E 0619 NIGHTMARE

Both parts of the word " nightmare " are of Germanic origin .

H 0618 א ר ו מ

Concept of root : fright by evil spirit

Hebrew word

pronunciation

English meanings

א ר ו מ

mor’

fright, fear

Related English words

(night)-mare

Comparison between European words and Hebrew

Languages

Words

Pronunciation

English meanings

Similarity in roots

Hebrew

א ר ו מ

mor’

fright, fear

m (o) r .

Old English

mare

frightening spirit

m . r .

English

night-mare

m . r .

Middle Dutch

mare

mare

frightening spirit

m . r .

Dutch

nacht- merrie

naghtmerri

nightmare

m . r .

Swedish

mara

mara

nightmare

m . r .

German

Mahr

maar

nightmare

m . r

Old High German

mara

mara

frightening spirit

m . r .

 

 

Hebrew *MOR'À --- *MŌRE Indo-European

 

 

In Old English and its sister Dutch we see the word with root "M . R" meaning the entity that causes fright. It is an evil female spirit that appears. In modern language the time and the effect of the frightening action are specified. Swedish adds this to the original meaning, that is also maintained, as in the expression "maran rider honom : the mare rides him".

 

Obviously the idea, expressed by some, that this root would be related to one " *MeR" in Indo-European with the meaning of "to ground, rub down, pulverize" has no basis. Nor is a relation with the root of Latin "mors, mortis", from entry E 0601 (Hebrew 0611), or with the softness of entry E 0575 (Hebrew 0599) sustainable. The real basis of those European words is found in various legends that tell how an evil woman takes possession of a man during the night and rides him at will. In the Latin concept of "incubus" the evil spirit sits on the chest of the man who is oppressed by her weight.

 

If in fact the initial "M" is a prefix, and thus not part of an original root, the similarity is not due to a common origin. Perhaps this word was not felt as composed this way by whom in Post Biblical Hebrew coined the extended word "mora'" with the meanings of " fear" and "reverence ".

 

Note:
  • Germanic tongues with this root have in common the concept of the frightening female apparition. This is perhaps the same as in Celtic, as in Old Irish the "morrigain" is a nightmare, a vampyr, very frightening indeed, or, much less frightening, an elf-queen. Russian has a old isolated word that has a similar element : " кикимора , kikimora" , but it is less specific : phantom, vision, specter, ghost.

     

 

Note:
  • English and Dutch in modern language have specified that the "mare" comes at night to frighten people. The extra first part "night" does not change the basic meaning but confirms that the evil spirit is active. Russians may dream of this, as their "mara" is an "enticement, vision, temptation", though it is hard to find confirmation of this. An Old Church Slavonic "mora" was a strong emotion.

 

Note:
  • Indo-European. There are cognates in various Germanic, Celtic and Slavic languages for the old word "mare".

     

    Germanic: see some in the Table above. There is also Old French "mare", probably of German origin. This can be recognized in French "cauchemar" = "nightmare", in which the lady tramples her victim, as "caucher" says "to tread upon". The probable form is "*M Ā R-"

     

    Celtic: Old Irish "mor"- in "morrigain = nightmare".

     

    Slavic: Polish "zmora", and Czech "mura" say "nightmare".

     

    Indo-European may have had "M Ō R E" , though also "M Ā R E" is quite possible.

 

Note:
  • An upside down. There would seem to be an odd upside down in the English and Dutch words. English "mare" and Dutch "merrie" are the common words for "female horse", that have cognates in many Germanic, Slavic and Celtic languages. But in this case it is she who rides, and this can not be imagined as a female horse riding a man's chest! And indeed an old word "marre" in English, Dutch and Nordic means "phantom, spook".

 

Note:
  • Hebrew. In Modern Hebrew this word also says "reverence, respect". In Biblical language it indicated also the classic fear from reverence.

     

    It may be related to the root "Y.R.Aleph", that expresses transitive and intransitive messages in the field of fear. It is a development from an older root "*W.R.Aleph" . See our entry E 0327 (Hebrew 1060) . Such a link between "mor'" and the root "Y.R.Aleph" would cast some doubt on the hypothesis of a common origin with the Germanic words of this entry.

 

Note:
  • Proto-Semitic. We have not sufficient evidence to justify a hypothesis, and also for the root of "yar'" there is very little information available.

 

 

 

 

 
Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 10/11/2012 at 10.14.49