E 0543ááááááááá LOAF

The word " loaf " is of Germanic origin .

H 0543ááááááááá ם ח ל

Concept of root : grain as food

Hebrew word


English meanings

ם ח ל


grain, bread, food

Related English words

loaf, Old English hlaf

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ם ח ל

ááááá leghem

grain, bread, food

l . gh . m




grain, bread

gh l . b

Old English


loaf, bread

h l . f




l . f



Proto-Semitic *LEGHEM --- *HLEIB- Proto-Germanic < *KLEB- Indo-European



There has been a metathesis, somewhere along the road of development of this root, between the L and the G-sound. Besides that, the roots of these three words are not identical roots, but easily may have a common origin.


During long periods of the past, grains must have represented a very fundamental part of nutrition, probably more after the introduction of agriculture than in the earlier period of gathering and hunting. Then it was conceivable to use one and the same word for "grains", "prepared grains /bread" and "food". Understandably the root L GH M of this entry acquired all three meanings, and the verb "LAGHAM" meant and means "to eat, feed onseself".


  • English "loaf" is a development from Old English "hlaf". The H of "hlaf" is a weaker form than Russian and Hebrew GH, but it may very well have preceded those, remaining H in Germanic.


  • Hebrew in the Bible also has a root with the weaker H instead of GH, and it means a gluttony or delicacy. This reinforces the supposition of relationship in this entry.


  • Proto-Semitic. This root is present in Aramaic and Syriac "ל ח ם א , = bread". Ugaritic uses this same root to express the meanings of "bread" and "food". Arabic "laghm = flesh, meat" is seen as related but may in fact not be so. Akkadian "lēmu = to taste, enjoy" may be related, giving an interesting confirmation of the pleasure of eating.


    The name of the important town "Bethlehem" means "House of Food", but most people today consider it as saying "House of Bread", because "bread" has become the only important meaning in modern language. If one asks an Arabic speaker the question about "Bethlehem", he will answer that is means "House of Meat". There is in fact another root with the same three consonants in it, that in Hebrew has given the word "leghum = flesh", related to the already mentioned Arabic word "laghm". This root is found in entry E 0534 (Hebrew 0546) and it is related to Old English "lichoma.


    Proto-Semitic probably used already the root "*L . GH . M " we still find in Hebrew: "*ל ח ם , L GH M".


  • Germanic languages today use words like English "bread" and German "Brot". This family is seen as originated from the use of yeast to make bread. We doubt this fully, but anyhow later it has mostly substituted the older words , such as Old English "hlaf" and Old High German "(h)leib". Only the still actual meaning of "loaf" as shaped bread has remained in English.


    In modern German we find the word "Laib" with the same meaning as "loaf". The " A " was introduced to distinguish this word from the common word "Leib" , meaning " body", and that had and has in German the same pronunciation "laib".


    See also the page "The Bread and the Body" (Hebrew 0001_aa31)


  • Proto-Germanic. An existing hypothesis is "Khlaiba" , as usual based on Gothic, that had "hlaifs". There is no sound reason to see Gothic or East Germanic as the origin of Germanic. Sister words of English "loaf" and Old English "hlāj" are Old High German "leip, leib", Old Norse "hleifr", Old Danish "lēv" and Old Swedish "lēver". A hypothesis with vowel " EI " seems more probable : "*HL EI B- ".


  • Indo-European. According to some opinion the Slavic words have been loaned from Germanic. The same would be valid for Lithuanian "kliēpas". This is then linked to an uncertainty about the meaning : "bread" or "loaf". The meaning is rather obviously that of (unleavened) bread, which usually had a form as loaf. The differences in the words, also between the Slavic and Baltic tongues, indicate rather an independent origin. Indeed there is also Old Bulgarian "khlebj and it is unclear how this should have come from Germanic.


    Then there is also the Latin word "libum" that says "cake, flan", that indicates a "L Ī B" that should be related to "leib".


    Greek has a number of words related to "bread", that indicate the not directly found couple "klibos, kribos" for "bread, that indicates a form, "KL I B- ". It is not clear if this can be related.


    Indo-European may have used a form "*KL Ē B-" or "*KL Ī B-"





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 03/11/2012 at 18.35.45