E 0565          MARROW

The word "marrow " is of Germanic origin .

H 0574         ח מ

Concept of root : marrow

Hebrew word


English meanings

ח מ


marrow, brain

Related English words

marrow, Old English mærg, mærh

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ח מ


marrow, brain

m (o) gh




m . r .

Old English

mærh ;


Old Frisian



moargh, murgh


m (o) rgh, m (u) rgh





m . rgh

Middle Dutch




m . rgh





m . rg




brain, marrow

m . zg






m . r k;

m . z k



Proto-Semitic *MŪGH --- *MŎRG Indo-European



In Hebrew "moagh", the vowel A has been inserted for reasons of pronunciation. In Hebrew a final GH requires nearly invariably a vowel A in front of it, and this is inserted also after other "regular" vowels in a word. This A is not a sign of similarity with the many Germanic words that use the vowel A in their words for "marrow". We find also other vowels, such as O, U and E or diphthongs in Germanic.



  • Germanic has the R in all languages. This is often supposed to have developed out of a Z, with an original Germanic "*mazga", apparently because that word meant "marrow" or "brain" in Old Iranian and also as a similar word in Old Slavic was "mozgŭ = brain" .We think that Germanic and Iranian just inserted, each for their own reasons, an R respectively a Z in front of the original GH-sound already found in Hebrew. Old Norse loved the R and even had "mergr". But modern Norwegian is "marg"


    The wrong suppostition of an original Z also for Germanic may have been inspired by the "necessity" to find one common Indo-European root for everything. If this root has existed, it must have had just "M G" or "M (W/O) G", without any R or Z in it.


  • English. Old English had two versions of this word in use and the existence of the version with final H, reinforces the relation with Hebrew, in which the GH-sound of the letter Ghet often has been developed out of or is at least related to the H-sound of the letter Hé. In Middle-English there were also two words: "margh" and "marowe", with the second one leading to Modern English "marrow".


  • Middle Dutch had many versions for "marrow" : "maerch, march, meerch, merch, morch, murch". The A is the most frequent one in Germanic tongues, but we see the U in North-Dutch and the E in Frisian.


  • German often tends to sharper sounds and has developed from Old High German "marg", that was still in harmony with the other tongues, via Middle High German "marc" into the modern word " Mark " with the sharp K.


  • Proto-Germanic. Generally Germanic languages have the initial M, followed by a vowel and then a consonant "R" in front of a "G, GH or K"-sound. As to the vowel, Middle Dutch uses a variety of them, seen in "maerch, march, meerch, merch, morch, murch". The "U" lives on in dialectal "murg" besides official Dutch "merg". These facts suggest a possibility that the vowel "O", also found in Hebrew, may have been the oldest version, and that later the vowels "A" and "E" have come up. An extra indication for this is found in Old Swedish that besides "maergher" still had "miärgher" in which the "I" may have developed out of an older "O". A further information comes from Old Frisian with its two versions : "moarch" and "murch". The hypothesis for Proto-Germanic becomes "*M O RGH-" with possibly remaining or already developing versions with a vowel A or E.


  • Slavic. As shown Russian "mozg" , faithful to the tradition seen in Hebrew also with the vowel O, uses the same word for both "marrow" and "brain". But Czech still respecting the vowel O as in Hebrew, has diversified into two versions, "morek" with the R as in Germanic for "marrow" and "mozek" with the Slavic and Iranian Z for "brain". Polish has stayed with Russian in "mozg" for "brain", but uses "szpik" for "marrow". This brings us to the concept of "fat", in the next note.


  • Fat. In Hebrew the combination of M and GH has various applications, but among these there is the concept of "fat". "Marrow" undoubtedly is a fat substance and the Polish choice of the word "szpik" confirms this, as this is certainly related to the very well-known German word "Speck" for "fat bacon" or "bacon-fat".


    The idea’s "fat" are basically two . One is near that of "grease", the other one indicates more the volume of a body . A great volume defined as "fat" basically contains "fat" substances in it. Especially more solid forms of fat, like human body-fat. Thus the two idea’s we mentioned are not very far apart. As an example we find Hebrew " מ ח " with two different ways of pronouncing : "moagh = marrow" and "méagh = fat animal".


    The root found in German for more solid forms of fat, and present in "Speck" and recognizable in Polish "szpik" certainly also had a message of "fatness". This is seen in the Middle High German word "speckicht" saying "greasy". Without the adjective suffixes we find two nouns: "*specke" and "grease" that both indicate "fatness".


  • Proto-Semitic. There is a hypothetical root "* M U " for "marrow, brain, (top of the) head". We see this as improbable, as all Semitic languages in this case have a guttural consonant, after the "U (or WAW)" such as the GH in Hebrew and Aramaic and the H in other tongues. Aramaic " מ ו ח א , moghà" and Syriac " מ ו ח א, mughà" stands for "marrow, brain". Ugaritic uses the same root for "marrow". Arabic "mughgh = marrow, brain". An obvious transfer to the "container" of "brain" has been made in Akkadian "mughghu = skull".


    One may well suppose that Proto-Semitic had "* מ ו ח , M U GH" . It should be noted that the second meaning in Hebrew, that of "brain", is found in Post Biblical Hebrew texts, but hundreds of words that existed in Biblical times are found only once in the Biblical text, and many others will have found their way into the Bible not even once, showing their existence in later texts only.


  • Indo-European.


    Latin and Greek give no help, as they use different words for "marrow", like "medulla" and "müelos", of unknown etymology. Greek scholars indicate "müelos" < "müselos", but that remains quite uncertain.


    Old Indian "majján- = marrow".


    Avestan "mazga- = marrow, brain".


    Slavic has a hypothesis of "*mozgj", similar to Old Church Slavonic "mozgŭ" and related to Baltic:


    Baltic enjoys a hypothesis of "*muzg-en-". Old Prussian indeed had "musgeno = marrow".



    Indo-European languages present mainly two different three consonant formulas: "M R G" and " M Z G". The division is rather neatly between the western and the eastern part. Some scholars see the version with "Z" as the original one and give even for Proto-Germanic a hypothesis "*mazg-". This is without basis and we must accept that already in Indo-European two different versions existed : "*M Ŏ Z G-" besides "*M Ă Z G-" for "marrow, brain" and "*M Ă R G-" besides "*M Ŏ R G-" only for "marrow". The versions with " È " in several Germanic words can be seen as a specific development. In Germanic there is further for "brain" an original "*bragna-n", that may be the result of a specific diversification between the concepts of "marrow" with "M A R G-" and "brain" with "B R A G-". This last formula thus shows a metathesis "RA" < "AR" and is recognizable in Old English "brægn = brain".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 06/11/2012 at 11.32.10