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Is the German verb “nutzen” etymologically related to the English verb “to use”? Before looking into it a little bit, I had guessed that they were related via a rebracketing thing, but then I learned that “to use” seems to come from Latin, not from the Germanic things. So, is the similar sound of “nutzen” and “use” just a coincidence?

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    Also I'm voting to close this question, because the etymology can be looked up anywhere: nutzen use. Oct 16, 2022 at 10:19

1 Answer 1

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Short answer:

The two words do not sound similar and they have very different etymologies.


In detail:

pronunciation

As the user infinitezero already pointed out in his comment, there is no sound that the two words have in common (although [ʊ] and [u] sound similar). The [s] in the voiceless alveolar sibilant affricate [t͡s] (pronounced like "ts" in "cats", "tsar" and "tsunami") will not be recognized as an s-sound (compare the pronunciation of the names Betsy = [ˈbɛt͡si] and Bessy = [ˈbɛsi]:

  • nutzen = [ˈnʊt͡sn̩]
  • use = [juːs] or [juːz]
Etymology of "nutzen"

The modern German verb "nutzen" and the German noun "Nutzen" are closely related and have the same etymological root. The noun was "nuz" in Middle and Old High German. In about the 9th century there existed even two versions of this word: "nuz" and "nuzza" that both had the same meaning. Before that there existed the Proto Germanic noun "nutōną".

From this Proto Germanic noun "nutōną" also evolved Old English "notian" (to make use of something) and "nytt" (the use) and Middle English "nutte" (pronunciation: like "noot") which obviousely became extinct and is no longer in use in modern English.

Etymology of "use"

This word was imported into Middle English (as "use") from Old French (where it was "us") between the 12th and 14th century. Old French is one of the direct successors of Latin, so the root of the Old French "us" was a Latin word. It was "usus" (meaning "benefit" and "usage"). The ancestor of this Latin word was the Proto Italic word "oissos".

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  • As infinitezero remarked, use is pronounced [juːz], the last consonant being voiced.
    – RHa
    Oct 16, 2022 at 20:03
  • @Rha: Both pronunciations are correct: wiktionary, although I believe to hear more often a voiceless s. I edited my answer and added the second version. Oct 17, 2022 at 7:01
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    The verb use has /z/, /s/ is the noun.
    – David Vogt
    Oct 17, 2022 at 9:30
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    The root of "usus" is the verb "utor" (to use, to make use of, to have, ...) and "usus" is the PPP of it. The change in the root consonant (here: t->s) is common in latin verbs.
    – bakunin
    Oct 17, 2022 at 9:59
  • Thanks for the answer! I guess I was indeed reading to much into things. Dang human pattern-seeking. Oct 20, 2022 at 9:11

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