By: | Post date: 2018-01-12 | Comments: 10 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

In my time at the TLG, there was many a mediaeval Greek word that was not in the main dictionaries—Lampe, Trapp (which was not yet complete at the time), and Kriaras (ditto); and I would expend pleasant and assiduous effort in trying to track those words down elsewhere.

One such word was the Byzantine Greek word for brocade, φουφούδιον. It’s in Trapp’s dictionary now that Vol. VIII has appeared (after the end of my time at the TLG):

φουφούδι(ο)ν, τό. Brocade. -ιν TestBoil 23, 131. -ιν AIv 47.37 (a. 1098). -ια APantel 7.12. -ιν 18 (a. 1142). -ιον OktoEng 40.15. -ιν 19. φοφόδην FalkSing 450.6.—Car[acausi], TestBoilP 157, ByzAD.

φουφουδοτός (corrct to: -ωτός) Decorated with brocade. DucApp I. s.v. ῤένδα: Cod. Reg. 2437 (= Par. 156).

φουφούλιον, τό. Brocaded garment. -ια EpBib 5,2. φουρουλ( ) (?) μετὰ σταυρίου ὀξέου “with a purple cross” Typ.Kechar 152,28.—LexPont -ιν; cf. Φουφούλης Car, φουφούλα Stam[atakos].

So we have fufuði(o)n, in one text fofoðin, 1 attested in various monastic texts of the 11th through 13th century. We have the related adjective fufuðotos, attested (mispelled) in the appendix to DuCange’s 1688 Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae Graecitatis (presumably from a manuscript no longer available). And we have the variant fufulion, attested in the 10th century Book of the Eparch of Leo the Wise, as well as the 12th century typikon of the mponastery of Theotokos Kecharitomene. The latter word survives in Pontic Greek as fufulin, and in standard Greek as fufula (Stamatakos is a Modern Greek dictionary): per the Triantafyllidis dictionary fufula refers to “the lower hind part of islander breeches (vraka), which is puffy and has folds; breeches by extension; pantaloons for women and children, held up by suspenders”.

Trapp’s volume wasn’t out at the time I came across the word in the TLG. But other sources had already published fufuðion.

Such as Girolamo Caracausi’s Lessico Greco della Sicilia e dell’Italia meridionale (secoli x–xiv), a dictionary of the monastic documents of southern Italy, where it is glossed as “a kind of cloth”, with Falkenhausen’s example and two others, and with the contemporary Latin phrases from the same region, fuffude rossa et citrina (1065) and uno fuffudi citrino et nigro (1088). I had in fact gone through Caracausi for words for the TLG, but for some reason I had missed φουφούδιον.

A source I did come across when researching φουφούδιον was ByzAD: Artefacts and Raw Materials in Byzantine Archival Documents, which has an extensive article on the garment and its attestations, and renders it as “silk fabric, samite (?)”. The article posits that the name is “doubtless of Iranian origin”, and associates it with Leo VI the Wise’s fufulion, where the editor believes it is a kind of baggy pants. It also notes that fufula has survived into Modern Greek ByzAD is an online database, so I did eventually find it there.

That isn’t where I first found it either though.

I first find it through the word’s transmission into Russian. The word shows up in Old Russian as fofudja; and because of the delay in getting the lexicography of Byzantine Greek up and running, the only source Vasmer had access to in his etymological dictionary of Russian (where it is glossed as “precious fabric for imperial clothes”) was the 1688 attestation of fufuðotos.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say abut the Russian version of the word:

The word was quite obscure and was not included in several editions of orthographic dictionaries either in Ukraine or Russia.

According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, fofudja (Russian: фофудья, Greek: φουφουδότης) [which is presumably a distortion of DuCange’s φουφουδοτός] is an oriental precious cloth woven with gold thread and often used in ceremonial garments in the Byzantine Empire during the time of Kievan Rus and similar to an ephod. Fofudja was was mentioned as a form of payment in the 12th century birch bark documents found in the Veliky Novgorod excavation. Fofudja was mentioned in the Radziwiłł Chronicle in the 13th century when Leo VI the Wise rewarded Oleg of Novgorod with gold, fofudja and other items. The term is mentioned again when Vladimir II Monomakh distributed fofudja, among other goods, to the people on their way to the church.

Note that Leo VI the Wise was the 10th century emperor to whom the Book of Eparch was attributed, which had fufulion. The fufuðion was expressly mentioned as Byzantine in the Russian sources, and is mentioned over the same period it appears in Byzantine sources, 11th through 13th centuries.

