Volume 44, No.1 - Spring 1998
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1998 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Dominykas Urbas, Martyno Mažvydo raštų žodynas (Dictionary of the writings of Martynas Mažvydas) (Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla, 1996), pp. 464.

Regrettably the author, Dominykas Urbas (1908-1996) passed away a few months before the appearance of his book. In a brief note to the reader (pp. 5-6) Zigmas Zinkevičius and Antanas Balašaitis write that Urbas was well known as translator of world literature, a famous text expert and editor, a man who had in mind a much larger work which he would have entitled The Lexicon of Martynas Mažvydas. Unfortunately he did not complete this and had to content himself with a few remarks about Martynas Mažvydas' lexicon in the foreword of this book. Here (pp. 7-11) Urbas writes that the goal of his book is to give in a single place all of the words used in the writings of Martynas Mažvydas, to explain their meanings, to describe their grammatical forms and to reference their place of occurrence in the texts. He writes that Mažvydas, the founder of Lithuanian writing accomplished a gigantic task. He chose for his work the necessary words of the living language, rendered them in writing and made available to the public in printed form the first Lithuanian books. According to Urbas, the general level of culture of society at that time is indicated by the fact that already in the sixteenth century, however, there existed such words as amžinas 'eternal,' apjuokas 'mockery,' apkęsti 'to tolerate,' dvasia 'soul,' sąžinė 'conscience,' etc. Urbas notes that since Mažvydas' books were devoted to religious topics, most of the words are of religious and ethical content. Words having to do with other spheres of activity are more rare, but we do encounter such, e.g., arti 'to plow,' kulti 'to thresh,' etc. There are also archaisms, such as sekmas 'seventh' (today usually septintas), ašmas 'eighth' (today usually aštuntas), liekas 'eleventh' (today usually vienuoliktas), etc. There are also the well-known Slavisms, e.g., ponas 'gentleman,' lelija 'lily,' and Germanisms, e.g., hauptmonas 'superior officer,' penigas 'money' (today usually pinigas), etc.

In the dictionary all the words are arranged in alphabetical order and rendered in modern standard orthography. Nouns are given in the nominative case and verbs in the infinitive. In each entry Urbas gives the number of occurrences of the word in Mažvydas' writings, then the actual form of each occurrence of the word (usually with the accompanying context), then a grammatical description and finally the meaning of the word. Thus, for example, under the entry brolis 'brother' first we encounter the numeral (10) which denotes that the word occurs ten times in Mažvydas' works. Next we encounter the abbreviation sm. which stands for substantivum masculinum, i.e., 'masculine noun.' This is followed by a definition sūnus santykyje su kitais tų pačių tėvų vaikais, 'a son in relationship to other children of the same parents' or in an abstract sense artimiausias žmogus 'a very close person.' Next we find phrases in which this word occurs, e.g., Diews esi iusu brolis 'God is your brother' along with a grammatical characterization of the case and number, i.e., singular nominative and its location in Mažvydas' works. The noun also occurs, e.g., in the vocative singular Bralau milasis 'dear brother' and the vocative plural both in the form Bralei and brolei 'brothers!' where we encounter the well-known problem of the double rendering of Proto-Baltic *ā in Mažvydas' Lithuanian. Since the passage of Proto-Baltic ā to standard Lithuanian ō was not always registered in Mažvydas' writings we frequently find that a word encountered in Mažvydas with only an a is registered in this dictionary as if with an o, e.g., under the entry stovinėti 'to resist' which occurs once we find the 3 plural future form stawijness 'will resist' (p. 346). Perhaps the occurrence of the letter a in such positions reflects Mažvydas' original Samogitian dialect where etymological ā was pronounced with a labial coloring (Zinkevičius 1977:367).

The same word is frequently spelled in several ways in Mažvydas' texts so the user of this dictionary must be familiar with the standard or more usual spelling, thus the word for 'God' in the earliest texts appears as dewas, but the dictionary listing is only under Dievas.

Although context shows the correct interpretation, it would be possible purely formally to confuse wieras, the hypercorrect form of the nominative singular vyras 'man' (see pp. 9 and 425) with wieras the genitive singular of the Slavic borrowing viera 'faith' (p. 420). One must also know that in Mažvydas' dialect in Lithuanian borrowings from Slavic the Slavic phoneme jat' can be rendered either by -ie- or -e-. In this fashion in addition to the genitive singular wieras one also encounters Veras (p. 420).

The book is printed on glossy paper and is nicely bound, making for an attractive appearance. This is a useful and well-prepared dictionary and a valuable contribution to the study of the history of the Lithuanian language.


Ročka, M. 1974. "Martynas Mažvydo raštai." Pp. 46-82. In Korsakas, Kostas, ed. 1974. Martynas Mažvydas: Pirmoji lietuviška knyga. Vilnius, Vaga.
Zinkevičius, Z. 1977. "M. Mažvydo raštų kalba." Baltistica 13.358-371.

William R. Schmalstieg
The Pennsylvania State University