E 0036ááááááááá ANGUISH , (TO) NAG

The word " anguish " is, via Old French, of Latin origin .

The verb " to nag " is of Germanic origin .

H 0640á ááááááááááש ג נ

Concept of root : to anguish

Hebrew word


English meanings

ש ג נ


to anguish, (op)press

Related English words

anguish, from Latin

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ש ג נ


to anguish,


n . g . s


αγχω <

root *ανγ


to squeeze, suffocate

(a) n g




to squeeze, anguish

(a) n g


anguish ;á

to nag

anguish ;

to nag

(a) n g ;

n (a) g




to nag, tease

n (e) ck

Middle Dutch



to torment, nag

n (a) g



Proto-Semitic *NAGAS < *NAGÀ --- *ANKH < *NAKH Indo-European



We encounter a tris of developments, in Greek/Latin, Hebrew and Germanic, that is comparable to that of entry E 0618 (Hebrew 0637) : ANG – NAG – NAGA, with Hebrew also adding a third consonant to diversify the original message.


This entry is related to no E 0035 (Hebrew 0168) and also to no E 0032 (Hebrew 0436). The Latin root has remained basic as to the two consonants N and G and the Greek one has been intensified by having "χ (KH)" instead of "γ (G)".



  • Hebrew has a very similar root " נ ג ש , N G SH, nagash = to approach, draw near".


  • Proto-Semitic. Proto-Semitic supposedly offers two hypothetical roots "*G Y S" and "*N G S", that are considered related. But there seems to be a difference in meaning between the two. "GYS" stands for " to mobilize, recruit, enlist", against "N G S" for "to anguish, drive, oppress". Some people may conmsider recruitment an oppression, but semantically the two concepts are far apart. The final "S" is seen in Hebrew. Several other languages have a final "SH", like Arabic "najasha = he roused and drove game".


    It is interesting to note that a root "N G SH" is also used to express the concept of "the ruler" as in Ethiopian "negūsh", an internationally still widely known title. Typically he would be one who exacts taxes or obliges people to forced labour, basic forms of pressing and oppressing. And, also in English "anguish" we have a final "SH" instead of a simple "S".


    Anyhow the Hebrew root of this entry may have been also present as such in Proto-Semitic "* נ ג ש , N G S/SH", and it is uncertain if the pronunciation was with a final "S" or "SH" or both. There is some mix-up between the two final consonants and the expressed meanings.


    The presence of the two roots "N G S" and "N G SH" , in a comparison with those of the entries E 0506 (Hebrew 0638) and E 0507 (Hebrew 0639), indicates a possible original "* נ ג ה , N G H (accentuated vowel)", with a pronunciation "nagÓ". The messages of such an older root can have been already diversified, according to criteria of aggressiveness or not, domination or not, but actually this is not yet clear.


  • English "to nag" is considered to have been derived from an Indo-European root "*ghen" standing for "to bite". We fear we have to disagree. The concept of working with the teeth, but more the gnawing way, is expressed in a series of Germanic words, beginning with English "to gnaw", from Middle English "gnawan" and Old English "gnagan". This is very near Swedish "gnaga" and not too far from Dutch "knagen". But then German has "nagen". True, but again Middle High German still had "gnagen", and Modern German just lost the initial G, that was certainly part of the original Germanic root for "to gnaw". That root may have been very simply "* N G" and usually inserted the vowel A .


  • German. Also this verb "necken" has been analysed as having to do with "to bite", in fact as an intensive form of a verb "nagen" that means "to gnaw". A real shot in the dark, and no hit. Why should such a thing happen ? An action is intensified and then only used in a weaker and figurative sense ! In modern language "necken" is nearly a kind thing to do, as in the expression "Wass sich liebt dass neckt sich" saying "Lovers tease each other".


  • Proto-Germanic. A possible link exists to another series of Germanic words, of which "angst" (from Yiddish), that is also German and Dutch, "bang = afraid" ( really "in angst") also in German and Dutch, anxious etcetera. These need no further elaboration with view to the similarity with Hebrew, where they do not find sisters. Probably Proto-Germanic already had a form "*N A G-", besides a related "A NG-". The final "G" in "N A G-" sharpened into "K" in High German.


  • Indo-European. Celtic presents both nasalized and non nasalized roots, among which an unexplained Irish "ochte = angustia". But the supposed Celtic root for the concept of "narrow, to narrow" is "*engh-". This finds some support in Breton "enk = narrow" and Cymric "ing, yng = straits, narrow". Celtic probably had indeed "*E NG-".


    Old Indian has "amhu- = narrow", "amhú- = anxiety", ""amhurá- = straitened" and "ámhas- = anxiety, trouble". The European "N" has become an "M" and the European "G/K" an "H". The root is "A MH-" and can not be considered at the origin of the other groups.


    Avestan has "az-anhā = to constrain, coerce" as well as other words without the "N", as "azah- = oppression, constriction". The element "A NH- without the initial (prefix ) "AZ" seems to be related to the other Indo-European groups.


    Indo-European , on the basis of Latin, Greek, Germanic, Celtic and the indications from the Eastern languages, can be hypothesized as "*A NKH-", besides an older "*N A KH-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 12/11/2012 at 18.22.01