Old Russian words often put us at a dead end. For example, what is a top? How is it spelled correctly, what does it mean? Let's try to understand.
Origin of the word
About what is top, we are best told the dictionaries. According to Vladimir Dahl, this was once called the measure of length, equal to 1/16 arshin. In general, before, people did not trouble themselves with inventing any special quantities for measurement. Everything was "at hand". For example, the span is the distance between the thumb and forefinger, the elbow is the length of the hand from the fingertips to the elbow, and so on. The same word has vertex. The measure takes its name from the word "top" and is equal to the length of the first phalanx of the index finger. In the metric system, one vertex is 4.4-4.5 cm.
Before the introduction of the metric system, this measure was applied throughout the territory of Ancient Rus, Muscovy, and then - and the Russian Empire. The dissemination of this concept is well reflected in proverbs that are still known today. About a man of small stature, we say "from the pot two peaks," about the chatterbox we laugh - "himself with the top, and words - with the pot." Apparently, the answer to the question about what is top, you can find out from our proverbs and sayings.
In the sense of "small distance" this concept was used in other areas of human activity. For example, the proverb "for five vershoks you will plow - five weeks without a rain you will wait" reflects the requirement to plow the earth better. And the saying "search every inch" to talk about a long and very careful search for something.
Sometimes it's even intuitive to guess what a top is. For example, in the old fairy tale about the bear and the peasant, the phrase "to you - tops, and me - roots" certainly does not speak about verses as a measure. Rather, it is part of the plant protruding above the ground.
About what is a top, you can guess from the indirect meanings of the word. In the southern part of Russia and in Ukraine, the tops are called cream, taken from milk. And here we take into account the ability of milk fat to rise. It can be concluded that both words stemmed from the position of objects in space. True, the word "tops" is used only in the plural and only in local dialects or other Slavic languages.
The names associated with the word "top" are well known today. The direct name of the measure of length also became someone's surname. And such names as Vershkovs, Vershko or Vershikovs are often found among our friends and acquaintances.