E 1013          WORD

English "word" is of Germanic origin .

H 0227          ר א ב

Concept of root : clear speaking , to declare

Hebrew word


English meanings

ר א ב

bi’er; be’er (MH)

declare, explain, make clear

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ר א ב

bi’er ; be’er (MH)

declare, explain, make clear

b . . r




to declare, tell, talk

. i r <

* w . r




word, talk, declaration

v . r b

Old Irish



they talk, declare

f . r d





w . u r d

Old Norse



word, oration, salute

o . r dh




w . r d





w . r t

Middle Dutch  

wort, woort, word, wart, wert, waerd

wort, wōrt, wart, wert, wārt

word, declaration, tale

w . r t



Proto-Semitic *BE'ER --- *WER- Indo-European



The category of speaking that is at the basis of the words of this entry is that of " to declare", more or less solemnly, and in any way seriously. In traditional expression this can still be found in modern languages.


The English word "word", like all its Germanic sisters, according to a common opinion, finds its origin in an Indo-European root "*W E R-", that is supposed to have meant "speaking solemnly, declare". In Hebrew the initial labial is "B" instead of the "V"or "W" used in the European languages. It is known that the sounds B and W or V interchange frequently, but that is to a lesser extent the case at the beginning of a root. So we have a less common case here.


In entry E 1014 (Hebrew 0673) another comparison is made with the English word "word". The hypothesis of that entry is alternative to that in our actual entry E 1013 (Hebrew 0227) and only one of both may be maintained.


  • Greek has a verb "ειρω , eiro" that means " to declare, speak, tell ". As its original root is seen "W E R- " . This is that same hypothetical Indo-European root that is mentioned earlier. It is considered related to Latin "verbum".


  • Latin and Germanic. Both groups have a more extended root, with Latin using a third consonant " B " and Germanic, already in Gothic " waśrd , adding a D.


  • Proto-Semitic. This root "ב א ר" is found in Aramaic and also in Akkadian "bāru = declared, spoke". It is interesting to observe that Akkadian "bu'uru = declaration" uses a vowel "U" that is not too far from the vowel in English "word". Proto-Semitic probably had in use already this root "*ב א ר".


  • Gothic. A small element of "supplementary" similarity can be found in the sound-stop in the Gothic word "waśrd" In Hebrew spelling one would see an Aleph there, to indicate such a sound-stop before the U.


  • Middle Dutch explains very clearly how the essence of roots lies in the consonants, with the vowels far from always contributing to the forming of meanings. The word " word" has all the following versions : wort, word, woort, woirt, wart, wert, waerd, waert !


  • Proto-Germanic. Nearly all Germanic languages have "word", like English. An exception lies in the Nordic languages hat as so often have lost the initial "W" in front of a vowel "O". A further exception is that of Gothic "waúrd", in which a vowel "A" is added . And German "Wort" has a final "T" that is present also in its predecessors. This "T" can be considered a typical German development out of an earlier "D". Finally Dutch, already in Middle Dutch has lengthened the vowel O: "woord". Probably Proto-Germanic had "*W O RD-".


  • Indo-European. Regretfully, outside Greek, Latin and Germanic there is only limited information.


    Old Indian has "vratą", that is considered related to "word", but its meanings are mostly far off though many in number : "will, command, law, ordinance; dominion, service, ordinance; operation, action, doings, conduct, manner; rite, austerity" and then finally also "vow", that has become important. This is not sufficient in relation to "word".


    Avestan "urvatą" , already rather different in build-up, with its meaning of "destination, command" remains of uncertain help.


    Old Church Slavonic has "rota = oath" and does not cover real common ground with "word".


    On the merit of the results in Latin, Germanic and Greek a hypothesis for Indo-European can indeed be the generally accepted "*W E R-". On this basis extended forms like * V E R- B- " in Latin and perhaps already in Indo-European, "* W O R- D" and "*W O R- W-" were developed. One notes that in Greek this last form "*WORW" has then led to a usually presumed "*WERJ" and from there to "EIR-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 07/10/2012 at 14.46.56