E 0982          WASH , BASH

The words " wash "and " bash " are of Germanic origin .

H 0478            ס ב כ

Concept of root : to wash by solid touch

Hebrew word


English meanings

ס ב כ



to wash, to full;

to purify, to wash

Related English words

wash, bash

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ס ב כ

kabas ;




to wash, to full ;

to purify, to wash

k . b . s ,

k . v . s


to wash

to wash

w . sh



to purify;

to wash;

to work solidly (on something)

w . s



Proto-Semitic *KABAS --- *WĂS(K)- Proto-Germanic



It must be remarked that there can be seen a contradiction between a supposed common origin between Semitic and Germanic in this entry and that in entry E 0156 (Hebrew 0479). Let us have a look at the facts.


It is in our view not fully certain but quite possible that both meanings , "to wash" and "to full" indeed are served by one root. Indeed both are ways of cleaning, using hands or feet. There also might be two identical roots with different meanings. That of " to full" is then related to the words of entry E 0156 (Hebrew 0479). There are anyhow two differences to be explained, if we want to sustain the similarity between the words of this entry . One is that Hebrew "kabas, kibbès" begins with a K that we do not see in Germanic . We have no explanation other than that of a development after the groups of languages split. The other is the difference between the central B in Hebrew "kibbès" and the initial " W " in English. Both factors together leave uncertainty about the possibility of a common origin.


Yet our supposition has to remain that in Hebrew " kibbès" the last part , "B S" ( without initial " K ") , already carries the meaning of washing or the kind of movements as practised for washing in earlier civilizations by hand, with solid rubbing, beating and wringing of the cloth. The standard form of the verb, "kavas", also says "to full", which is a treatment of cloth by beating and pressing, comparable to that of the washing we referred to.


Another verb, " כ ב ש , kavash ", found in entry E 0156 (Hebrew 0479) is used for a.o. "trampling (down), pressing, squeezing", in part typical actions of the washing by hand. It is probably related. And still another verb, " י ב ש , yawash" indicates the action of drying, be it oneself or something, the thing that is done after having cleaned by washing with water. In Genesis this root means the dry ground after God separated the waters from it.



  • English "to wash", quite understandably, is usually seen as linked to "water" and "to wet". But if one looks nearer at the older meanings of the word, one finds, in this case in Middle Dutch, the verb "wasschen" . In Modern Dutch this is spelled "wassen", but it must be distinguished from another "wassen", that means "to grow" and is known also in German "wachsen", as opposed to "wasschen, washen" for "to wash". On the other hand, there is a, surprising, opinion that "to bash", registered rather late, in the 17th century, would be a "blend" of "bang" and "dash"! Others see "bash" as an alteration of "pash", but that word is said to be very new, from the nineteen hundreds, as an abbreviation of "passion". How difficult English etymology can be!


    This Middle Dutch verb "wassen" stands for "to purify, to wash" but also for "to work on something solidly", independently from any use of water.


    If the words for washing refer more to the kind of movements made also when washing with water, we find kinship with English "to bash". This even more increases the probability of a common development of meanings of the root "*B SH", also pronounced "*W SH"; in Germanic and Hebrew.


  • Proto-Germanic. In the sense of this entry, in older Germanic languages one finds good information: Old Saxon "waskan", Old English and Old High German "wascan", Old North Franconian "wascon", Old Norse "vaska" and Middle Dutch "wasschen, waschen, wassen, wasken, wesken" indicate that Proto-Germanic probably had "*W Ă SK-". But considering the fact that Dutch, instead of the normal development "SK > SGH > S(S)" presents itself with a nearly entirely continued version without the final " K ", confirms that that consonant has been added by Proto-Germanic as a second version. And "*W Ă S-" must have existed still in that group.


    Important is to note that "to wash" has been derived from the action of the hands ( or feet), thus having nothing to do with the root of "water".


  • Hebrew " kibbès " is an intensive form of "kavas" . Thus we see explained the alternating of the pronunciations B ( voiced explosive ) and W/V ( voiced ) .


  • Proto-Semitic. This Hebrew root is also found in Ugaritic that uses a root plus suffix in "כ ב ס ם , K B S-M = launderer". This gives us just a small basis for a Proto-Semitic "*כ ב ס , K B S".


    In Hebrew in a number of words the pronunciation of the middle consonant " B " of this root is " V ". But in other words it has remained " B " and this version is also the one used in probably related words meaning " to press ", an action that is frequently present in washing. We see this in Akkadian "kabāsu = to press, tread" and Arabic "kabasa = he pressed". Proto-Semitic certainly had a pronunciation " B " .


    A similar Semitic root "K B S", but in Hebrew "K B SH" (entry E 0156 (Hebrew 0479), stands for " to tread (down ), press" as well as related meanings, literal and figurative. This is found in various Semitic tongues and was probably used in Proto-Semitic. It is considered related to the "K B S = to wash" of this entry, but that is uncertain. Washing was not done with the feet, but with the hands. It is anyhow related to the other meaning of this entry, that is " to full".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 24/01/2013 at 17.49.54