E 0685          PIECE

The word " piece " is, via Old French and Late Latin, of uncertain origin .

H 0655            ץ פ נ

Concept of root : to break into pieces

Hebrew word


English meanings

ץ פ נ

naphats; nippèts

to break into pieces

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ץ פ נ



to break into pieces

n . p . ts

< p . ts



pezza pezzo

spezzare, pezza, pezzo

to break into pieces;


s p . ts

< p . ts




p . c


fetzen <

pfetzen <


fetsen <

pfetsen <


to tear to pieces

f . ts <

pf . ts <

p . ts


pez, peth

pez, peth

piece, portion

p . z

p . th



Proto-Semitic *NAPHATS < *PATSÀ --- *PÈTS- Indo-European



There is some confusion about the origin of these Italian and German words.


  • Italian has two words, feminine "pezza" and masculine "pezzo" that are basically the same . The etymology is uncertain . Some see as source a very late Latin, ninth-century "petia = portion, piece", derived from Celtic, such as Kimbrian "peth" and Low Breton "pez" with the same meaning. This is especially interesting as it shows a link between Celtic and Hebrew.


    We must note, with view to the next note on German, that modern Italian uses the feminine word "pezza" in particular but not only for "piece of cloth" .


  • German has a problem with etymology as well, caused by the fact that in modern language the noun "Fetzen" is used principally for "rags, tattered clothes". This makes people think of a link to an old verb "vassen" for "to dress" (see entry E 0965, Hebrew 0540), but this is a classic error, as the concept is not the same, but well-nigh the opposite, dress versus undress. Besides this the meaning of the verb (zer)fetzen is decidedly not limited to the destroying of clothes.


  • English "piece" has come directly from French "pièce", that shares the origin of "pezza " .


  • Hebrew in the intensive form "nippèts" is very near the sounds of Italian , German and Celtic. There is no doubt about the fact that the N in "naphats" is in fact a prefix, as there also is the verb with doubled root " פ צ פ ץ , pitspets = to break up, shatter".


    Besides that, there is the verb " פ צ צ , pitsèts" with the same meaning of "to break to pieces". And one may well considered related , be it at a little step more away, the verb " פ ו צ , pots = to be scattered, dispersed".


  • Proto-Semitic. The element "P TS" or derivations are found in Aramaic and Syriac, but with the meaning of "to shake, pound, separate, disentangle". Akkadian "napātsu = to break into pieces, shatter"". There are cognates with "DH" instead of "TS" in Arabic. But then there is also Syriac פ ץ , pats = he crushed, battered". Probably this root was already present in Proto-Semitic as the basic form "* פ ץ ה, P TS H (accentuated vowel)" or even as "* נ פ ץ , N P TS" .


  • Indo-European. The information regards only words of Germanic and Celtic origin. The words in Italian and French have their sisters in Spanish , Catalan and Portuguese, but their origin is not seen as Latin. Both belong to Indo-European that may receive a hypothesis of "*P È TS".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 13/11/2012 at 18.11.33