The word “island” is of Germanic origin

H 0094 א י

Concept of root: land in, near water

Hebrew word


English meanings

א י


island, riverbank,


Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


א י


island, coast, bank pensinsula






e y a




i s

Old English

ēgland, i(e)gland


e g





e i

Middle Dutch

ooi, ooy


riverbank, riverland

o i



We find a number of very brief words or parts of words, all with "I" or "Y" and bearing one or more of the meanings of the Hebrew word "I". And this word in fact consists of the vowelguide "aleph" plus the vowel "I". A rather strong case of common origin.


  • Eggs and Eyes. In Middle English, and Dutch, the first part of the words for "island" is identical to the name of the "egg". There is in fact something in common in the ideas of shape and place of the concepts "egg", "eye" and "island". This may have contributed to the development of these words.


    In "island", the second part is a separate one, with its own root. Therefore we look at the first part of “is-land” in order to compare it with “eyes” and “eggs”.


    Nordic tongues and Dutch use the same word for "eye" and "island". In Dutch this is "oog" and the version for "island" is of limited use in composed island-names, such as "Schiermonnikoog" and "Rottumeroog". In Danish " ge" and " ", witgh "g" for "egg".In Norwegian "ye" and "y" with "egg" as in English. In Swedish "ga" and "" with "gg". One should know that in the Scandinavian languages there is a strong tendency to change "G” into "Y". The same phenomenon we find in English , especially at the end of words .


    Also Old English is very interesting. To talk about an “island” it already used the addition “land” in “ēgland”.. But an “eye” was a “ēage" and an “egg” an “ g “.


  • Hebrew. Some scholars see this Hebrew word as a contraction of א ו י , evi, a word that should have meant " place where one seeks shelter " . Thus an " island " would have received its brief Hebrew name for being a possible sailor's refuge . The problem is that this word " ive " does not exist. It is then seen as a disappeared form of another word, a verb, א ו ה, awa, but such a verb exists only with the meaning of " to desire, long for ".
    The similarity with the European words of this entry further excludes such a hypothesis .


  • Germanic. Based on analysis of the Germanic languages, there is a rather general view, which we partly share, that "island" expresses litterally what is says : "land surrounded by water". Partly we share this, because it really sould mean "land bordering or surrounded or nearly surrounded by water". The scholars of this opinion see the word "island" divided in a first part "is", that should carry the concept of "water" and the second part "land".


    But the Middle Dutch word "ooy", together with the Hebrew word "I" and the brief Scandinavian words as "" and "y" teach us that the part "land" is an extra, a not strictly necessary addition.


  • Latin has developed the word "insula" in a quite different way. There is a widespread opinion that "insula" is a combination of "in+salo", litterally in English "in+salt" or "in the sea". There are many things in the sea and the use of the word "salt" for sea is a rather pregnant one, but it is a reality, even with anyhow the word "mar" at disposition. But there is a different explanation as well .


    Wordshaping in Latin requires a suffix for a noun. In this case an "A". And "ul" indicates a diminutive. So we have a root "*ins" with a suffix "a" : "*insa". There may be nasalization (insertion of "N") of an older root "is". Remains the question what that words means. Latin would not like the single vowel as a word, the way Germanic tongues and Hebrew do. That explains an "S" between the "I" and the suffix "A". So the sequence is : "I" > making a noun "I.A" > make this pronouncable "ISA"> nasalize the word "INSA" > create diminutive"INSULA". In the Neo-Latin tongues the unnecessary nasalization has disappeared again, for example in Italian “isola”..


  • Proto-Semitic. We have no evidence for a valid hypothesis, besides the similarities of Hebrew with the numerous Indo European languages. But there exists the supposition that this Hebrew word comes from Old Egyptian, part of the Afro-Asiatic group, to which also Proto-Semitic belongs





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 16 February 2012 at 19.49.44