more to say about the etymologies and some
of the specific words here, but this should be sufficient to answer your

On Sat, 20 Apr 2002, Jian Liu wrote:

>  I just came to find:
>  Austria,
>  >From the word Ostreich meaning, "eastern kingdom."
>  Australia,
>  itself is named for the ancient mythical Greek Terra Australis,
>  or "southern land."
>  They both use "Austr", is this a mere coincidence or there is some
>  connection between these two names, and these two languages? If yes,
>  what does the prefix "Austr" really mean, "eastern" or " southern"?
>  Regards,
>  Jian LIU
>  ====
>  Department of Foreign Languages
>  Univ.of Science & Technology of China
>  Hefei, 230026 China

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