E 0635          OPAQUE

The word "opaque" is of Latin origin

H 0163            ה ת ע י פ ע י פ ה ,  ;  ף ע ו

Concept of root : darkness

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה ת פ ע י ,  ה פ ע י

  ף ע ו

‛epha, ‛ephatà ;


darkness ;

to be(come) dark

Related English words

 opaque, from Latin

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה פ ע י ,

ה ת פ ע י ;

ף ו ע


‛ephatà ;


darkness ;


to be dark

‛a p .





o p .




o p .



Proto-Semitic *‛OP --- *OP- Indo-European




This entry is strictly related with numbers E 0634 (Hebrew 0049) and E 0636 (Hebrew 0211) , all referring to the same Latin word "opacus". The three Hebrew roots are, obviously, related.


The first part or root of both the Latin and the Hebrew words is the same we have found in the word " א פ ל, ophel" with the message of "darkening, obscurity". By choosing and pronouncing an "Ayin" in front of the opening vowel, instead of leaving it with its soundless "Aleph", the creative speaker emphasized his speech and with that the message he communicated.


  • Proto-Semitic. We have no direct evidence regarding this root, but we can refer to our note in entry E 0634 (Hebrew 0049) , that deals with the root "Aleph P L ". Two different roads have been followed to express concepts in the field of darkness. One was the adding of "L" as a third consonant", the other the emphasizing of the pronunciation by changing over from Aleph to Ayin, as in the present entry . It remains difficult to estimate any timing of this second case. Then a third case, which may well be prior to the others, is seen in a root " Ayin Waw P ", shown in entry E 0636 (Hebrew 0211). Anyhow an original " *א ו ף, Aleph Waw Pé " must have been present in Proto-Semitic. And perhaps as well a version preceding this entry :" * א פ ה, Aleph Pé Hé ", thus still with Aleph and not yet Ayin.


    The change from final " P " into final " PH " is especially present in the North West, as in Hebrew and Aramaic. We have no indications that in this case it may have occurred already in Proto-Semitic.



  • Latin gives a less clear picture . It has been tried to link the word "opacus" to a number of words in other Indo European languages that also have that K-sound. The reasoning is then that "turned away from the sun" would have ben used to say "shadow, darkness". In reality those words, such as Old Indian "apakah = laying far, off, coming from the far side " have nothing to do with shade or darkness.


    Not much nearer is the verb "operire", that has an R instead of a K, shares the first part "op- " with opacus and says " to cover, hide ". This meaning is not the same as "darkness" or "shadow", though these may be the consequence of the covering or hiding action. The two different final consonants are then a reasonable means of diversification. But this comparison may be too imaginative.


    Regretfully one has to say that there is no established or even likely etymology for this important Latin word "opacus". But on general principles one may conclude that "-acus" is a suffix that consists of two elements, the "-ac-" for the adjective and the "-us" for "masculine, singular". That leaves a Latin message for Indo-European as "*O PA-" with the message of "shadow, darkness".


  • Opaque in modern languages represents two not identical ideas. The first is that of darkness, the other that of "not shiny".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 22/01/2013 at 15.28.31