E 0618          NIGH,  GINACON, TANGENT

The word " nigh " and the Old Saxon verb " ginacon " are of Germanic origin .

The word " tangent " is of Latin origin .

H 0637         ע ג נ

Concept of root : near and in touch

Hebrew word


English meanings

ע ג נ


to get near, touch

Related English words

nigh , tangent , Old English nēah

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ע ג נ


to get near, touch

n . g . (‛).






to get near;


(e) ng .;

(a) ngh .

Modern Greek

αγγιζω, εγγιζω



to touch, get near

(a)   ng

(e)  ng


tangere; attingere

tangere; attingere

to touch;

to touch

t (a) ng;

t (i) ng

Old Saxon


to near, touch

n (a) c

Old English



n (a) h


nigh ; tangent

nigh ; tangent

n . gh ;

t (a) ng

Middle Dutch



to near, touch

n (a) k



Proto-Semitic *NAG ‛À --- *NĀG- Proto-Germanic



Some major Groups of Indo-European languages share interesting developments with Hebrew in this entry. Apparently the most basic element of the words of this entry is the part N +G/K, on the basis of which the various Groups of languages built words with comparable meanings. Many times we see Hebrew placing a vowel in front of a central, message-bearing consonant , doing so for natural needs of pronunciation. Here we see Greek and Latin who seem to do so. Such vowels are especially mostly A and are called "επιτακτικος , epitaktikos = authoritative (confirming )" vowels. It can be a problem in Greek to distinguish this kind of initial A from a much more frequent one, the A "στερητικος , sterètikos = privative, negative".



  • Greek The combination of the adverb and the verbs shows us that the spelling with double GG should not confuse us. It is the same as NG and shifts in pronunciations and spellings do not alter the basic fact that Greek words with GG or NG or NKH may correspond with NG in other languages.


    As for the verbs, Classic language had only "engizo" with the meaning "to get (very) near" , linked to the word "εγγυς , engüs" saying "(very) near". Modern Greek uses principally "angyizo" and its main message has become that of "to touch". "Izo" is a suffix to form an active verb on the basis of for example an adverb like here "engüs".


    Modern Greek pronunciation has weakened the G-sound that has well-nigh disappeared. It just keeps some sharpness superior to that of a common Y. This we indicate by spelling "NGY" instead of "NY".


  • Greek and Latin have, and especially Greek has a long unwritten history. On the basis of the root we are dealing with , a word "τεταγων , tetagon" had been developed. It has a root with an added prefix T, that has doubled and in this specific form even lost the N . It says "having gripped" and must be a form of a verb with a root "*tang".


    Also Latin has "tangere" and this has a perfectum that also doubled the T and lost the N : "tetigi". But "tetagon" is a very old word, found in the Iliad of Homer ! Then it has gone out of use in Classic Greek.


    Latin has as well a verb "nancio, nancire = to reach, obtain, find", later "nanciscor" with the same meaning. The meaning is too different from "to near, touch" to just suppose a common origin.


  • Hebrew has a number of roots of three consonants that begin with the two consonants " נ ג , N G " and that have to do with both "nearness" and "touching". They are a.o. " נ ג ש , nagash = "to come near, aside", " נ ג ף , nagaph = to hit (hard) " and " נ ג ן , nagan = to play ( the strings of ) an instrument ". This is a very clear example of the way in which a language, in this case Hebrew, develops and diversifies. The point of departure has been an early root with two consonants, "* N G", that meant that somebody came near somebody else or something, often with the natural intention of establishing some kind of physical contact as well, of touching the other person or the object. On this basis the language developed various more specific meanings by adding different single (third) consonants to the existing two.


    It should be noted that the same root of this entry, or perhaps an identical one, bears the message of " to strike, smite ".


  • Proto-Semitic. The root of this entry, like the mentioned identical one, is seen also in Aramaic " נ ג ע א, neg‛à = he touched". It may have been used in Proto-Semitic, that certainly had " * N G " with messages in the sense of "touch" and "nearness" : "* נ ג ע, N G Ayin".


  • Latin "tangere" has the participle "tactus" and from its root have been formed words like "tactilis = touchable" and "integer (untouched)" that have contributed to modern European languages like English. The expression "noli mi tangere" = "don’t touch me" is well-known.


    The T of "tangere " may have been added as a prefix to the basis "ang" with the root "N G". The T in Latin is used amongst other things to intensify or confirm an existing meaning of a root. Yet also the old message of getting (very) near was not lost even with such a prefix. "Tangere" was also used to say "to come in, to come near, reach". And so it remains similar to Hebrew.


  • Proto-Germanic. Between Hebrew and Dutch "(ge)naken", we observe that the vowel, used for proper pronunciation, in Dutch as in Hebrew, is between the N-sound and the second consonant, that is K in Dutch and G in Hebrew, saying respectively "NAK" and NAG", clearly related. In trying to establish an etymology for the word "naken", many say that is is constructed on the basis of the adverb "na" that means "near".


    But that would not yet explain the uncommon choice of a K to form a verb. and then we see in fact that the adverb "na" is related to Old English "nēah ( English nigh)" and Old High German "nah" and we have come nearer. A final H in older Germanic languages was mostly well-pronounced and not far certainly from the Hebrew letter "ח (ghet)", that others call Hèth. We can distuinguish a related series of sounds like Hé - GHèt - KHaph or Hé – GHèt – Gimel - Kaph as well as various others, that play a role in the development of languages and the forming or diversifying of words.


    In older Germanic languages we mostly, but not always, find verbs with the rather common prefix "ge-" or "gi-". Middle Dutch has both forms, basic "naken" and "genaken". Then there are Old North Franconian "genācon" and Middle Low German "(ge)nāken, (ge)nēken". Modern German has the little used verb "nahen" and a more common "nähern". Proto-Germanic may have had a form "*N Ā G-", that in later development softened into "H" in Old English and Old High German, but hardened into "K" in Low German and Dutch.


  • Indo-European. The similarity with Semitic or Hebrew is clear in Germanic words, but it is much less so in Greek and Latin, as seen from the comments above. We rather abstain from a hypothesis for Indo-European different from that for Proto-Germanic.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 12/11/2012 at 17.08.58