E 0015          AGAPE

The word “agape” comes from Greek

H 0119           ב ג ע

Concept of root : to love and desire

Hebrew word


English meanings

ב ג ע


to love and desire

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ב ג ע


to love and desire

‛a g v




to love

 a g p




to desire ardently

ha k



Proto-Semitic *‛AGAB (‛AGAV) --- *AGAP-AO Greek < HAB- Indo-European



The similarity is nearly obvious. The message of the Hebrew word is a bit stronger, but one can consider that it has developed out of a less strong word in Hebrew for “to love”: “ א ה ב , ahav”. Two out of the three letters that compose the two roots are stronger in expression in “agav” than in “ahav”. This shows a very clear tendency in the development of words. The stronger one wants to express oneself, the more expressive sounds one may choose.


  • Hebrew frequently shows this kind of development, in which “stronger” sounds substitute “weaker” ones. We see “H” becoming “KH”, and “H” becoming “GH”. Such substitutions do not seem to be arbitrarily done. Speaking often is an emotional and important human action. Speakers may want to emphasize their words. It is that emphasizing that may create changes in pronunciation .


    This is just one of the ways in which new words are created by man. And it is also quite normal that more emphasized and “stronger” versions of words are required: a changing emphasis in the pronunciation of existing words leading to the birth of new one. Thus the desired result of expression is obtained.




  • Proto-Semitic. We have no real evidence available that links this root to other Semitic languages. Arabic with " ' ajiba = he wondered, was astonished " and " 'a'jiba = he pleased (somebody)" are too far off. Yet the strong similarity with Greek , without any possible indication of loaning having occurred between the two languages before Biblical times, points to the existing already in Proto-Semitic of the Hebrew root "*ע ג ב, Ayin Gimel Beth". And in Biblical Hebrew the root was already very amuch alive, as is shown in the creation of a couple of nouns : "ע ג ב, egev = sensual love" and "ע ג ב ה, agavą = lustfulness".


  • Dutch. The Dutch verb "haken = desire ardently", identical to a "haken" that means " to hook", should not be seen as developed out of the noun "haak = hook". It has its own noun, "haken = strong desire". And there is a second verb with the same message : "haeyen", also spelled "hayen" and with a version without " H " in "ayen, hayen". The initial " H " here corresponds with the Hebrew Ayin, but the Dutch word has only two consonants, not the third one that is " B " in Hebrew and " P " on Greek.


    • Indo-European. We refer to the entries E 0014 (Hebrew 0016) and E 0429 (Hebrew 0017). Regretfully we have no further specific information as to the relationship between the roots of those two entries and the related strong expression of "love" in Greek "agapč". The hypothesis for Indo-European of "*H A B-" remains solid for the basic form.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 22/12/2012 at 13.50.37