The Mystery of Ur

why is ur called ur?

"stranger and more sometimes the ur, which is a thing produced by suggestion, an object brought into being by hope". --Jorge Luis Borges


Alex assumed that ur is a prefix in German to describe something that is higher, but actually it means something ancient like a prehistoric fish, in German "Urfisch".

This was the first time discussed here:

That the topic comes up again I can add two more examples. To the Brazilian rainforest we sometimes say "Urwald" (Wald means forest).

We can even use the prefix ur several times to name, for example, the father from the father from the father from the grandfather like Urururgroßvater (Großvater means grandfather)

I just saw that in your Wikipedia link there is also an item under Language:

  • Ur-, a German prefix meaning "primeval" (seldom also "primitive") or even simply "original"; in a relative majority of cases it takes on the sense of "most ancient" (referring to sth. as a 'source' - the initial root, the starting point - of a development); Compare with Old English: or-deal, or-lay, or-iginal; in modern English often replaced by 'proto-'; Sometimes in combinations of two or more of these meanings

Actually here in Vienna the usage of "ur" in the spoken viennese dialect is to make something stand out (in a good way). For example for something that is really cool, you'd say "ur cool".


Ur is not used at all in french as a prefix, but some people use it in relation with music.

  • Urtext Edition : a printed version intended to reproduce the original intention of the composer as exactly as possible, without any added or changed material.

I always assumed that ur was a reference to the notion of Urtext somehow.