Fofudja/Fufudin passed out of use in both the Greek-speaking and the Russian-speaking world, though the related fufulin clearly survived in Greek. There are two paradoxical survivals of Fofudja/Fufudin though.

There’s a reason I was able to find mentions of fofudja online so easy:

Fofudja (Russian: Фофудья [fɐˈfudʲjə]) is an internet and social phenomenon in the Ukrainian segment of the LiveJournal community. While its name denotes a piece of religious clothing, it has been used lately as a satirical protest against Russian imperialism, xenophobia, ukrainophobia, antisemitism and religious intolerance. By application of reductio ad absurdum this phenomenon involves people assuming comically exaggerated xenophobic and antisemitic views with the aim to mock them. As such, members of the Fofudja community sarcastically purport to be members of the supposedly oppressed Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine suffering from nationalist and Zionist oppression.


The theme of this phenomenon can be traced back to another widely popular Ukrainian Internet creation — a novel “The City of Lvov”. [started 2006–02–20] This satirical Internet novel written by “Professor” Ivan Denikin (a pen name of an unknown joker) deals with a few Russians traveling to Lviv and on their way encountering “unspeakable suffering” of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine brought on by Ukrainization.


The main symbol of this phenomenon is the fofudja itself. In the view of some observers the name was probably selected because of a number of factors: because of its obscurity, because it sounds similar to a piece of clothing called fufaika, and also due to its Byzantine origin and orthodox symbolism. Members of the community sarcastically position themselves as semi-underground Russian minority in present-day Ukraine, proud Russian patriots and devout Orthodox Christians.


Fofudja as a piece of religious clothing is meant to be a symbol of Russian Orthodoxy and of Russian culture. Participants believe that they will be persecuted by Ukrainian authorities for wearing it in public as a piece of national Russian costume. In fact, the leader of Ukrainian communists Petro Symonenko was asked in an Internet conference the following question:

“Hello, I am from Kherson oblast and I am an ethnic Russian. My daughter was prohibited from wearing a fofudja at school, a symbol of Russian culture — on the grounds that the state language is Ukrainian. I just wanted to ask you, Peter Nikolayevich, for how long [will it last]?

Unsuspecting of being a victim of a practical joke by members of the fofudja community and willing to profit on the sensitive inter-ethnic question Mr. Symonenko promised to “look into it”.


The symbol of “fofudja”, the catchphrase “доколє” (“for how long” “until when”, an archaic question word), the Russian-Ukrainian letter mix and the Imperial Cyrillic — these are the distinctive features of this Internet phenomenon that spread beyond the Live Journal blog and into the wider community in Ukraine.

Hence, the fofudja in its natural contemporary habitat, as a meme accompanied by the archaic and plaintive доколє “for how long”:

The Greek survival of fufuðion is somewhat less spectacular. On the other hand, if you’re a dialectologist, it’s arguably more spectacular.

Nikolaos Pantelidis is a dialectologist at Athens University, and he has been researching dialects that have gotten short shrift in Modern Greek dialectology, notably Peloponnesian. In Το παλαιοαθηναϊκό ιδίωμα: Πηγές, μαρτυρίες, χαρακτηριστικά, he assembles all available sources to date on the Old Athenian dialect—which, thanks to two recently published 19th century plays, are a lot more sources than we used to have. The dialect has gone from almost unattested, to attested enough for him to extract a basic grammar. (And for me to formulate an impressionistic description of it as a Tsakonian-flavoured Cretan.)

Of the two plays, Gynaikokratia (1841) has a brief speech in Old Athenian, written by Dimitrios Byzantios/Hatziaslanis, the same playwright who wrote the renowned satire of Modern Greek linguistic diversity Babel. The second, with a more extensive speech, is Sotirios Kourtesis’ 1862 Ο Καρπάθιος ή ο κατά φαντασίαν ερώμενος “The Carpathian, or the Imaginary Lover”.

(You’ll find very few traces of Kourtesis online, but one trace you will find is that this particular play was an imitation of Molière. A second was that he was the first to satirise the Piraeus toughs, the Koutsavakis/Mangas, as far back as 1868.)

And in the very end of the old native Athenian woman’s plaint on modern female fashions in Kourtesis’ play, in the second last page of Pantelidis’ article, right before the use of που after a dubitative verb that I wish I had been aware of for my doctoral thesis (τιγάρις θάρρευγες που σε γέλαγα—cf. A Survey of Modern Greek Dialectal Complementation), she says:

Εµείς, τσυρά µου, τα ζιπούνια µας, τα σταµπόσιαλια, τα επαίρναµε προιτσιό, τσαι πάλι τα δίναµε στα παιδιά µας, τσαι εσάς δε σας φτάνουνε δυο-τρία φουστάνια το µήνα, τσαι για τούτο δε θα κάµετε προκοπή ποτές, µε τούνα δά τα φουφούδια που φορείτε.

