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The prefix oer- derives nouns on the basis of nouns. Basically, there are two senses. One denotes an origin, a first version of some phenomenon. An example of such a primal meaning is minske human > oerminske protohuman.

There is also a prefix oer- that is attached to kinship terms. It then forms a third-degree term from a second-degree term. An example is pake grandfather > oerpake great-grandfather.

[+]The prefix oer- denoting first origin

The productive prefix oer- denotes a state of origin, the first appearance of what is denoted by the base. It is related to Dutch oer- and German Ur-. Examples of derivations with this oer- are listed below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
byld picture oerbyld archetype
bosk forest oerbosk primeval forest
knal bang oerknal big bang
drift drive oerdrift primitive drive
minske human oerminske protohuman
tiid time oertiid prehistoric times
stof dust oerstof protoplasm
folk people oerfolk primitive people
The prefix oar-

Next to oer- there is the prefix oar-, which has the same etymology. This element oar- is not productive, however, and it can only be found in synchronically opaque words like oarloch war, oarsprong origin, oardiel judgement, oarsaak cause and oarkonde document.

[+]The prefix oer- in kinship terms

Frisian has another prefix oer- which only superficially resembles the prefix dealt with above. It is related to the preposition oer over, and therefore it is a prefixoid. The Dutch counterpart is over-, likewise descending from a preposition, i.e. Dutch over over. This prefix oer- is attached to kinship terms, and then forms a third-degree term of a second-degree term. An example is pake grandfather > oerpake great-grandfather. The only existing derivations with this prefix oer- are listed below:

Table 2
Base form Derivation
pake grandfather oerpake great-grandfather
beppe grandmother oerbeppe great-grandmother
bernsbern grandchild(ren) oerbernsbern great-grandchild(ren)
In order to express an even higher degree in kinship, these formations with oer- can be prefixed with bet-.

[+]Phonological properties

The prefix is pronounced as [uər]. The stress is always on the prefix. Examples are OERknal big bang and OERpake great-grandfather).


The prefix oer- denoting first origin is shortly dealt with in Hoekstra (1998:66), and its role in kinship terms is mentioned in Hoekstra (1998:64).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
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