Good, Better, Best

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Swedish-Norwegian reader:

    I just wondered this thing because in Sweden/Norway we have bra-bättre-bäst and bra-bedre-best, respectively. The latter to forms is pronounced very much like the English “better, best” in both languages.

    The Nordic-Scandinavian languages also have their root in old german, so the explaination here seems pretty likely.

  2. Keith:

    English has indeed word very similar to the Germanic root “bat” and to the modern Scandinavian word “bra”: it is “braw”, now used almost exclusively in Scots English.

    The dictionaries tell us that this is a 16th century borrowing from the French “brave” (in the sense of “good, fine“, and not in the sense “courageous“). But I wonder if this is the whole story. Such a borrowing would have been made easier through the similarity with the older word “bra” which may have persisted in areas of Norse-Gael populations.

  3. Mats:

    “Bra” in Swedish is actually from the Italian word “bravo” and came into the Nordic countries in the 17th century. The Old Swedish word for “good” is “bot” (bot, bättre, bäst). In Swedish this word is still in use; we say that someone can get cured (=botad), we also say that someone can get a ticket (=böter, or “a bot”), meaning “to make something good”.

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