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 “Prewar German-Czech Street Signs in Prague

  1. Thank you for your site, photography and bringing our ancestors’ lives to the net for us to experience.

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