My lady, our waistcoats, our Istanbul shawls, we received as dowry, and we handed them on to our children; and as for you, two or three dresses a month are not enough for you, and that’s why no good will ever come of you, with these fufuðia you’re wearing.

The word clearly does not refer here to pantaloons, but to fancy clothes; so in fact it is closer to the fufuðion than are the pantaloons and breeches of fufula, which we know survived in Greek.

Old Athenian was a notoriously archaic dialect; it’s almost too good to be true to find a Byzantine survival like fufuðion in Athens, which was isolated from the remainder of the Greek-speaking world by Albanian incursions in the 14th century—right after fufuðion is no longer attested. And maybe the word was used more widely after all.

A look at Google Books shows that it was. In Rhodes, fufui < fufuði refers to boils on childrenʼs heads; the form is reported by Agapitos Tsopanakis in an article in Hellenika in 1985, and he also reports that he had already derived it from *ὑποφῴδιον “under-blister” in 1940. So it’s unrelated.

This snippet from the journal of the Greek Philological Society of Constantinople journal (Σύγγραμμα Περιοδικόν, vol. 17) of 1882–83, on the other hand, very much attests the word: it’s a song lyric that goes

Κάποια Μέρισα, κάποια Μεροδοπούλλα,
εροθύμθησε πα’ ’ς τογ ’γιαλόν να πλύννη
τα φουφούδια της και τα μεταξωτά της

A Merisa (?), a Merodopoulla/Merodian (?) girl,
went down to the beach to wash
her fufuðia and her silken garments (p. 224)

Mercifully the Internet Archive has also digitised that volume; the song is from Symi, the next island up from Rhodes. (So that Rhodian word for boils might somehow be related to fufuðia after all.)

The word also shows up a fair way away from Symi, in Missolonghi, in the local paper citing Akakia Kordosis’ 1998 Μιλήστε Μεσολογγίτικα “Speak Missolongian” (which is available in an earlier edition here):

Αναφουφουδιάζω (απ’ την λέξη φουφούδια που λένε για τα φρεσκοπλυμένα ρούχα). Φρεσκάρω. Αναφουφούδιασα τα σκουτιά.

Φουφούδι, το. Καθαρό, ωραίο. Τα ρούχα γίνανε φουφούδια απ’ το πλύσ’μο.

anafufuðiazo (from the word fufuðia which is used to refer to freshly washed clothes). To freshen up. “I anafufuðiazo the clothes.”

fufuði neut. noun. Clean, beautiful. “The clothes have become fufuðia through washing.”

So the original Byzantine garment, the brocade awarded to the Rus, turns up in Symi, Missolonghi, and Athens, as a description of nice dress—clean clothes in Missolonghi, fancy clothes in Athens, precious clothes in Symi.

(I’ve also seen an instance of contemporary usage of fufuðia to mean “nonsense”, and some other scattered instances whose meaning I can’t work out; e.g. from a childbirth forum, εμενα μου την εβαλε γιατρος και μαια που με ειχαν στα φουφουδια που λεμε…με εξτρα ζελε και ξυλοκαινη-σουπερ περιποιηση “I had [the catheter] inserted by a doctor and a midwife, who had me, as the saying goes, “in the fufuðia“, with extra jelly and xylocaine: they were wonderful to me”.)

So the survival of fufuðia in Old Athenian is not as unique as I’d thought an hour ago; but it’s still a survival that (as far as I can tell) has not been linked to the Byzantine garment before.)


  • John Cowan says:

    I think your last example must mean that they treated her like royalty. Catheterization is no fun, and anyone who manages to make it even tolerable, particularly for a woman, is basically treating her like a queen.

  • Trond Engen says:

    If Byzantine brocades were valuable gifts to High Medieval rulers in Northern Russia, it could be just about the right time for it to dissipate as traded luxury goods in the Northern regions and eventually become the intricate embroideries on tradirional Sami costume (https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=sami+costume).

    So I tried to find the word in Sami, with disappointing results. My Sami resources are limited, though.

    • Intriguing!

      • Trond Engen says:

        … but a totally unsubstantiated idea as it is. And I suspect that if the word really were borrowed into Sami, it would either have been altered to the point where I wouldn’t recognize it, or its Russian origin would have been clear long ago.

