Could you give me some information on the origin of the word nisu? Is it a Swedish word? When did pulla replace this word? I live in Ohio, and the Finnish…

Posted
17.8.2009

Could you give me some information on the origin of the word nisu? Is it a Swedish word? When did pulla replace this word?
I live in Ohio, and the Finnish-Americans here still use the word nisu instead of pulla.

Answer

Answered
18.8.2009
Last updated
18.8.2009

According to the etymological dictionary of modern Finnish language the word “nisu” has an analogue in all of the near related languages. Karelian and Estonian languages have the word “nisu” and the Veps language “ńižu”. Also the Sami language knows the word “njizzi” which is apparently derived from the same origin. The word is most likely a derivative of a word that means breast or teat (the Finnish word “nisä”). The concept of this is that the product of the teat (which is white and sweet milk) has same qualities that the mild-flavoured grain (wheat). In the Finnish literary language “nisu” has appeared since Agricola and it has been the primary designation of wheat until the 19th century.

The word “pulla” is a loan from “bulla” in the Finland Swedish language. The Swedish language has the word “bulle” which has the same meaning. However in the Finnish literary language the word “pulla” (which means pastry, bakery or a meatball [lihapulla]) has been used only from the early 20th century. In the 19th century the Swedish word “bulle” was translated as “kakku”, “kakkonen” or “kyrsänen”.

References:
HÄKKINEN, Kaisa. 2004. Nykysuomen etymologinen sanakirja. Helsinki: WSOY.

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