E 0289          EFNAN

The Old English word "efnan " is of Germanic origin .

H 0218            ף י ע

Basic concept of root : fatigue in active work

Hebrew word


English meanings

ף י ע ;

ף ע י

ayeph; ya‛aph

to be(come) tired;

to get tired by working

Related English words

Old English : efnan (to do, accomplish)

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ף י ע ;

ף ע י

‛ayeph; ya‛aph

to be(come) tired; to get tired by working

‛ . i . p <

*‛ . o . p




work, fatigue

 o p

Old High German


- ;



uoben ;

- ;

uoba ;


to work, accomplish; rest after-work

u . b

Old English


to train, do accomplish

. f n

Middle Dutch



to train, practice

uf . n



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




Quite possibly , as some scholars believe , the Hebrew sound "I" may have had as a predecessor a sound "O" or "U",as we find in Latin , Old High German and Dutch. Dutch "oe" is just a spelling for the vowel "U", which is in many languages a twin-sister or also a development out of the "O". Both vowels are frequently interchanged between dialects. Just as in Hebrew they are both found represented by the W or "waw".


Meanwhile the various words of this entry indicate phases of the working with effort to accomplish something. Together with the nearness of their sounds this allows us to conclude a similarity in meaning. This combined with the similarity in roots thus makes us presume a possible common origin..


  • Hebrew and metathesis. Hebrew also knows the phenomenon of metathesis. It may not be frequent, but we find in the case of this entry another root: " י ע ף, ya‛aph = to become tired by working". There has been a change of position between the letters Ayin and Yod. Particularly important is the nuance of meaning in relation to the root of this verb.


    It is important to see which root is the older one. The following note on Proto-Semitic deals with this.


  • Proto-Semitic. There is not much evidence from other Semitic languages. We have the already mentioned Syriac "י ע ף, ya‛aph = to get tired by working ". Further one finds an interesting Arabic "waghafa = he showed weariness whilr running", in which the "effort" is indeed combined with the "fatigue". Here the letter W corresponds with the Hebrew " I (Yod) " and the "GH" with the Hebrew " ‛( Ayin) So there is some support for a Proto-Semitic root that in theory might have been either "* ו ע ף, *W Ayin P" or "ע ו ף*Ayin W P". Not is to be considered as older but as newer the root with "Yod = Y" instead of "Waw = O", seen in Syriac.


    The Syriac and Hebrew initial "Yod" are prefixes, developed out of an earlier " W " that is found in Arabic. This means that the more used Hebrew version "ע י ף*Ayin Y P" is indeed the result of a metathesis in Hebrew, from "י ע ף*Y Ayin P", or a predecessor "ו ע ף*W Ayin P".


    One must remark that the introduction of the older prefix " W ", may have taken place already in Proto-Semitic.


    The pronunciation of the last consonant " P " as " PH ", seen in Hebrew and Syriac, in this case may have begun in Proto-Semitic, that anyhow in all probability originally had a " P ".


  • Proto-Germanic. The opening vowel in older Germanic languages is "O", as seen in Old Saxon "ōbian", or "E" as in Old Norse "efna" and Old English "efnan", besides "æ". Old High German introduced as it appears with "uoben" a change that led to German "üben". Then the vowel "U", be it spelled "OE" also appears in Middle Dutch, that as often offers an interesting picture of different spellings that must correspond with various pronunciations: "oefenen", with the first part seen as "oef-, hoef-, uef-, huef-, ouf-, houf- and uf-". The versions with a consonant "H" recall the fact that in not so few cases such an "H" in Germanic corresponds with the initial "Ayin" in Hebrew. And indeed we see that phenomenon here. In the eastern part of the country, Holland near Germany, there came a compromise-like word "oeven", without a final " N " in the root, more similar to Latin. These "U"-sounds often develop out of "O". Further it must ne noted that in the Nordic languages we find a vowel "Ø" that normally is a development out of "O".


    Important is the indication of a specific extra meaning of "to consume one's forces", that brings us nearer to the effect of "tiring" in Hebrew. The "F" , found in various languages as shown, frequently is basically related to a consonant "P", as is found in Hebrew, but also in Latin. Proto-Germanic probably had "*O PH N-" or "*U PH N-". The consonant "N" is part of the root and can be seen as a Germanic addition.


  • Indo-European. The usual hypothesis is an "*O P- ". This is based on Latin and Germanic, but a support comes from Old Indian and Sanscrit with "apas-", having the meanings of "work, effort, diligence". The final " S " is not part of the root. The use of the vowel " A " is very frequent in Old Indian and not necessarily corresponds with Indo-European.




Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 23/01/2013 at 10.48.48