Arguments for the Lithuanian miestas ‘town’ Not Being a Slavism

  • Dainius Razauskas
Keywords: Lithuanian miestas ‘town’, Slavisms in Lithuanian, semantic evolution of the meaning ‘town’


The article maintains that, contrary to the linguists’ unanimous assumption, the Lithuanian word miestas ‘town’ could not be a Slavism. The article consists of six parts. In the first one, the introduction, the very problem is identified. Part 2 focuses on the analysis of the Proto-Slavic *město ‘place’ > ‘town’, previous attempts at its etymologisation are mentioned, and a connection to Lithuanian mietas ‘pale, stake’ and Latvian miet ‘to pale, to stake up, enclose’, among others, is indicated. Parts 3 and 4 show the characteristic semantic evolution from the meaning ‘enclosure, paled up site’ to the meanings ‘place’ and ‘town’, respectively. Section 5 gives a possible coherent explanation of the word miestas by means of the Lithuanian (Baltic) language without any resort to Slavic whatsoever (contrary to the Proto-Slavic *mesto, which cannot be explained independently). Finally, in part 6 (the conclusion), the single argument primarily proposed by Kazimieras Būga for the miestas to be a borrowing from Slavic is considered and refuted as not sufficient for such an assertion.