27 January 2009

Sephardim: Etymology of marrano

Tracing the Tribe has received what can be best described as a reader's comment with some not-very-nice political comments. This is a genealogy blog and not a political blog, and therefore I rejected the offensive political comments.

However, the reader did pose a legitimate question and comment based on my request to readers not to use the term marrano to refer to anousim/Conversos.

The writer asked:
Why is marrano pejorative? Marrano, contrary to what one has been led to believe doesn't come from castilian "pig" but from Catalan marda: sheep, lamb.
Although I know why the word is pejorative and why my Converso friends consider it insulting and extremely rude, I asked my good friend researcher Maria Jose Surribas in Barcelona to research the etymology.

Writes Maria Jose:
About the meaning of the word marrano, as it has been discussed, I've looked at the best etymological dictionary in Spain, by Coromines.

He speaks about the discussion on this word origin, and says that Farinelli, in his book
"Marrano, Storia di un vituperio" (Ginebra 1925), provided a rich number of documents to state that this word was used to call the newly converted Jews and Moors, as they hate pork and marrano is a figurative meaning for pig.

According to Coromines, the word
marrano as pig or swine was already used in a document from the year 965, and was applied to the converted Moors as they were also forbidden to eat pork. In Portugal, the word was marrao, and both of them probably come from the Arabic máhran (forbidden thing).

The word used in Catalan is
marrá. Coromines also says that the use of sheep to describe the conversos was used by the Moors to call the converted Jews, as marrano described both Jews and Moors.
The rest of the reader's comments will not be addressed as they were political in nature and have no place on Tracing the Tribe.

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