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  • re. neb/nib to mean nose

    The words for “beak” (as in a bird’s beak) in the Scandinavian languages is:

    næb (Danish), näbb (Swedish), nebb (Norwegian).

    I think the origin of the word would be pretty obvious for someone who speaks Swedish, Danish or Norwegian –especially as Martha points out that it is primarily associated with northern England and Scotland, the parts of present-day UK that were most influenced by invasion and settlement from Scandinavia.

    In modern Swedish, näbb means the beak (of a bird). The modern Scandinavian words for nose (näsa) are not very similar to neb/nib, but then then Nordic influence on English was happening about 1000 years ago..

    I’ve always guessed that the verb “nab” (as in to catch, grab, snatch) is somehow also derived from the Scandinavian næb/näbb/nebb, maybe an association with the way birds grab objects with their beaks.

    On a related subject, in many cases I hear the origin of many English words attributed to German, when the link to Scandinavian languages seems to be more obvious. Etymologists often seem to be reaching past the more-obvious Norse links to try to find an association with German. I just assume it is probably due to the fact that English speakers are much more likely to be familiar with German than Swedish, Danish or Norwegian. Of course, over the centuries, the evolution of the English language has been very deeply influenced by both Germanic and Scandinavian people, though I think the Scandinavian influence is more recent.

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