E 0121          BROAD

The word " broad " is of Germanic origin .

H 0265            א ר ב

Concept of root : clearing opening

Hebrew word


English meanings

א ר ב


to clear an opening

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


א ר ב


to clear an opening

b . r .

Middle Dutch



wide, roomy, broad

b r . t




b r . d



Proto-Semitic *BAR'À --- *BRĒD Proto-Germanic



In English, as in Modern Dutch, the meaning of this word has concentrated more on that of "broad", "large ", "wide ". But the original meaning was that of an open way or space expressly cleared, also through an urban environment. It can be found in the many names of streets that are "Breestraat", such as in Rotterdam and centuries ago in what today is New York.


An important "Breestraat" existed in fact in Nieuw Amsterdam. The English , who obtained Nieuw Amsterdam from Holland in a forced exchange for Surinam, soon renamed the town and its streets. A decade later Holland reconquered the territory and changed back names. Then finally with the Peace of Westminster it became English again. Thus Breestraat became Broadway, just as Walstraat became Wallstreet.


  • Proto-Semitic. Proto-Semitic is considered to have already had this root that continued into Hebrew. The evidence is rather limited though, as just in Arabic we find "barā = he hewed with an axe". Proto-Semitic may have had indeed "* ב ר א, B R Aleph".


  • Proto-Germanic. Germanic languages use for "broad" words with initial "BR-" and final " -D ", with the exception of High German that has a final consonant " T " in a typical development.


    Old English has "brād, but the older and preceding Old Saxon and Old Frisian have "brē d". Middle Dutch is "breet" in which the final " T " is due to the fact that the pronunciation of a final " D " sounds like " T ". German and Old High German say "breit". Old Norse is "breidð". The "EI" is a development of of a long "Ē" Gothic as so often has "ai", braiB, but East Germanic can not be seen as the basis of West Germanic. Proto-Germanic probably had a form "*BR Ē D-". The old Middle Dutch name "Breestraat" and the verb "breien" naast "breden, breiden" are not sufficient to establish a hypothesis "*BREE-", though this might be a true guess.


  • Indo-European. We have no information from outside Germanic that might allow a different hypothesis for Indo-European. It is quite possible that the final dental is a Germanic addition to an earlier "*B R + vowel". Thus Indo-Euopean may have had a form without final dental, like "*BRA". We do no present this as a hypothesis.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 09/10/2012 at 16.46.33