E 0530          LEOPARD

The word " leopard "  is, via Latin , of Greek origin .

H 0267            ד ר ב

Concept of root : spotted

Hebrew word


English meanings

ד ר ב



Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ד ר ב



b . r . d








(l .)p . r d

Middle Dutch




( .) b . r d




( .) p . r d



Proto-Semitic *BARED --- *PARD- Indo-European



The similarity in this entry is limited to the second part of the word "leopard", that stands for "spotted ".


We think that there is some confusion as to the word leopard . There is no doubt that , be it via Latin, the name for this big cat comes from Greek. If we think a moment of the still bigger cat that is the tiger, we see that Italians invariably talk about "la tigre", whereas it should be "il tigre". The reader will know that "il" is the male and "la" the female article. This means that Italians tend to consider a tiger female.


Coming to the Greeks, they had the word "παρδος , pardos" for the panther and the leopard. And they created the word "λεοπαρδαλις , leopardalis" , that must have stood for "spotted lion". There was no other reason to combine the two elements "leo" and "pardalis". The odd thing is that "pardalis " was and is the female of the leopard. So the Greeks looked at the leopard as the Italians look at the tiger, rather female to think of !


We will not go deeper into the cultural background of Italians and Greeks that makes them consider these ferocious predators as females .


We confess that the Hebrew word "parod" has convinced us that Greek "leopardalis" meant "the spotted lion". The Greeks had some adventures with the names for that even more important big cat, the lion. In the old times, about the days of Hercules and Samson, there still were lions in Israel and Greece. One wonders if there exists a link between the adventures told about these two great heroes. Both killed their lion with bare hands ! Anyhow, a lion in Greek besides a "leoon" also has become a "leioos", "leios" and "leion", and later also "leontas" and "liontari" or "leontari". But Hebrew is not much different in behaviour, calling a lion: "lawa,( female leba’a), law’i (lebi’à), but also "ari" and "arié".


The smaller cheetah, in French "guépard" , from Italian "gattopardo" is a "spotted cat". But the origin of the word is also explained as " hybrid of a panther and a cat". The inventor did not realize the physical diffulty of such a mating.



  • Greek may have taken this word from Persian, as some scholars suppose, but that would not change things too much, as Persian is an Indo-European language as well. And as Persian said "pārs", this is not identical to Greek "pard-os". So it is more probable that they are cognates.


    Unconvincing is the idea that the word "leopard" came into life because the animal was thought to be a hybrid, between a lion and a "pard", whatever that would have been. Not certainly a "paard" or "Pferd", names of the horse in Dutch and German .


    There is little basis for a supposition that Greek would have loaned from Semitic the word part "pardalis " to create " leopardalis " .


  • Proto-Semitic Proto-Semitic is supposed to have had the same root as this Hebrew word. It is found in Syriac "ב ר ד א, barĕdà = to be spotted". There is also a different opinion, based on Arabic "abrade = spotted ", and that supposes a root " *Aleph B R D ". But this initial vowel A, expressed by the letter Aleph, should rather be seen as a prefix. We stick to Proto-Semitic "*ב ר ד".


  • Proto-Germanic and Indo-European There is a risk of confusion if we see the Old Indian word "pŗdāku-" ( ŗ indicates the function of the "R" as a vowel), that is used to say "panther, tiger, snake". Obviously this word has a meaning of "spotted, striped, marked" and is related to Hebrew "barod". It was then used to say "the spotted one" , "the striped one" , "the one with markings".


    It is useful to note that in older Germanic, like Middle Dutch, there are versions with a consonant " B " instead of " P ", such as "liebaert, liebard". This demonstrates that there can be a certain flexibility or exchange between the sounds " P " and " B ". Old English used "pard" like Old French. After Latin "pardus", a normal development would have been "pardo", as in Italian "leopardo". The leopard was much less known than the lion and a loanword would have been obvious. But it remains unclear why the word became so brief as "pard", unless that came via a different channel.


    Indo-European probably had a form "*P A RD-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 10/10/2012 at 8.53.25