Rover: Bicycle Galician-Style

In the Ukrainian diaspora we call a bicycle a “rover”  the word which was commonly used in western Ukraine before the war. Now in Ukraine the word “velosyped” is most widely used, but people in western Ukraine, espеcially in villages, still often say “rover.” (See my diaspora language dictionary here.)

The first bicycles that were sold in western Ukraine were made by the British company Starley & Sutton (later called Rover Company):

“In the early 1880s, the cycles available were the relatively dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J.K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle—a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels… Starley’s Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognisably modern bicycle.

“The Polish word now most commonly used for bicycle – rower originates from Rover bicycles which had both wheels of the same size (previous models usually had one bigger, one smaller – see Penny-farthing, and were called in Polish bicykl, from English bicycle).

“The words for “bicycle” in Polish (Rower) and Belarusian (Rovar, Ро́вар) are derived from the name of the company. The word ровер is also used in many parts of Western Ukraine.”

“Velosyped” entered the Ukrainian language (central Ukraine) from the French word vélocipède – the word which was widely used in the 1860-70s in Europe. “Velosyped” remained in use in central Ukraine while in Europe and America the words “bicyclette” and “bicycle” replaced “velocipede.” Eventually the word “velosyped” spread throughout all of Ukraine.

Other words for bicycle used in Ukraine: “koleso” (“wheel”) and “bitsygli” (from “bicycle”).

Below is a short article on the history of the words for bicycle in Ukrainian, which I found in a North American Plast (Ukrainian scouting organization) magazine from 1998. The whole issue can be found here: http://www.plast.ca/bm~doc/kn_rovery.pdf

This is a map of western Ukraine showing which areas use which word for bicycle: ровер (rover), велосипед/лісапед (velosyped/lisaped), колесо (koleso), and біціґлі (bitsigli).

Image from: dialectstat.wikispaces.com

1 thought on “The Forgotten Boot Scrapers of Lviv

  1. I think all Ukrainians, from homeland and diaspora, should visit Greece. Many of us grow up thinking that our names, language, religious rites and architecture, and other folkloric traditions are our own, but visiting Greece will show that we imported and adopted them lock, stock, and barrel. Flattening the church domes to a pear shape, and polyphony, are the only uniquely Ukrainian contributions that I can think of.
    Nice website!

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