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In Prague there is the church of Our Church of Our Lady before Týn.

I have been to the city a couple of times and I am still wondering who Týn was, or what the word means. I only found a Czech entry in Wikipedia but not sure of what it says.

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As the English Wikipedia page says, "Týn" is the name of a nearby courtyard visited by merchants. Jonathan Reez points out that "Týn" itself is an archaic word for a fence. In this case, "before" probably means "in front of" (for example, as in "He appeared before the judge"), rather than "earlier in time than", though the church is actually older than the courtyard.

Wikipedia sources its claim about the name to a Czech web page which Google translates as (in part):

The most important religious building right bank of the Vltava is undoubtedly the Old Town church of Our Lady before Tyn, called the Tyn Church. Was named after the otýněného [I guess Google doesn't know how to translate that word] or fenced place, Tyn courtyard, which is also called Ungeld. This court has served since the mid-13th century, foreign merchants, who came here to spend the night and then paying duty. The church of the Virgin Mary is older, the former is mentioned together with a hospital 1135.

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    @RobertColumbia The Wiktionary page I linked says it's from proto-Germanic, so the answer to your question seems to be essentially yes. – David Richerby Mar 10 '17 at 13:15
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    Sure, but we're not dealing with modern English. We're dealing with the traditional name of a church, and the church often uses formalized and somewhat stylized, somewhat archaic language. As a native speaker, I think the translation is actually fine. – David Richerby Mar 10 '17 at 15:18
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    @RobertColumbia can you cite a dictionary that lists Dun as a German word for "fence"? I can find nothing, but the best dictionary I have on my shelf is an etymological dictionary. Is it an archaic or regional form of Zaun? – phoog Mar 10 '17 at 16:40
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    @DRF exact phrase searches yield many results for things like "stand before the throne," "stand before the gate," "stand before the door," etc. Scanning the results does lead to the conclusion that in most of these "...before the..." does in fact mean "...in front of the..."; and, indeed, most of these instances appear in an archaic or religious context. – phoog Mar 10 '17 at 16:43
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    @DRF The point is that it would have been a natural translation a couple of hundred years ago so it remains appropriate today because the Christian church often uses this kind of slightly archaic language. (And it may actually have been the English name of the church for a couple of hundred years.) If the church were in an English city, it could easily be called the Church of Our Lady before the Town (or before the Something Else). – David Richerby Mar 10 '17 at 21:32
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I'll add to David Richerby's answer. Translating from Czech Wikipedia, Týn (also Týnský dvůr, meaning "Týn Yard") was a fenced in and moated trader's yard where traders had to pay a toll ("Ungelt" in old German, which is also the alternative name) for protection.

I do not know about the meaning of the word Týn, but the fence explanation given by David Richerby sounds plausible. To me, as a native speaker, the word Týn doesn't really carry any meaning.

Finally, "před Týnem" means "in front of Týn".

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    Thanks for "in front of" -- that's the phrase I was looking for! (Not because I was trying to translate the Czech but just a vague general feeling that "before" is used for other situations other than time. You saying "in front of" reminded me of another example from English, which is to "appear before a court", which I've added to my answer.) – David Richerby Mar 10 '17 at 14:07
  • To me, as a native speaker of another Slavic language, the word "tyn" is not completely unknown, because it is occasionally met in folk songs. However, as an urban kid I was never sure about its meaning; I only knew that was something rustic. – ach Mar 10 '17 at 17:15

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