E 0448 HIGH

The word " high " is of Germanic origin .

H 0343 ה ו ג , ה ב ג

Concept of root : highness

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה ב ג ;

ה ב ג ;

ה ו ג


gawoha, gaweha;

gwa; gwwa

to be high, haughty;

height, haughtiness;

pride, haughtiness

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה ב ג



gawoha, gaweha;

to be high, haughty;

high, haughty;

g w h


ה ו ג




g . w





g (o) w,

gh (o) w

Old High German

hoh; hohi; houg, hoger

hoh; hohi;

houg, hoger

high; height;

hill, mound

h . h; h . g

Middle High German

ho, hoch;


ho, hogh;




h . (gh);

h . h

Middle Dutch

ho, hooch

ho, hogh


h . (gh)

Old English


high , tall, proud, haughty

h . h

Middle English

hei, high


h . h;

h . gh




h . gh



Proto-Semitic *GAWA, "GOWA --- *GOW- Indo-European



All these words in Germanic and Hebrew, together with many of their sisterwords, have both literal and figurative meanings in a very wide range. We have specified these in Old English, as they are very similar to the Hebrew meanings .


The comparison between the words of this entry illustrates some of the games played between the three sounds G, H and GH in language development .


  • Hebrew W. Hebrew can express the sound "W" , that is central in the words in the above table , by two different letters. One is the famous "WAW" , " ו" , that can stand for the vowels O and U, but also for the consonant W. The other one is the letter Beth, B, " ב" , that at the end of a word finishes somewhere between V and W, not unlike it does in Russian . But also between vowels the letter Beth changes, into a more pure W.


    Evidently this was already the case in the pronunciation of Hebrew in the Biblical times of Abraham. That was the period and place in which the Alphabeth was invented or composed . The men who had to codify the spoken words into phonetic symbols, our letters, had a difficult task with the sound W. They had to choose between Waw and Beth, and we cannot avoid to say that their choice not always could have been consequent and in line with future knowledge. Thus we find in this entry two different letters for the same sound and meaning .


    So the central sound in " gowah " etcetera could be expressed by either Waw or Beth . The choice often has been the Beth . But in some other cases we can see the Waw . The strong resemblance of the meanings between the versions indicates that we have here one original root for which two different spellings have been chosen .


    This is important, because in the Indo-European words we find only the Waw, in the form of the letter-vowel O, and not the Beth .


    One complicating factor is that the Bible also uses , like modern Hebrew, a causative form of the verb " gawah" , that is spelled " ה ג ב י ה ". This verb today sounds " higbiya " with a B in it, and not a W . But this may or not have been the same in the days of Abraham . Once alphabetic writing exists and orthographic choices have been made their developments often influence pronunciation . Besides this, the Bible has been written much later then the creation of alphabetic writing .


  • Hebrew alternative. The concepts of " height, elevation, pride" and "haughtiness" in Hebrew are as well expressed with a different root, simply " ג א , g = proud " , as well as the three letters " ג א ה , in three different pronunciations : " ga’a = be (come) high or eminent " , " ge’a = pride " and " ge’e = high, eminent, proud ".


    Then there is still " ג א ו ה , ga’awa" that means sublimeness, pride" and as e verb "to rise up" . Here we find both the Aleph and the Waw . The overall picture is quite complicated .


  • Proto-Semitic. The principal root of this entry is also found in Aramaic "ג ב ו , gewhh" = was high", in which the final "H", just as in Hebrew in this case, is not indicating an accentuated vowel as usual, but represents a real "H"-sound". Akkadian "gabāni" are "heights". This root may well have been present in Proto-Semitic: "*ג ב ו , G B H".


    The second root is presented in the table by the word "ג ו ה , G W H" , that is also seen as a contraction of "ג א ו ה, G Aleph W H", shown in the previous note on Hebrew. A related verb is found in Aramaic "ג א ה , ge' = was proud". The root is also used in Syriac and it may as well have been present in Proto-Semitic : " *ג א ה , G Aleph H".


