E 0014          AGAPE

The word " agape " is of Greek  origin .

H 0016         א ה ב

Concept of root : like, love

Hebrew word


English meanings

א ה ב

א ה ב ה



love, like (verb)

love, liking (noun)

Related English words

to have

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


א ה ב

א ה ב ה


love, like love, liking

a h . b 

a h . b a






love, like

love, liking

a g . p a

a.g . p è


to have

to have

h . v



Proto-Semitic *AHAB (AHAV) --- *AGAP Greek < *HAB- Indo-European



The similarity between Greek and Hebrew is evident here. The meaning of the words seems to have developed from "liking" in general to "loving". This is also the principal use in both languages today. In entry E 0429 ( Hebrew 0017) we will further elaborate on this. Perhaps even more striking is the similarity between Hebrew and Greek in entry number E 0429 (Hebrew 0119) .


  • Hebrew. In fact there are more roots, and words, in Hebrew that are related to this item. For example " ע ג ב ", pronounced " ‛agav", which means "to be in love" , with an accent on the practical erotic side. Certainly not less important and near to the Greek word.
    See entry number E 0429 (Hebrew 0119) .


  • Hebrew: linguistic development. Hebrew presents in fact a series of roots, with common origin and variations of related meanings :


                                    root      pron.   meaning      root       pron.     meaning    root       pron.  meaning

             origin     * H . B     hav        hold          * H . B      hav       love          *G . B     gav         love (intense)

    Bible      A . H . B  ahav     hold with    H . B . B  hawav   love         'A. G . B  'agav   love and

                                                pleasure                                                                                desire

    Modern  A . H . B ahav    like, love    H . B . B  hibev    like, love  'A . G . B  'agav  be in love



    This table requires some further explanation. From left to right we see three different roots, of which the first one is the weaker one and the right one the stronger one in pronunciation. In fact we go from א ה ב via ח ב ב to ע ג ב , or in sound from ahav via hawav( or ghawav) and hibev (or ghibbèv) to 'agav, with the stronger guttural interruption of Ayin. And the same goes for the messages , from holding to passion.


    So this table shows an eloquent example of the way languages develop. Here, starting out with a root with two consonants ( a C.C-root ), three things happen :


    • 1. the first consonant is substitued by stronger ones.


    • 2. a new consonant is added in front of the others.


    • 3. this new consonant is subsequently substituted by stronger ones as well


    All this in order to diversify and create new nuances in the messages the speaker wants to convey. And it has led to three different C.C.C-roots ( i.e. roots with three consonants ).


    But nothing flows all as smoothly as one would think.The first basic root, the soft one , "*hav", is identical to English "have". But even with the softest third consonant in front, "ahav", it has later invaded the terrain that was first explored by the second one , "hawav", which then seems to have fled into its own intensive form "hibev". To no avail, as in modern language "ahav" is the principal word to indicate the developed meaning of "love".


    The odd result of all this is that Hebrew has remained without a normal verb that would mean "to have". If somebody today wants to communicate that he has something, he says "me is". Or a suffix " I " is added to the noun to indicate that "it" belongs to "me", simply as "I" ="ME". Really an interesting consequence of this language development. And at the same time a strong confirmation of the kinship between English "have", Latin "habeo" and Hebrew "ahav".


    Mother's love. For a proper understanding of the here discussed concept of "have-hold-love", it is important to know that in Hebrew there exists another root meaning "to love". This is the root "R . H . M" ( raham ). This word is related to the noun "rehem", in English "womb". It indicates the more tenderly loving of the mother for her child . Consequently it has developed meanings of "compassion", "charity" and "mercy". The frequent Semitic name Rahman is based on this same root.


  • Proto-Semitic. We refer to entry E 0429 ( Hebrew 0017), saying: The Hebrew root is found also in Ugaritic and thus it may have esisted as such already in Proto-Semitic, as " *א ה ב , Aleph H B". The probability that this is so, is reinforced if our reasoning in the comparison between Hebrew and Indo European is right. But the similarity between Hebrew and Greek as seen in E 0014 (Hebrew 0016) makes it more probable that various of the Hebrew roots in the table below were already present in Proto-Semitic, such as ע ג ב , Ayin G B" : Greek "agapao" is nearer to Hebrew " ‛agav " then to Hebrew " 'ahav ". A full picture for Proto-Semitic is hard to establish.


  • Indo-European. We refer again to entry E 0429 ( Hebrew 0017), that says: It remains important to distinguish clearly between the words related to Latin "habeo = to have, hold", linked to a concept of "belonging", and those related to Latin "capio = to take, seize, obtain", linked to the concept of " (take into the) hand".


    Outside Latin and Germanic there is not much solid information, and the hypothesis for Indo-European remains "*H Ā B-.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 23/09/2012 at 14.22.46