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I came across the film "Gefährten" (War Horse) and I thought the title had something to do with gefährlich with it being a war film and all. But I see that it means companion.

Does anyone know the etymology of »Gefährten«?

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Those words have distinct etymological roots and therefore different meanings:

die Gefahr

(danger, risk, hazard)

The Middle High German noun

gevāre

was built by adding the prefix »ge« to the noun »vāre«. This prefix just makes a stronger expression to the noun, without changing its core-meaning. »vāre« itself derives fron the Old High German

fāra

and had the meaning

ambush, temptation, to be after someone, revolt, rebellion, deceitfulness, ...

Also the englisch word »fear« dereives from this word.


der Gefährte, die Gefährtin

(fellow, companion, partner, associate)

In Middle High German this was

geverte, gevert

Here we have the same emphasizing prefix »ge«, joined to »vert(e)« which is a grammatical form of the noun

vart

and this again is the noun-version of the verb

varn

this verb is in modern German

fahren

and means today: to travel (in a vehicle). but centuries ago it just meant any kind of traveling, also walking on longer distances.

The Old High German version of this verb was

faran

and it also meant »to travel«, but not only in a physical way, but also in a metaphoric way. This meaning is still alive in the modern English verb »to fare« (someone fares well/badly) that derives from OHG faran.

So a »Gefährte« is a person who travels together with another person. The persons traveling together are »Gefährten«. The common journey can be a real journey from point A to point B, but also a metaphoric journey, where the Gefährten experience the same fate.

Die Gefährten

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  • The English words "fear" and "fare" do not derive from OHG. Rather the OE and OHG words both derive from proto-Germanic. – fdb Nov 18 '16 at 10:58
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dwds.de says:

Gefährte m. ‘Begleiter’, ahd. giferto ‘Fahrtgenosse’ (9. Jh.), mhd. geverte, mnd. gevērde bezeichnet als Kompositum zu den unter Fahrt (s. d.) genannten Wortformen mit dem Präfix ge- ‘zusammen mit’ ursprünglich den, ‘der die Fahrt mit (einem) anderen gemeinsam macht’, den ‘Mitreisenden, Reisebegleiter’ (zur Bildung s. auch Bauer, Genosse, Geselle).

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  • 1
    Just as a comment: "Gefahr"/ "gefährlich" have a different origin than "Gefährte". dwds.de/wb/Gefahr (--> Etymologie) – Iris Nov 16 '16 at 11:22
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    And why the downvote? – Thorsten Dittmar Nov 23 '16 at 8:50

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