        If I still may play with the idea a little longer, I think there are two or three, maybe four different paths a word could take from Novgorodian Russian to Saami. First, it might have spread via Karelian to (Northern, I think) Finnish and from there widely across Sami (there are a few Russian words in Southern Sami that are thought to have taken this route). Second, more narrowly, it could have been picked up by Karelian traders and spread to Eastern Sami. Third, it could have been used by Orthodox missionaries (monks) working and trading with the Karelians and the Eastern Sami. Finally, it could have become a household word in Northern Russian and have been spread along the Arctic coast with the Pomor trade. All of these paths should have left some traces along the way. But whatever traces those may be, an entry under Kildin Saami in the World Loanword Database (http://wold.clld.org/vocabulary/14) isn’t one of them.

  • Κ. Καραποτόσογλου says:

    The word φουφούϊ(ν), τo (Rhodes) = σπυράκι, boil, pimple, «έβγαλεφ φουφούδια τό μωρό(ν)», is found in Turkish vernacular as fufudi, fufuli = ergenlik (= youthful acne; σπυράκια ακμής), sivilce (= pimple, pustule; σπυρί, μπιμπίκι). (Limanköy *Çayeli –Rz.)
    Χρ. Ι. Παπαχριστοδούλου, Λεξικό των ροδίτικων ιδιωμάτων, Αθήνα 1986, σ.657. Derleme Sözlüğü, σ. 1879.

    The phrase: με ειχαν στα φουφούδια is equal to:με είχαν στα πούπουλα = wrap in cotton-wood; Φούφουλλdος = χαλαρός, μη πιεσμένος, «φούφουλλdομ παμπάκι(ν)» (Rhodes) = fluffy cotton.

    Limanköy is a township in Çayeli district of Rize province on the Black Sea coast of eastern Turkey, 6 km west of the town of Çayeli. Limanköy is in the east of Büyük Caferpaşa, in the south of Demirhisar and Akpınar.It is the largest neighborhood in Çayeli.

    R i z e:The name comes from Greek ρίζα (riza) or Ριζαίον (Rizaion)[citation needed], meaning “mountain slopes”.[3] In modern times, its name in Greek was usually Ριζούντα (Rizounta). Its Latin forms are Rhizus and Rhizaeum, the latter of which is used in the Catholic Church’s list of titular sees as the name of bishopric of the town, which was once part of the late Roman province of Pontus Polemoniacus[4]). The name Rize is spelled ريزه in Ottoman Turkish, Ռիզե in Armenian and რიზე in Georgian. The name in Laz is Rizini (რიზინი).[5]
    The first written mention of Rize is made by Arrian in a work named Periplus of the Euxine Sea, [6] as a city founded at the mouth of the homonymous river (the ancient and Byzantine ῾Ρίζιος ποταμός[7]). Dated at 130–131 AD and written as a letter to Roman Emperor Hadrian, the work records how its author, the governor of Cappadocia, made an inspection tour of the Eastern Black Sea territories that were part of his jurisdiction, first visiting the Roman Empire’s Eastern Anatolian frontier garrisons before pushing on to the Black Sea coast in the Trabzon (Trebizond) region. [8]

  • Κ.Καραποτόσογλου says:

    φουφουδάτε επίθ. ΜΚ. Ρούχο επίσημο, με εντυπωσιακή εμφάνιση κοιν. Είνι στολίχουντε το καμπζί τ̔α φουφουδάτα Κ, στολίζουν το παιδί με τα καλά του.
    Θανάση Κωστάκη, Λεξικό της τσακωνικής διαλέκτου, τ. 3, Αθήνα 1987, σ.315.

    • I should have guessed, given how Old Athenian reminds me of Tsakonian. But clearly this word is quite widespread in modern Greek dialect anyway.

  • David Marjanović says:

    And for me to formulate an impressionistic description of it as a Tsakonian-flavoured Cretan.


    • Tsakonian, as I’ve mentioned I think a couple of times here, is my favourite dialect, so I am motivated to see it everywhere. In the case of Old Athenian, the reminiscences of Tsakonian are phonological: the survival of Ancient /y/ as [ju] (and some sources in the 19th century even claimed actual [y]), and of Ancient /ɔː/ as [u].

      They’re superficial similarities, of course. The real point is the “Cretan”: Old Athenian patterns with the more archaic Aegean island dialects in several morphological and lexical archaisms, and indeed lies within the defining isogloss for islander dialects (which in this case is an innovation: “what-is-it-that” expressions for “what?”)

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    M T W T F S S
    1. FalkSing: V. von Falkenhausen. Un’inedita singrafe dotale calabrese del 1208/09. Rivista Storica Calabrese n.s. 6 (1985) 445–456,

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