Before Armin-ius there was Ariovist-us. With Arminius, oddly, once you take away the Latin -ius, the ending becomes the Slavic -in. What happens with Ariovistus?
Well, first we have Ariovist. Then we break it down to Ario-vist. Now, we are not going to weigh in on Ario-. (Supposedly, it is a Celtic prefix meaning “noble”).
However, -vist seems familiar.
Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology translates -vistus by claiming it is simply the German Fürst, “a prince”. Alternatively, the suffix is supposed to be Celtic from, as per the ever correct Wikipedia, uid-, uidi-, uissu-, meaning “perception, knowledge.”
To know that -vid means knowledge one does not need to look to Celtic. The Indian vedas have the same derivation. In fact, so does the Polish wiedza. But the suffix is -vist not -vid.
If you are thinking sight, as in vista, you may be right. Assuming that is correct, we may want to ask if there is a word that expresses the concept?
If you said Czech věštec, Slovak veštec or Polish wieszcz (essentially, viest) we think you could be right. (If one accounts for the fact that the Polish mazurzenie seems to have been the correct way of talking of old, the Czech/Slovak and Polish versions would sound the same except for the -ec suffix not present in the Polish version (though there is a Polish – diminutive version – wieszczek). What does that mean?
A teller of news, a fortune teller, an augured, a seer but also – the necessarily derivative – magician, mage. Linde’s Polish dictionary from 1814 also has the following Slavic forms visct, vjesct, vishtac. Bruckner’s etymological dictionary concurs showing the Polish wiesc (news) to be cognate with the Avestani visti-, Indian vit-ti.
Thus, Ariovist would be a seer/magician. And we must not forget his contemporary anti-Roman rebel commander, the Getae-Dacian chief Byrebistas, Boirebistas or Buruista/Burvista. Again, once you eliminate the -as, you end up with Burebist or something like that. However, as we pointed out, in Greek at least, the “b” in many places meant “v” (see, e.g., Sklabinoi, Sklaboi).
Another interpretation may be that vist meant as much as man. Aleksander Brueckner believed that niewiasta (nye-veasta) (woman) originated from a word for a bride meaning one who was not known yet because she came from “the outside” (of the family). Therefore, there was “no knowledge” (no wiedza or vista) of her (he analogizes the Hungarian word for son in law – igen). However, this use appears at best secondary and at worst slightly contrived. If one were to assume that nie-wiasta simply means “not a man” (sorry), that would match up with the vist being just a man. The association of man with knowledge and woman with no knowledge thus seems unnecessary (or at least secondary). The words may simply have meant man and not man (i.e., woman).
It seems entirely plausible that a vist, over time became the knowledgeable leader – wieszcz, its original meaning of “man” forgotten. On the other hand, niewiasta (nye-veasta) may have lived on as the original name for a woman and this even after Slavic languages developed their own term for “wise woman/leader”, i.e., wieszczka.
And so here we are.
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