E 0386          GRAFAN

The Old English verb " grafan " is of Germanic origin .

H 0505            ה ר כ

Concept of root : hollow out

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה ר כ


to excavate, hollow out

Related English words

Old English grafan

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה ר כ


to excavate

to hollow out

k . r i <

*k . r . w



hollow out

c r . u





gh r . v

Old English



g r . f



Proto-Semitic *KARÀ --- *GRĀB Indo-European



The French word "creuser" seems to be without any known etymology. It is not clear in which way it might have come from Germanic. And neither if and how it might have been derived from Latin, that uses "cavare" for "to hollow out" and "cavus" for "hollow". But it has a sisterword in Lombardic or Milanese "crös ", that means a hollowed out place or the deepest point of a valley or lake.


  • Hebrew "karà" belongs to a group of verbs that are considered to have an "I" as a third consonant. This "I" is not present in the so-called basic form that is used in dictionaries, which is "karà". But it is found in conjugations like "kariti (I excavated)" and "karita (you excavated)". This "I" in older language was a "W", called "waw", that famous letter that has such incredible flexibility. It may become a vowel (O, U) or consonant (W,V,F) but also become a "I" or even simply disappear .


    We do not think that the concept of "to make round " has had any role in shaping this root for "to excavate, hollow out". There are various different concepts served by this or a similar combination , such as "to feast" and "to obtain, buy, trade".


  • Proto-Semitic. This root is found in Aramaic "כ ר א , ker'à = he dug". Arabic "karā" and Ethiopian "karay" both say "he dug" . This makes the use of this root in Proto-Semitic probable "*כ ר ה , K R H (accentuated vowel)".


  • French and Hebrew are similar in root, as the more original Hebrew root had a "W" as third consonant, whereas French has just turned this W into a component of a diphthong by linking it to the "E" , with "EU" as the result.


  • Latin in "cavo, cavare = to make hollow, hollow out" has a short root, "C V", but this lacks the "R" that is found in Germanic and Hebrew .


  • Germanic has used as a full-fledged consonant that old "waw" or "W". As usual, Dutch has remained nearest, with the root "G R V", whereas German has shifted to "G R B". English does no more use the verb, but Old English had the root "G R F". This last development is explained by the fact that a "W" at the end of a word may become an "F", as it does in Hebrew. This is also seen in Old English "grǽf" and in Dutch "graf", that both mean "grave".
    We should like to remark that there is a habit to define Germanic nouns like "graf" as having been derived from verbs like here "graven ( to dig)". This is simply wrong. The basic meaning lies in the root. This root here is "G R W". The actual words are similar to or have been derived from that root. In the case of Old English, German, Dutch and most other Germanic verbs, suffixes are added. Such a suffix is "-an" or "-en" for the infinitive form, but other suffixes, such as " –s" or "-t" are used for other verbal forms.


  • Proto-Germanic. There is no indication in Germanic that goes nearer to the Hebrew "K", nor to the absence of a third consonant. All old and new Germanic languages related to this entry begin with "GRA", with the exception of Old Frisian that has the verb "greva". And they all have a third consonant that is usually "V", but in Gothic and in German with its predecessors "B", whereas Old English has "grafan" on the track of Old Norse "grafa".


    The most probable form for Proto-Germanic is "*GR A B/V".


  • Indo-European. Besides Germanic there is little information . There is for Slavic more then one hypothesis : "*grebo" on the basis of uncertain Old Church Slavonic "grĕbētī = to lie buried". And then a more convincing "*GR O B Ŭ- ", that has its cognates in modern Slavic languages. An example is Russian "гроб, grob = tomb". Indo-European may well have used already the root "G R B", but the vowel remains uncertain, with a fair possibility for "A": "*GR A B".




Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 01/11/2012 at 16.29.30