E 0976 WAN, UN-

The word “wan” is Old English, and together

with “un-“ of Germanic origin

H 0087 א ו ן

Concept of root : wickedness

Hebrew word


English meanings

א ו ן


wickedness, nastiness

Related English words

Old English wan-, English un-

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


א ו ן


wickedness, nastiness

a w n

Old English

wan-, won-

wicked-, nasty-

w a n,

w o n


wan- (in wandaad);

on-(in ondier)







nasty, bad action;

nasty, dangerous animal

w a n

Middle Dutch




w a n



Hebrew *AWEN --- *WAN Proto-Germanic < Indo-European *UN-



This entry should be read together with entry E 0951 (Hebrew 0086). The original root or roots "on", were used for a great variety of meanings in Hebrew, all finding correspondence in European languages, as explained in the entries E 0655 (Hebrew 0083), E 0951 (Hebrew 0086), E 1004 (Hebrew 0082) , E 1022(Hebrew 0085) and E 1028 (Hebrew 0084).


This specific entry E 976 has developed the indicated meaning of nastiness, emphasized through the change in the pronunciation of the letter "waw" from "O" to "W" and the adding of the vowels "A" and "E". Thus the word "ON" in Hebrew has become "AWEN". Also in Old English and Dutch the "waw" has changed from "O" into "W", but instead of two vowels, only one has been added, an "A" between the "W" and the "N". Resulting thus in the prefix "WAN-". English “un-“ is related, but hardly used in the sense of this entry .



  • Hebrew has in this word filled the root with two vowels, A and E, thus differentiating its meaning from those of the previous items. So we find, on the basis of the same original set of consonants; “Aleph, Waw, Noun” or “Vowel, O, N” two quite different pronunciations : “ON” and “AWEN” This is a normal phenomenon in Hebrew. It is a useful system for the differentiation of meanings. It is important to remark that the plural of "awen" is "onim".


  • Proto-Semitic. Proto-Semitic probably had already this same root, but regretfully we have no evidence of this.


  • English and Old English also have the same prefix "wan-", but then its meaning is that of "lacking" or "not having". This is of a related origin. The use in the word "wanton", from Old English "wantogen", saying "immoral", and having developed also into "maliciously cruel", may lead us on a wrong track. The basis of "wantogen", is that of "lack of discipline" and it has its sisters in Dutch. English wan", as in this prefix, is also found in an important word like "to want".


  • Proto-Germanic. Scholars often consider the "N" of the words of this entry as being the same as the "N" in English "no". This is basically right. Interesting is that in the case of "un" Germanic places a vowel in front of that "N" instead of as so often after it : "No". The vowel is "U" with its different pronunciations in German and its predecessors, as well as in English and Old English. In Nordic and Dutch it is "O", but the Scandinavian pronunciation tends to be near "U" . Interesting is the comparison with Latin. In Germanic languages we see, again out of that close-knit group " U O V W", the choice of the consonant "W", that demanded and received a vowel "A" for proper pronunciation.


    The most probable case is anyhow that Proto-Germanic had two different forms, one of the "W" as consonant with the addition of a vowel for practical pronunciation, and the other with the "W" having become a vowel "U". Thus we see "*W A N" as well as "*U N".


  • Indo-European.


    Old Indian has "ūná-" = wanting, deficient, defective".


    Avestan with an identical "ūná-" covers the same meanings found in Old Indian.


    Latin For the important Latin word "vanus" the concept of "emptiness" is given as the first meaning. But very important are "lacking content" and "unreliable", that together with "idle" and "insignificant" give a picture that justify the usual opinion that "vanus" is a cognate of the mentioned Old Indian and Avestan words. As to the form, one may note that out of the tightly knit group "O U W V" we see here the use of the consonant "V" that has required and received a vowel A" to be properly pronounced together with the consonant "N. The indication is "*V . N".It must be pointed that, even if "emptiness" has entered into the group of meanings served by "vanus", it is probably not related to "vacuus = empty, not occupied, without control or master"" and the related verb "vaco = to be empty, unmanaged, " and figurative elaborations . The two concepts of "emptiness" are quite distant.


    Greek offers ευνις, eunis = lacking, deprived, short of" . The first part has nothing to do with "eu- = good" and the indication for Indo-European is "*U N-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 21/12/2012 at 16.41.03