  • Germanic and Hebrew show a difference between their first consonants, that is H in Germanic and G in Hebrew. This seems nearly to be compensated by the occurrence in Germanic of G, pronounced as GH, at the end of the words and H instead further on in the Hebrew words. The differences in configuration recall a kind of metathesis .


    In between we find the O in Germanic, that corresponds with W or OW or WO in Hebrew. Really quite normal developments, and characteristic adventures of the sounds, indicated by the letter Waw.


  • Old Norse and Norwegian. It must be noted that Old Norse had the word "haugr" for "height", especially used for grave mounds, but to say "high" used "har", also "hor". This might be related to Hebrew "har = hill" that is seen in entry GR 1222 (Hebrew 0403), though the Old Norse word "har", disappeared in modern Norwegian , was used to express many things. Interesting among these that it said "high" as well as "deep", and "long" in time, but also "important, strong, loud". The meaning "high" was both literal and figurative. The word "har" lives on in Icelandic and Faroese. One concludes that the root "*H . R" in Old Norse is not related to "*H . G" seen in "haugr. This word continues into Norwegian as "haug". Dutch has the cognate "haar". Modern Norwegian shows us the words "hg, hy; haug" with the meanings "high; hill, mound". These are related to the words of this entry.


  • Old English at the end has vocalized into EA instead of O. Also this is far from uncommon. In modern English a very clear example is the word " great " that corresponds with for example German " gross " and Dutch " groot " . Still Old English introduced an " I " in the comparative " hierra " and the superlative " heista" . Then Middle English in a couple of steps has come to the modern form " high " .


  • Proto-Germanic. The known Germanic words for "high", old and new, begin with a consonant "H". Older languages end with a "H"-sound or even without that , as Gothic "hauh-s", Old Saxon "hoh", Old High German "ho, hoh", ON-Franconian "ho", Old Danish "houh-", Old English "heah" and in the case of Middle Dutch "ho" before changing into "hooch", just as did Middle High German. A final GH-sound ( also spelled "CH" or "G ") in West Germanic was introduced or used to form words for "height" For this in North Germanic already in early times a "G"-sound is seen, a "G" that often became a "Y".


    The vowels, be it final or central, are either "O", mostly a long "O", or ordinary developments out of "O". So Old English "heah", Gothic "hauh-s" and Nordic "hg". English "high" comes from Old English that had "heah, heh", with "hierra = higher" and "hiest" already near the modern pronunciation . Meanwhile Middle English had struggled with "heh, hegh, heigh, hey". Proto-Germanic probably had "*H O -" and already formed "*H O H-".


  • Indo-European. There are various hypothesises about the possible Indo-European predecessor of English " high " and German " hoch " . One is that of a root " *keu " or " *keu-k" , standing for " to bend " . This is then also based on meanings for " high " as found in " high grade " or " high esteem " . But these are just figurative applications of the basic message of " height" .


    The extinct Indo-European language Tocharian , that existed in Central Asia over a millennium ago , in its two sub-languages or dialects , used for high " hoc" and " hauc" . Some scholars say that these words were based on an Indo-European " * gow " or "* ghow " . This would bring us very near Hebrew " gowah " . We have inserted this in our Table, bust must confess we are far from certain. Information for a different hypothesis lacks. In fact, other scholars give Tocharian " koc, kauc" as seen hereafter.


    Another hypothesis is "*koukos", based on Lithuanian "kaukar = hill" and Tocharian "koc, kauc" = high". Other words, like Gothic "hiuhma = heap" and Russian "куца, kutsha= heap" , rather suggest that the principle is that of "heaping up", not of "height" as such. Old Indian "kuka" is also asked to help, but it says "female breast" and has no relation at all with "high". "KUK-", stands for "to bend, curve" and that is the impression the female breast gives.






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 18/10/2012 at 13.40.58