27 April 2008

Swap vs. swapna.

Swapna Trading, Lexington Avenue, Murray Hill

 On Friday, 28 March, I met a friend for dinner at Rice in Murray Hill, and nearby was the store Swapna Trading. As swapping and trading are similar concepts, he speculated the English word swap may derive from swapna. It does not. Although I was certain it was only coincidence, I did not yet know enough about the etymologies of the two words to speak educatedly. The English word swap derives from a root meaning to strike, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “fr. the practice of striking hands in closing a business deal.” The Sanskrit word स्वप्न (svapna) refers instead to sleeping or dreaming. According to a number of sources, including the Indo-European Documentation Center of the University of Texas and Wiktionary, it derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *swep- making it a cognate of Latin somnus and Greek ύπνος (hypnos), thus meaning it is also a cognate of English somnolence, soporific and hypnotic.

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