Др. -серб. брѢnь, -a, -o ‘бренный’
Old Serbian brěnь, -a, -o ‘earthen, perishable’
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The title word is an Old Serbian equivalent for Church Slavonic brnonp, the adjective to brenoje, brena ‘mud’. It was so far attested by a single record in Dani¢ié’s Old lection of Old Serbian notes (on manuscripts) and inscriptions not less than 32 further instances are found, ranging from the 15th to the 18th century. There is no correspon- ding form in the modern dialects, so that the question whether it is a real word or only an orthographic aberration cannot be answered unambiguously. Nevertheless, there are a few place and river names (Bréna mentioned 1220 in West Serbia, the medieval (sub) Breno near Dubrovnik, today Srebreno, Brina in West Hercegovina, Brenica in East Serbia, Macedonia and Greece), as well as a Bulg. dialectal word brené ‘mud, dirt’, that may go back to *brén- rather than to *bron-. If real, brén can be various- ly explained. Skok interprets it in terms of vowel alternation, whereas according to Stownik prastowianski *brénv may be derived from *bronénd... (> Slov. brnen) by way of dissimilation — which is rather unparalleled. On the other hand, an adjectival form in -énv can go back, via *-enb, to an adjective in -no- from an n-stem —which is in this case less probable — and the phonetic development seems possible, too, by which brénw could arise from *bron(o)nv, but the well-attested form brénno speaks against this possibility and in favour of the apophonic variation. The problem is that bronoje, brena not only lacks a commonly accepted etymology, but also the reconstruction of its original root vocalism on Common Slavic and Indo-European levels makes difficul- ties. The most scholars assume *bro(d)n-, relating it either to *bresti, brodo , lit. bristi, bredu ‘to wade, flood; flounder’ or to *bronb ‘white, swarthy, etc.” = Olnd. bradhna-, thus in both cases IE *bhr°d(h)- alternating with *bhred(h)-, whereas the authors of the Cracow dictionary opted for a relationship with German Brunnen, Greek phréar, -atos ‘well, spring’, etc., and consequently for the proto-form *bron- < IE *bhrun-; moreover, there is no form attested (except for a few West- and East-Slavic place names of doubtful provenance) that could exclude IE *bhrin- or *bhrn-. In view of those ambiguities and of the fact that brona, bron(en)d are sometimes used synony- mously with Church Slavic prosto translating Greek khoiis ‘soil excavated or heaped up; dust’, a derivation from a root meaning ‘to cut, break up the soil’ can also be taken into consideration, cf., on the one hand, *bhreiH- in briti ‘to shear, to shave’, for the derivation *glina, *gléno ‘clay’ from *glei- ‘to glue, paste’, and on the other *bher- in *born-/*born- ‘to harrow’, the e-grade probably in *ber-zda beside *bor-zda ‘furrow’; in the former case, brén- would go back to *bhroin-, in the latter, to Common Slavic *bern- < *bhern-; the n-suffix is in both instances, just as in *g/i-na, *glé-no, explain- able from nasal present stems.
Source:Studia etymologica Brunensia, 2009, 6, 223-234
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