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The prefix wjer- derives nouns from other nouns. It means something like counter or in return. An example is lûd sound > wjerlûd echo. It should not be confused with the verbal particle wer, which means again.

The prefix wjer- may also derive verbs from verbs, for example in wjerkeatse to reflect, from keatse to bounce. This pattern is dealt with wjer- with verb as base.

[+]General properties

The prefix wjer- creates nouns on the basis of other nouns. It means something like counter, against or in return. Prefixations with wjer- are listed below:

Table 1
Base form Derivation
heak hook wjerheak barb
fraach question wjerfraach counterquestion
klang sound wjerklang echo
sin liking wjersin aversion
wurd word wjerwurd reply
skyn shine wjerskyn reflection
stân state wjerstân aversion
kant side wjerskanten both sides
leafde love wjerleafde love in return
glâns glow wjerglâns reflection
lûd sound wjerlûd dissenting opinion
angel fsting wjerangel barb
The derivation wjerskanten both sides is somewhat typical. It is a plurale tantum and restricted to the adpositional expressions fan wjerskanten from both sides and oan wjerskanten on both sides. Moreover, it shows a linking element -s-. The word wjergea equal has a base that has become obsolete.


The affix wjer- should not be confused with the verbal particle wer again, which can be found in nominalizations of particle verbs. Examples are werprintinge reprint, werdoper anabaptist, werkomst return or weropbou rebuilding.

Both elements derive from the Old Frisian root wither. This adverb could occur independently, but could also be used as a prefix in verbal and nominal derivations. One can find it as such in Frisian texts from the Middle Ages in forms like witherbringa to bring back, witherjeva to give back and witherwird reply. The seventeenth century writer Gysbert Japicx spells both words as weer, so it seems that the forms still overlapped in that time. The prefix wjer- has extricated itself in form and function from wer-. While wer again exists as an independent element, wjer- against can only show up as a prefix. It is likely that wjer- is a broken variant of the seventeenth century weer (and wer is possibly a shortened form of the same word). There are more languages in which a distinction in form and function took place, for example in German (wieder again next to wider against).

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Other words with initial wjer

There is a list of Frisian words starting with wjer which have nothing to do with the prefix wjer- as explained above. In these words wjer is a variant of waar weather, caused by breaking of an older form wear /vIər/ weather, still to be found in peripheral dialects like those of Hindeloopen or Schiermonnikoog. Examples are wjerljocht lightning and wjerhoanne weathercock. In wjerwolf werewolf the first part of the word comes from the Germanic word wer man.

[+]Phonological properties

In derivations with wjer- the stress is on the prefix, for example WJERwurd reply. The prefix is pronounced as [vjɛr]. People from the southern part of the province of Fryslân leave out the [j] when pronouncing wjer-, a consonant cluster simplification not uncommon in the relevant dialects.

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This prefix, including its historical, formal and semantic context, is extensively dealt with in Tamminga (1963:92-94). See also Hoekstra (1998:70-71) and Veen (1984-2011).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga
  • Veen, Klaas F. van der et al1984-2011Wurdboek fan de Fryske taal - Woordenboek der Friese taalFryske Akademy