nædre, f.n: serpent, adder. (NADD-ruh / ˈnæd-dɹə)

St Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

St Patrick standing on a snake in Purgatory: England, 1451. London, British Library, MS Royal 17 B XLIII, f 132v. See the British Library’s blog post on St Patrick’s legacy.

10 thoughts on “nædre

  1. I’ve been very interested to see the Old English words – which have survived and which have disappeared. I’m also interested in the relationship between Old English and Welsh (or Brythonic) and how they may have influenced each other. Snake in Welsh is ‘neidr’, so it looks as if there’s a connection here. Did Welsh pick this up from Old English or is there a common source? Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/neidr) gives the source as Proto-Celtic.It’s fascinating to think of how languages influence each other. Do you have any information about the etymology of nædre?

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  2. According to Holthausen’s Etymologies, it’s related to modern English adder, Old Saxon nādra, Old High German nātara, Old Icelandic naðr(a), Gothic nadr(s), Old Irish nathir, Cornish nader. I’m not sure whether Welsh would have gotten this from Old English or whether they both shared a common ancestor, although I’d guess the latter given how widespread it is through various languages. Interesting question.


  3. I have noticed from time to time relics of Old English preserved in Welsh which the original Old English word has fallen out of usage or was supplanted by a Latinate counterpart eventually in modern English. Unfortunately I can seem to find a definite ‘Old English words in Welsh’ list but we have discussed (on Twitter) Welsh ‘moron’ Old English ‘more’ for “carrots” before. (https://twitter.com/OEWordhord/status/433525948701757440)


  4. Thank you beoshewolf and mwnciod. This is very interesting.

    My first thought would have been that the origin was Welsh – as it was in these islands before English – but then that’s not been the case with Latin a lot of which seems to have been adopted into Welsh when the Romans were here.

    I’m also fascinated by the way that Welsh may have preserved old English forms. I had no idea that carrot used to be ‘more’ in old English.

    It’s also interesting to find the ways that English and Welsh can take the same root word and use it in different parts of the language e.g. carchar (‘prison’ in Welsh) the Latin is carcer or carcar which turns up in English as incarcerate.


  5. ‘Nadder’ is derived from ‘adder’ or the other way around (the latter looks more probable in view of all the cognates); the same process relates Eng ‘apron’ to Fr ‘nappe’: false division between the word and the indefinite article ‘a/u – n’.
    Not the same thing as OE ‘gærs’ > Mod Eng ‘grass’, which is called ‘metathesis of liquids’. What a lovely phrase …


  6. An 1832 Welsh etymological dictionary says that the Welsh NEIDR is from the word NAD, a shrill cry or howl, and that NAD is made up of the two elements NA good + AD a return of a subsequent form to its origin. This matches the Proto Indo European nhtrih from sneh to spin, twist.. The spinning indicates a new cycle of time is beginning.

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