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'Fladry' is a comparatively recent adoption in English from Polish, with a putative origin in German. The Double-Tongued Dictionary gives this definition and partial etymology:

fladry n.pl. a string of flags used to contain or exclude wild animals. ... Etymological Note: According to Polish Scientific Publishers (Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, SA), fladry is the plural of flader, which comes from German. It is not specified which German word, but it’s probably related to flattern ‘to flutter.’ It is probably not related to the Polish flÄ…dry, the plural of flÄ…dra, which according to the Oxford PWN Polish English Dictionary (2002, Oxford University Press) means “1. flounder, flatfish; 2. slattern, slut.”

I have found 'fladry' in English in the sense of "a string of flags etc." as early as 1993, in a technical paper titled "Status and Management of the Wolf in Poland" (Biological Conservation; see, for example, the abstract).

Alongside the current efforts to manage wolf packs after their reintroduction to areas of the US where they may prey on domestic animals, 'fladry' has been adopted into the commonplace English lexicon, although it does not yet appear in OED or other well-established print and online dictionaries.

The question is

  • What is the German etymon of Polish fladry, from which last the English word derives?

I am hoping for an authoritative answer based on at least one quotable source.

My guess is that the German etymon is, in fact, flader, a German word meaning "streak, vein". In the form 'flaser', which derives from a dialect version of German flader, the word finds current technical use in English to denote a structural characteristic of sedimentary rock:

flaser structure in sedimentary

(Image from Geologic Digressions, copyright Brian Ricketts, at https://www.geological-digressions.com/tag/flaser-bedding/.)

Although the rock structure and a line of flags in fencing do not, at first blush, seem to resemble each other much, part of a diagram in a 1968 paper, "Classification and Origin of Flaser and Lenticular Bedding" (Sedimentology, Volume 11 (1‐2) – Oct 1, 1968), which attempts to more precisely define and subdivide sedimentary bedding types, appears to make a more graphic connection:

flaser bedding types

Further research turned up flader in a 1912 English-Polish dictionary, where it is defined as "streak in wood". Because Polish Scientific Pub. state that fladry is the plural of flader "which comes from German", and given that flader is defined in A German-English dictionary for chemists as "curl, speckle, streak", my guess seems somewhat supported by that evidence.

  • In the Polish dictionaries I have access to neither flader nor fladry is listed. Only fladra (which means flounder as already said) is listed. Can you elaborate which Polish word may come into consideration here? – Takkat Jan 21 at 8:09
  • fladern, v. survives in some german dialects, meaning to pilfer (to steal). together with the "fence" meaning, it rang a bell but I could not find anything to back it up except the common origin mhd vladeren flag/flap – dlatikay Jan 21 at 19:10
  • @JEL: yes, like on all SE sites we do encourage self-answers here. However consider that the dictionary links David gave are probably the best you can get here. – Takkat Jan 22 at 7:30
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A reasonably quotable source would be Wörterbuch der deutschen Lehnwörter in der polnischen Schrift- und Standardsprache: fladry.

Beside the verb flattern (cognate to English flutter), the entry also suggests Flieder as a possible source, which as a hunting term apparently refers to Lappen und Schrecktücher (Kehrein, Wörterbuch der Weidmannsprache). Not only would this fit the meaning perfectly, it also has the advantage of being a noun, whereas flattern is a verb.

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    It may be noteworthy that Flieder in hunter's jargon may also have a common etymological root with flattern. – Takkat Jan 22 at 7:26
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From the illustration of a fladry line in Wikipedia it is clear what this item would be called in German:

Flatterband, Flatterleine, or the more accurate modern term Lappenzaun.

enter image description here

Therefore the etymology of fladry from the German flattern (to flag, to flap) appears to be quite plausible.

Up to the 16th Century it was written fladern or fladdern which is even closer to the English fladry. Other than an entry in the Polish Wikipedia section I could not find any further reference for a Polish origin.

The Flaser used as a technical term in geology is derived from another root, such as is the Fladen, the latter being close to Flunder (flounder).


Side note: a nominalized from of the verb flattern did exist (Flatterei) but it apparently was used figuratively only with a remote reference to "flapping" decorations.

  • Ein Fladry ist kein Flatterband/Flatterleine. Diesen fehlen die angehängten Lappen. Hierzulande kann man auch Fladry sagen, eindeutiger ist allerdings der Lappenzaun. – mtwde Jan 21 at 12:09
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    @mtwde: mit dem Lappenzaun kann man die Etymologie leider nicht so gut erklären. Es gibt schon noch die Bezeichnung "Flatterband" und "Flatterleine" für Leinen mit Fähnchen dran. Die Etymologie stammt vermutlich sowieso aus einer Zeit in der es noch keine Plastikbreitbandlitze gab. Zu Mozarts Zeiten hieß es noch: Ein frischer Busenstrauß mit Flatterband dem Mädchen angesteckt. - das war dann auch etwas anderes ;) – Takkat Jan 21 at 12:45
  • Ich glaube, es ging bei dem Kommentar nicht um die Etymologie, sondern um die angemessene Übersetzung des polnischen fladry. – Die am seriösesten aussehende Quelle zur Etymologie, die ich gefunden habe, stammt aus diesem Wörterbuch: fladry. Da wird ebenfalls flattern vermutet (aber auch Flieder, Flinder, Flitter). – David Vogt Jan 21 at 12:49
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    @DavidVogt: Ich glaube hingegen, dass es bei der Frage gar nicht um die Übersetzung ging, sondern um die Etymologie. Habe aber dennoch den Lappenzaun erwähnt, schon korrekt, dass wir den nennen sollten, denn manch einer wird auf der Suche nach fladry zu uns kommen. – Takkat Jan 21 at 13:08
  • Ich denke auch, dass Fladry irgendwas mit Flattern zu tun hat. Bei dem Bild dachte ich auch zuerst an Flatterband, was für die Herleitung perfekt ist, aber man hätte auch über die im Wind flatternden Stoffstreifen herleiten können. Flatterbänder werden im Pferdesport eingesetzt, sind dort allerdings keine Zäune und haben einen gegenteiligen Zweck. Flatterbänder mit Fahnen kann ich nicht finden. Gerade weil viele wegen des seltenen Begriffs diesen Thread finden könnten, sollte man keine zweifelhaften Übersetzungen anbieten, auch wenn es hier eigentlich um die Etymologie geht. – mtwde Jan 21 at 13:32

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