E 0415 HALF

The word " half " is of Germanic origin .

H 0429 ק ל ח

Concept of root : dividing

Hebrew word


English meanings

ק ל ח



to divide;

to part, portion

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ק ל ח

ghalaq; gheleq

to divide; part, portion

gh . l . q

Middle Dutch




h . l . gh





gh . l f




h . l f



Proto-Semitic *GHALAQ --- *GHĂLKH-, *HĂLKH- Proto-Germanic



There is wide agreement that the concept of the Germanic word "half" originally was not so strictly that of "fifty-fifty", but more in general that of dividing, especially into portions. Later is has acquired the official meaning of exact halves, but in normal popular speech we still hear about "the bigger half". Thus the similarity with Hebrew is considerable.


  • Flemish and Middle Dutch. We have mentioned these words because they show a greater affinity to the Hebrew root. The Germanic word for "half" has two versions, one is "H L GH" and the other, more common one is "H L F", as in English.


    In the Flanders the consonant H is quite normally pronounced as "GH", like the Hebrew "GHET" Also for that reason many roots that in Germanic begin with H are comparable to those in Hebrew with GHet, "GH" in our transcription.


  • Proto-Semitic. This Hebrew root is there also in Aramaic "ח ו ל ק, ghulaq" and "ח ו ל ק א, ghulq'" and in Syriac "ח ל ק א , ghelk'", all with the same meaning of "part, portion". Also the verb "ח ל ק , GH L Q" is used. Our root further has cognates used especially to indicate divisions and parts of land (also known in Hebrew), as in Arabic, "ghalaqa = he measured off", Ethiopian "ghalaqa = he enumerated, counted" and also in Akkadian. It can be supposed to have been present in Proto-Semitic "*ח ל ק , GH L Q".


  • Proto-Germanic. In older Germanic languages one finds Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old Danish and Middle Dutch "half", Old Norse with the usual suffix R is similar: "halfr". Old English "hælf" is nearly identical and became English "half". Gothic has "halbs" with the usual suffix "S" and Old High German shows the same "B" in "halb" that remained in German. We see no reason to link this series of words to a hypothetical Indo-European root "*(s)kelp = to split".


    The first part of all words is "hal" with a vowel "A" that in some cases becomes a short "Ē", as in substantives like Old Norse "helfð and Middle Dutch "helft, hel, helcht". The third consonant is basically "F", with a few exceptions that show "B". In modern Nordic tongues there is a "V" , "halv". This means that the "F" may have been a development out of "B", on account of the position at the end of the word, or in front of a "T". Proto-Germanic probably had "*H Ă LB", but also a version nearer to Semitic, as seen in Middle Dutch, with "*H Ă LKH-".


    We mention that the usual opinion sees a Germanic "*GHALB-", with an initial " GH " mainly based on the presumption that Germanic " H " corresponds with Latin " C = K ", and that Proto-Germanic must have had an intermediate form like "KH" or "GH". In our chapter regarding the Myth of Hundred (The Myth of Hundred) is shown that this theory has widely insufficient base in reality. Anyhow in the comparison we cite a hypothesis with initial " GH ".


  • Indo-European. We have no useful indications regarding possible cognates in other groups of languages outside Germanic. So the comparison remains between Semitic and Germanic, as so often is the case. Old Indian "kalpayati" for "he assigns" is interesting, but more indications would be necessary for a hypothesis. The meanings of "kálp-a" are various: "feasible, able to; like, almost" and also "precept, rule, usage, manner". Then "kalp-ya " says "to be assigned , to be imagined" and the basis for a hypothesis bearing the meaning of "to divide ( in half or not precisely in half)" remains too narrow.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 26/10/2012 at 16.25.25