Author Topic: Words "rupee" and "rouble"  (Read 2933 times)

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Offline ciscoins

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Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« on: March 28, 2010, 07:17:37 PM »
Maybe you know the most popular, "mainstream" version of the origins of the word "rouble": that it could derive from the word "рубить" (to cut up, to chop). And supporters of this version think that rouble was a piece of a silver ingot (hryvnia). But today I've found an article of the famous historian V.L.Yanin: he explodes this version and calls it pseudoscientific. (Link) He thinks that "rouble" is a russified word from some foreign language, maybe Indian "rupee".

I continued searching, and I've found out that the version about the derivation of "rouble" from "rupee" is rather widespread, and it is even shown in etymological dictionaries (e.g. by Karl Lokotsch).

But there's one problem: the word "rouble" first appears in 13th century. And Wikipedia says that the first rupee coins were minted only in 1540-1545. Three centuries later.

So I have a question to colleagues from India: was the word "rupee" in use in 1200s or earlier? Maybe in some official documents?

Ivan
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2010, 07:41:24 PM »
The words rupee and rouble are older than the coin. This is quite usual for older coin names. From Dictionary of coin names by Adrian Room, under rupee:

The name is often stated, even in numismatic works, to derive from a Sanskrit word such as rupa, meaning cattle., much as the Roman word for "money", pecuniae, related directly to Roman pecus, "cattle". In fact, however, the word, although deriving from Sanskrit, has its origin in rüya, "coined silver", in turn from rüpa, "shape", "beauty". Furthermore, it is now considered most unlikely that, there is any common link between the name of the rupee and that of the rouble, as was once proposed. Most modern dictionaries now give only the "coined silver" origin

Under rouble, Room notes:

The name relates to the portions )"cuttings") of silver bars that served as both a unit of weight and a curency in the 14th century, with the origin in the Russian verb rubit, "to cut", "to chop". As such, the rouble superseded the grivna. The ingeneous theory that coin name derives from Arabic rubh, "quarter" (itself related to the name of the rupee), so that the rouble was worth this fraction of a grivna, is quite unsupported.

I must add that any major trade and finance between Russia and India must have gone through the Sassanide empire or the Byzantine empire, making direct contacts between the two countries unlikely.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline ciscoins

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2010, 08:33:37 PM »
Under rouble, Room notes:

The name relates to the portions )"cuttings") of silver bars that served as both a unit of weight and a curency in the 14th century, with the origin in the Russian verb rubit, "to cut", "to chop". As such, the rouble superseded the grivna. The ingeneous theory that coin name derives from Arabic rubh, "quarter" (itself related to the name of the rupee), so that the rouble was worth this fraction of a grivna, is quite unsupported.

Yanin proves that rouble could not be a portion. That was a whole silver ingot, about 196-197 grams (170 grams of pure silver), produced with special technology since 13th century. And grivna/hryvnia was just another type of ingots in 12th-13th centuries.
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Offline ciscoins

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2010, 08:40:42 PM »
And the weight of grivnas was 204 grams.
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Offline Rangnath

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2010, 10:17:13 PM »
thanks for the discussion ciscoins and figleaf.
I find "false congnates" fascinating indeed. And I guess that is what we have with rouble and rupee,
or do we?  If anyone else has an idea about this one, I'm all ears.
richie

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2010, 11:49:10 PM »
Here is a small collection of Russian silver bars. Note the one below in the picture. It has a broad mark that indicates half of the bar. If you show the whole bar, then cut it, parties would agree that it is half, so if the bar is a grivna (weight), you can cut it to a half grivna (2 roubles), but if the bar is a rouble, cutting it in half will give a half rouble. Therefore, a bar is not necessarily one fixed value. It can assume any value by weight and bars will have different values because they are cut, so it is incorrect to claim that all bars have the same value.

Of course, cutting silver not only happened in Russia. Most ancient hoards will contain a mixture of coins and cut silver. In the beginning, any silver could be cut to any weight, but local standard bars and combinations of weight and fineness developed between the 9th and 13th century. As a consequence, a Russian bar woud be acceptable for a trader from Byzantium, but the bar would be melted and recast e.g. in Constantinople at a different weight and fineness for e.g. the Venetian or the Persian market.

Source for the above is David Spufford, curator of the British Museum numismatics department. The picture is from a book by Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, who was curator of the Smithsonian in Washington. Adrian Room, who I quoted before, is a full-time author of etymological dictionaries and reference works and former lecturer of Russian with the UK Ministry of Defense.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline ciscoins

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 01:20:12 AM »
My skills in English are rather poor. Even to translate one article. But I will try to explain the principal points.

Here is a small collection of Russian silver bars. Note the one below in the picture. It has a broad mark that indicates half of the bar. If you show the whole bar, then cut it, parties would agree that it is half, so if the bar is a grivna (weight), you can cut it to a half grivna (2 roubles), but if the bar is a rouble, cutting it in half will give a half rouble. Therefore, a bar is not necessarily one fixed value. It can assume any value by weight and bars will have different values because they are cut, so it is incorrect to claim that all bars have the same value.

It's just a theory. Not confirmed by anything.


Chopped ingots (lots of them) appear only in the treasures that were buried after the second half of the 14th century. And the word "rouble" first appears in the documents in 13th century.

Except for the weight (196 and 204 grams) and the form (curved stick and straight stick), one more thing allows us to distinguish Moscow rouble from Novgorod grivna. Rouble ingots were made with special technology. Inside they were made of a base alloy (billon), but the surface was covered with fine silver. (It was found out by a scientist from the State Hermitage M.P.Sotnikova.)
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Offline ciscoins

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2010, 01:29:15 AM »
I find "false congnates" fascinating indeed. And I guess that is what we have with rouble and rupee, or do we?  If anyone else has an idea about this one, I'm all ears.

If the word "rupee" wasn't in use before 1200 - then they should be "false cognates". Or maybe the word "rupee" derives from "rouble"? Three centuries are enough to pass the continent, e.g. through Mongol Empire.
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

andyg

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 01:43:31 AM »
This page on Wikipedia states "The derivative word Rūpaya was used to denote the coin introduced by Sher Shah Suri during his reign from 1540 to 1545 CE"

As for origin it has this to say
"The origin of the word "rupee" is found in the word rūp or rūpā, which means "silver" in many Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi. The Sanskrit word rupyakam (Devanagari:रूप्यकम्) means coin of silver."

As ever with Wikipedia one can never guarantee that it is 100% accurate.

Offline Bimat

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Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2010, 03:22:49 AM »
In case you have missed it,you might find this topic interesting:

Story of Rupee

Aditya
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Offline Rangnath

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Re: Words "rupee" and "rouble"
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2010, 11:22:55 PM »
I hate to go over this once again, but I am curious if we all can agree on the following:

The word rupee has a Sanskrit cognate and rouble, which may or may not have an Arabic derivation, is not related to the Sanskrit word for silver. 
Therefore, the two words are most likely false cognates.

Richie