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I am looking for clues on the obscure etymology of the (otherwise rather common) Romanian expression Valea!, a imperative mood formula meaning "Go away", "Be gone" or "Beat it".

Romanian has no authoritative and complete etymological dictionary at the moment. Those in existence are either partially outdated, incomplete, or dubious personal contributions. Anyway, I was not able to find an entry on this term in any etymological dictionary, but I have found a source that mentions it as a slang (argot) term, which it most certainly is not. It is a popular, rural, regional expression (from southern Romania), that may have entered urban slang in regions where it was otherwise absent, but it is not a recent creation of the slang language.

In such obscure cases of Romanian etymology, looking for Italian clues is always a good idea. (For example, in this way I was able to find that the Romanian word pitic = "dwarf(ish)" is of Latin origin, unlike what some dictionaries claimed, as said here, because similar forms can be found in the Italian area - cf. Milanese: pitinu, Sardinian: pithinnu, piticu, piticheddu.)

At first view, Valea! looks like the Romanian noun vale ("valley", Italian valle) with the feminine postfixed definite article a (and I guess that's how it is seen by the dictionary that considers it a slang formation), but it is much closer both semantically and close enough morphologically to the Italian imperative mood Vai!, with the same meaning, of which I read here that it might come from vādō, vadere (unlike andare), from where descend Italian guado and Romanian vad (shallow, ford).

The origin of the common Romanian word for to go (merge) is different, but Romanian future tense of verbs is build with auxiliary forms probably based on vādō, vadere, a root which is also reflected in another regional imperative expression (but much more rarely used), va! ("go!"), and in the formula mai va, literally "still goes", but meaning "it will take some more time".

My intuition is that the etymology of Valea! should be considered in relation to that of the Italian Vai! and Va! (go away, go).

But what about that L? Is there some regional Italian language or dialect that has a parallel form including a L?


I am asking this because I want to look at alternative possibilities—the other one being that Valea! is just the reduced imperative form of a verbal (composite) expression including the noun vale (valley): there are such expressions in Romanian, the best candidate being a-și lua valea, literally "take one's valley", meaning "to go away", much like in the French form aller à vau-l’eau - "to go downhill, to go down the drain, to go awry", but where the verb "to go" is a lua (from Latin levāre, “to lift”, cf. Italian levare), normally meaning "to take", but also meaning "to go" when coupled with "road", "path" (a lua calea="to take the path", cf. Italian prendere la strada, French prendre la route etc). - Therefore, in this case valley=vale just means path/road (namely that defined by a water course, or a downhill path).

In relation to this alternative explanation, the question would be: is there a case in Italian where a verbal form meaning "to go" or "go away" is coupled with or includes the noun valle (valley)?

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    There is an Italian form 'va là', 'ma va là', that literally means 'go away', but is used to say for example 'I dont believe you'. From Treccani Dictionary: "Con sign. più vago in alcune esclamazioni: ehi là, ohi là, voci di richiamo o di rimprovero; va' là, mostrando di non credere a quanto altri dice: va' là!, ...". treccani.it/vocabolario/la Jan 8, 2023 at 1:03
  • @BakerStreet - The problem is that , meaning "there" (which has parallels in other Romance languages, like French: qui est là?) is a form completely absent in Romanian (without even a rare occurrence like in the case of va). Two such rarities (I'd say "Italianisms") in one word is too improbable a coincidence. - As I want to look at alternative explications I have posted this question, which might get even a positive answer, but the opposite direction (Valea! as vocative of a composite verbal form based on vale=valley) might be the right way to go in the end.
    – cipricus
    Jan 8, 2023 at 10:13
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    As for you second question, in Italian there is the phrase 'andare a valle', with the same meaning as in French. Jan 8, 2023 at 18:36
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    @ cipricus The phrase 'andare a valle' means 'to go downhill', but only in literal sense, it hasn't a figurative sense as 'to go awry'. Jan 9, 2023 at 9:11
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    This is not an answer, but Slavic languages have words similar to valiti with the general meaning of "to throng, to move in large crowds", with imperatives generally resembling the Romanian word. Russian has the slang word вали ("vali", with a final stress though), with exactly this meaning: "go away, get lost".
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:46

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I hope this helps. As pointed out in the comment, the italian form "va là" is an expression used as "that's unbelievable" or "you're kidding me". The interesting thing is that in Brazilian Portuguese, there exists a regional slang that sounds like "va là" that has a similar meaning. The same goes for the Romanian pitic, which becomes the slang pitico in Brazilian Portuguese. Finally, there is the Brazillian Portuguese expression Dale!, which means the same thing as "Valea!", although sometimes it expresses motivation, like a "do it!". I don't have any sort of knowledge in Romanian, and neither about the origin of such expression, however, in both Italian and Portuguese it literally means "go away" and it would make sense if Valea! (also lit. meaning "go away") somehow came from va là, even if it looks improbable.

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  • These examples, like those in the comments, are useful as proof against my first hypothesis or intuition that valea! might be related to via! etc. The basic parts for the Italian and Brazilian forms are different from what we can find in Romanian. See my comments under question with more details. If the same Latin root (illoc/illac) has different descendants in Italian and Romanian (ro. acolo, ital. ) or no descendants at all in Romanian (via), the Italian forms cannot be used to explain Romanian `valea!
    – cipricus
    Jan 9, 2023 at 9:55
  • More probably valea! is the shortened form of ia-ți valea!, which is the imperative mood of a-și lua valea=to go away (literally "take one's valley", where "valley" replaces "road"), like in English "Take the road!" or "Hit the road!"
    – cipricus
    Jan 9, 2023 at 10:00

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