1

French : Christ et chrétien

English : Christ and Christian

German : Christus und Christ

Grec : Χριστός και Χριστιανός (Xristos kai Xristianos)

Italien : Cristo e Cristiano

Espagnol : Cristo y cristiano

Je me demande pourquoi en français il existe ce changement de la voyelle (dans chri- et chré-). Pourquoi aussi la disparition de s (chriS- et chré-).

  • 1
    Not a big deal, but keep in mind the pronunciation difference in English too! – Luke Sawczak Aug 18 at 15:42
3

This is not French specific, Romanian shows a similar difference:

  • Christ : Hristos (or Cristos)

  • Christian : creștin

This discrepancy long predates the birth of modern Romance languages, in Latin, both chrestianoi and christianoi have been used to name Christians.

Here is a quote from a web page that refer to an essay that gave some clues about it (although I wasn't able to find the original essay):

An essay by late William Shandruk from the University of Chicago examines the ways in which Christ and Christian are spelled in Greek papyri. Chrestos, which was pronounced the same way as Christos, was a common slave name meaning “good” or “useful.” Confused by this, representatives of the Roman government often misspelled Christ’s name “Chrestos” instead of “Christos” meaning “anointed” or “messiah.” They also called the early followers of Christ “Chrestianoi” rather than “Christianoi.” The early Christians themselves went with the Romans here and often spelled their own name “Chrestianoi,” but they stuck to spelling “Christos” for Christ’s name.

For some reason1, the first form survived in Romanian and French while the other one did it in the remaining ones.

1 One of these being the natural evolution of both Chrīstiānum and chrestianum to old French chrestien anyway, while Christ spelling and pronunciation stayed close to the Latin. Thanks to @EauQuiDort for this point.

  • 2
    It's not just the vowel, you'd expect Chrĭstus to evolve into OF /krests/ anyway, and to become Modern French Chrêt(s), and both chrĭstianum and chrestianum would yield modern chrétien. Modern Christ can only be explained as influenced by the Latin word, in the same way other words linked to science or religion were, like livre (you'd expect loivre), espèce (not épèce) or siècle (instead of siègle) – Eau qui dort Aug 18 at 15:56
  • 1
    @Eauquidort: Is the Latin Chrĭstus or Chrīstus, though? – sumelic Aug 18 at 17:29
  • @sumelic You're right, it had a long vowel (I always get tripped by closed syllable long vowels in Latin). That'd make the expected reflex chrît and chrîtien, so the survival of the /s/ of Crhist is still probably a semi-cultism while chrétien is due to the split mentioned by Jlliagre – Eau qui dort Aug 18 at 18:07
  • @Eauquidort: I looked into related words a little more, and it looks like we do see ê rather than î in chrême, from Greek χρῖσμα. So perhaps christianum could have had a short vowel in the first syllable at some point after all. – sumelic Aug 18 at 21:25

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