E 0110          BOROUGH

The word " borough " is of Germanic origin .

H 0296            ה ר י ב

Concept of root : inner town

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה ר י ב


castle, capital

Related English words

borough , Old English : burg

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה ר י ב


castle, capital

b . r


βρια ;






town ;

tower, town-walls

b . r . i

p u r g


Old English



b . r . g






burg, burgh


b . r g






town ; castle

b . r g



Proto-Semitic *BIRA --- *BŪRG Indo-European



We see here a rather strong similarity. Especially striking is this, if we see that the Hebrew B may be originally a prefix, and that consequently also the Germanic word may have been formed this way.



  • Hebrew. It seems not too probable that Hebrew loaned the word " birą " from Akkadian " birtł", because it does not have the T . But Akkadian " birtł" means "citadel" and "fortified town" , and even has the same T we find in the Germanic words. This reinforces the supposition of a common origin .


  • Proto-Semitic. Proto-Semitic is considered to have had the same root found in Hebrew : "*ב י ר (ה) , B Y R + accentuated vowel, birą. Akkadian has "bīrtu = fortified town, citadel".


  • English . Old English " burg " carried the message of " fortress " or" fortified town " .


  • Germanic shows these words in many names of towns, from Hamburg to Edinborough.


  • Proto-Germanic . The consonants "B" and mostly coupled "RG" are common to most Germanic languages. Dutch has also a second version in which a final T has been added.


    The used vowel is usually either an "O" as in Gothic, Nordic and Middle Low German or "U" as in Old Frisian, Old Saxon and High German with its predecessors. Dutch and Middle Dutch have both "O" and "U". English "borough" is a special development that began in Middle English, possibly on account of some problems of pronunciation. Words that have two vowels can also be found in Old Frisian, that has "burich" besides "burch", as well as in Dutch dialect "burreg", pronounced with dull "U", dull"E" and final "GH". The suffix "-bury" is all regular, with the original "G" changed into "Y", as is very common in English. The words "barrow" and "burrow" are too far off in meaning and should not be seen as closely related to the root of this entry.


    Proto-Germanic probably had "*B U RG-", but it may also have been "*B O RG-".


  • Greek gives us two words that may be related. The first one, "bria", may have had a metathesis between the R and the I-sound. In fact this is like a metathesis between consonants, as the " I " of "birą" in Hebrew and the " U" of UR of the Chaldees both must be developments of an original "waw", a kind of letter we often refer to . Its etymology can be compared to that of "fort", as it is based on a word "β ρ ι , bri = strong, heavy". The other word, "π υ ρ γ ο ς,pürgos = tower, town-walls" seems nearer to Germanic "borg". Some scholars think hesitantly of a loanword from Hittite with "parku-", but this is improbable, as this rather looks like a cognate. This becomes more evident if we find the word "φ υ ρ κ ο ς, phürkos= wall", an obvious relative of pürgos.


  • Indo-European An existing hypothesis is "*BH U RGH-", for "watchtower". This meaning is anyhow too limited and should be "fortified, defendable place to stay, live". Besides Germanic and Greek the information is limited.


    Armenian "burgn = tower" is interesting .


    Latin "burgus = small castle, watch-tower", later also means "border-fort, small town". In written language it is found after 185 e.v.. It sounds like Germanic, but its meaning was and long remained somewhat different, in the beginning rather like that of Greek pürgos. So some think it has been loaned from Greek, but that would hardly have happened so late. It might yet have been loaned from Germanic without having been written frequently, but the development of meanings contradicts such a supposition. In this respect it must be considered that Gothic "baúrgs" already had all meanings of "tower, fortified town, town". Yet the possibility of a Latin origin is very small. Then the Latin word is seen as having been loaned by the Aramaeans , Syrians and Arabs.


    Celtic. In the language of the Gauls a "briga" was a "fortified ( and thus defendable) hill". The type of place, not a town or the likes, makes it independent from Germanic. The vowel " I " instead of " U ", reinforces this supposition. Thus Celtic may have had a form "*B R Ī G- One may remark that a vowel " I " may have developed out of an earlier " O ".


    The hypothesis for Indo-European becomes thus "*B Ū RG-, though a vowel " U " and an initial consonant " P " can not be excluded.






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 12/10/2012 at 17.36.21