Re: Hurray!!!! A Mongol Word?

On Sun, 20 Nov 2005 13:47:34 GMT, Peter T. Daniels wrote:

> Joseph W. Murphy wrote:
>> On Sun, 20 Nov 2005 04:06:10 GMT, Peter T. Daniels wrote:
>>> Joseph W. Murphy wrote:
>>>> I am presently reading "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" by
>>>> Jack Weatherford. In the book's introduction I find a paragraph with a
>>>> litany of Mongol contributions to Renaissance European culture, including
>>>> this:
>>>> "The Europeans even picked up the Mongol exclamation "hurray" as an
>>>> enthusiastic cry of bravado and mutual encouragement."
>>>> So, what say ye? Is "hurray" of Mongol derivation? My Merriam Webster
>>>> says its possibly of German origin and first appears in English around
>>>> 1700.
>>>> I remember that Russian soldiers charge to "Ura!" Scratch a Russian and
>>>> find a Tartar?
>>>> Any thoughts?
>> And Peter T. Daniels responded:
>>> I don't suppose Mr. Weatherford includes source notes?
>>> The name is familiar. What's he written that I might have seen?

>> To which the Boy Linguist replied:

>> He has source notes and a "selected bibliography" but not for this
>> statement.
>> From the blurb on the back cover we have:
>> "JACK WEATHERFORD is a professor of anthropology at Macalester College in
And Peter T. Daniels suggested:

> Why don't you email him?
And following up on Peter Daniels' suggestion the Boy Linguist then sent
Prof. Jack Weatherford the following email:

Dear Prof. Weatherford:

I am a semi-retired lawyer in Indianapolis. I am also a history buff and
something of an amateur linguist. I am presently reading your book,
"Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World". In reading it, I came
across this, in the introductory pages of the paperback version at page
xxiv of your Introduction:

"The Europeans even picked up the Mongol exclamation "hooray" as an
enthusiastic cry of bravado and mutual encouragement."

This piqued my interest. I checked my Merriam-Webster Collegiate
dictionary for the etymology of "Hurrah" and "Hurray" and found the word
listed as of probable German origin. A Google search on the etymology
revealed this:

1686, alteration of huzza, apparently infl. by similar shouts in Ger.,
Dan., Swed. May have been picked up during Thirty Years' War. According to
Moriz Heyne, this was the battle-cry of Prussian soldiers during the War of
Liberation (1812-13). Hooray is its popular form and is almost as old.

I'm a long-time member of the Usenet group, sci.lang and yesterday broached
the matter of the origin of "Hurray" with the group (which includes a lot
of practicing linguists). One of them, Peter T. Daniels, suggested that I
write you and ask if you had any sourcing for the Mongol origin of the
word. So, that's the reason for this email. I couldn't find anything on
it in the Source Notes provided at the back of your book and was wondering
where you came up with your contention that the origin of the word is

By the way, I'm enjoying the book. You really write well. I was unaware
of the historical background surrounding "The Secret History of the
Mongols" until I read what you had to say on the subject. I'm looking
forward to finishing your book.

I've been interested in the Mongols, by the way, since I was a kid and read
Harold Lamb's Landmark Books biography of Genghis Khan.

Anyway, if you have a source for the Mongol origin of "hurray" I'd
appreciate your sharing it with me. I've got a lot of my friends on
sci.lang interested in this. Believe it or not, some there actually speak

Joe Murphy


Many thanks for the note and your interest.

Like most etymologies that do not come through the standard sources, many
scholars will reject this, but in my mind there is absolutely no question.

The Germans (or really, the Prussians) picked it up from the Russians who
picked it up from the Mongols. A little more of the etymology can be found
in the Oxford English Dictionary than in Webster's, but the OED only traces
it as far as Russia and the Cossacks (if my memory is correct) but then
leaves it unknown before that time.

In Mongolian the phrase is used today much the way Christians use "amen."
At the end of a prayer, Mongols hold both hands out with palms up and move
them in a clockwise circle three times saying "hurray, hurray, hurray."
Earlier the phrase was used for all types of official occasions -- it is
sacred in that it is calling on the Sky for aid.

The root of the word is the same as Khuraltai -- the great gathering of
Mongolians that I mention in the book. In fact, the modern parliament is
called the Ih Hural where, I believe, President Bush will be speaking for
the first time in about 12 hours from now.

I will check back in the OED as well, but I hope that this gives a little
more information.



I forgot one of the most important points.

It is unclear whether the Mongols actually used the cry in war when
mounted on horses. They used it at all group gatherings and almost
certainly for the ceremonial prayer before the attack. It may have been
the Russians who, in their many years of fighting with and for the Mongols,
began using it at the moment of attack.