E 0620         NOMAD

The word " nomad " is, via Old French and Latin, of Greek origin.

H 0667         ד ו נ

Concept of root : wandering

Hebrew word


English meanings

ד ו נ


 to wander

Related English words

nomad, from Greek

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ד ו נ



to wander;


n . w . d


νομας, νομαδος

nomas, nomados


(+ gen.)

n . w .m . d




n (o) m . d



Proto-Semitic *NOD --- *NOMAD Indo-European



The considerable similarity of meaning, with some likeness in sound, are an invitation to look for a common origin, that is not there, as we will see.


The Hebrew root of this entry has also the very important, perhaps even principal meaning of "to go". With that message it is seen in entry E 0957 (Hebrew 0666), that obviously is related to the actual one. Here we deal with the aspect of "wandering". And for this "wandering", linked to "nomad", we do not find a vast group of cognates as for "to go", like Latin "vado".


Now in this actual entry the two concepts, of Greek and Hebrew, are well-nigh identical, but the roots show an important difference, in that Greek has inserted an M. We know that this M was not part of the original root with the message of coming and going ( see the Note on Greek below). Should therefore the adding of M be considered a linguistic development of the root with punctualization of a meaning, through an infix, instead of the usual prefix of suffix ? A complicated or anyway particular iter of becoming!


  • Hebrew in the Bible used this root , or perhaps a just similar one, also for still other messages, such as "to shake". In modern Hebrew this use seems to be limited to that of "to shake one’s head", with the noun added.


    The word "nawwad" is Modern Hebrew , interesting on account of the pronunciation. Older Hebrew used the noun "noded" for "wanderer". There is also the verb "nadad", that says "to wander", but as well "to flee". It has its sisters in other tongues.


  • Proto-Semitic. There is a root "N Y D", with a Yod (Y) instead of a Waw (O). This should be a later development, in which " O ", as so often, changed into " I ". So we see a Proto-Semitic "* נ ו ד , N W D " as more likely. As explained in E 0957 (Hebrew 0666), this root can be considered as preceded by one without initial " N " : "* ו ד , W D".


  • Greek "nomad" has travelled into many modern languages. It may well be, as many seem to think, related to the verb "νεμω , nemo", that has a range of meanings, among which "to distribute, occupy, reign, consume", especially seen the partly opposite meaning of "to reside" as against "to wander". But it is the "assigning" of a territory for "pasture" that is the link between the two.


    Doubtful would be a link, seen by others, with the verb "νεομαι , veomai" = "to come and go". First, as root is here considered "*N E S", which also excludes similarity with Hebrew. Then here the "M" is not part of the root that is " N W", pronounced "N E O" with the W made vowel and also a vowel E inserted. One should suppose perhaps that in order to form the concept of "one who habitually comes and goes, wanders" the root has been extended from " N W" into "N W M D", pronounced "N O M A D", with the W made vowel, an M introduced and an A added for smooth pronunciation '. Everything seems very uncertain.


    A further complication lies in the Greek name "Nomadia" for "Numidia".


    In fact the basic meaning of "nomas" is different : "pastor", he who grazes, heeds, pastures animals. From that comes "he who wanders looking for pastures". And finally it acquires also the meaning of "nomad", wandering without heeding herds of animals. Then, oddly, "nomazo" as a verb says "to habit, have dwelling place", besides "to graze a herd". Here a mixture is seen in the basic meanings of "nomós", that says "province, district", but also "dwelling place, residence" and "pasture", perhaps especially "assigned pasture". And the modern concept of "nomad" is far off.






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 14/11/2012 at 18.27.37