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Does the name of the hair color русый come from the name of the people/land?

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Русый originates from the Slavic word *рудсъ (red) and is directly related to words like рыжий, рдеть, рожа (disease) etc, and also to the words orginated from the same PIE root, including English red itself.

Most sources agree that русский and Русь originated from Rus, the name of the Viking tribe which settled on the east cost of Baltic sea.

The name of the tribe is thought by some (Vasmer and others) as originated from Germanic word meaning "to row" (as with a paddle). However, since the origin of the nation's name is a very politically sensitive subject, there are numerous theories which derive the word Русь from other words. Trubachyov derived it from an Iranian word meaning "light" (which originates from the same root as русый does), though agrees that it was the name of a Viking tribe too. If this point of view is true, then the two words are related but that would be a very remote relation.

Some derive the word Русь from the name of the river Ros (in what now is Ukraine). However, in Slavic it was read as *ръсь which would yield a fleeting vowel in the root (compare ръжь - рожь, ръжи - ржи) so linguists deny this version.

So answering your question: русый definitely does not come directly from русский or Русь, but the two may (or may not) have a common PIE ancestor meaning "bright color".

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  • Just a thought (if you can confirm or deny): can the word “рыжий” be a later re-borrowing (not a technical term, mind you) from the French “rouge” or did they undergo similar phonetic processes separately? – theUg Jun 28 '12 at 5:11
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    @theUg: The words sounds as rydzy in Polish which means the borrowing would happen, if at all, before the yotation. This would give us the proto-Slavic word *rydjь (рыдйи, with a really short i), common for all Slavic languages. The borrowing, thus, cound not happen later than VII century. By that time French rouge had not acquired its modern reading yet. So that's impossible that рыжий is borrowed from rouge. – Quassnoi Jun 28 '12 at 7:01
  • By “modern reading” you mean acquisition of “ж” sound (i.e. “modern pronunciation”)? – theUg Jun 28 '12 at 8:15
  • @theUg: yes. Borrowing of руж by Russians, even if we assume highly improbable у/ы change, could not make Poles read it as рыдзы and Bulgarians as рижди. – Quassnoi Jun 28 '12 at 8:20
  • Where do you know all this from? :) Do you think it would be good idea to recreate our discussion as Q and A? I am sure I am not the only one that had seen this false connection. – theUg Jun 28 '12 at 8:34
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Yes, they both derive from name of ancient 'rus`' people

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    Any reference to back up your answer, perhaps? – Armen Tsirunyan Jun 24 '12 at 13:46

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