H 0678 ר ע פ

Concept of root : abyss

Hebrew word


English meanings

ר ע פ


abyss; to open wide

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ר ע פ


to open wide

p . ‛ . r





b . r .







to devour

b . r
v . r



Proto-Semitic *PA‛AR --- *BARA-THRON Greek



This proposed similarity seems rather obvious, but it encounters considerable problems we will try to look into.


First of all the Hebrew noun "pa‛ar" with the meaning of "abyss" is Modern Hebrew. It has been coined after the verb perhaps because that is used in the Bible also clearly to express "to open wide one's mouth", be it not with the intention to devour something. This calls anyhow for a comparison with the Latin words "vorago" and "vorare" as seen in the Table.
And the comparison between abysses and devouring easily enters the human mind .


  • Greek and Latin. Latin has loaned the first word from Greek. Therefore we should not even have inserted it into our list, but for the discussion’s sake we put it in yet. The current answer on the etymology is that "baratron" comes from the root of "βιβρωσκω , bibrosko = to eat". The idea behind this supposition is that the abyss swallows you. And this is compared with the Latin word "vorago", accusative "voraginem", that also means "abyss" and sounds related to the verb "vorare" that means "to devour".


    The further reasoning is that the roots of "bibrosko" and "vorare" have the same origin. They are seen respectively in Greek "βωρα , bora = food" and "vora" from Latin. This is quite certain, as shown in Entry E 0347 (Hebrew 0266). But the link with "baratron" is less convincing.


    The main characteristic of abysses is not that of swallowing or devouring things. Man has always seen abysses and has undoubtedly nominated them after their main characteristics : splitting the ground and being profound. And we think that the etymology is found along that trail. Greek "βαρυς , bars" means a.o. "profound (also of a voice, like in that of a singer bariton)", though its main messages are those of "heavy" in all senses and "grave". Meanwhile the word βρυξ , brxs" means effectively a "marine abyss" . Then the verb "θραυω , thrawo" says "to split". All corresponds to the two characteristics of an abyss and together they would say "profound split".


  • Hebrew "pa‛ar" is not considered as composed of two words, and its meaning is that of "to open wide". This "opening wide" certainly refers also to the human mouth ( to gape ), but it does not travel into meanings like " to eat" or " to devour".


    There are various words that begin with P and have some meaning of "to open". And there is perhaps this version ending with Ayin + Resh meaning rather "to open profoundly, very much ".


  • Hebrew has another root " ב ק ע, baq‛ ", that says "to split, divide, open a breach" and that has given the
    word " ב ק ע ה , biqa‛ = valley" and that we find in the name of an important and well-known valley in Lebanon, the Beqa’a valley. This shows that the way of giving a name to a valley by using a word that says "to split open" is quite regular.


  • Proto-Semitic probably already had this same root we see in Hebrew : "* פ ע ר , P Ayin R". It is found in Aramaic and Syriac " פ ע ר , pe‛ar = to open wide". It has its cognate with initial F ( in fact ph) in Arabic "faghara= he opened wide; he gaped.", that also has, as often, a stronger guttural than the Ayin in "GH".


  • Indo-European. The expression "the abyss devoured them as they fell in" has led to the rather generally accepted comparison with words for "devour", and in Latin this is indeed seen in the words "vorago" and "vorare", that Greek scholars link to "barathron" and "bibrosko". It may even have guided the people who coined the modern Hebrew meaning "abyss" for "pa‛ar". Even Sanscrit "gir-ámi" of a root for "to swallow" is called forward. A "giri" is a "mountain". But anyhow there is no similarity in sound here. We see no way towards a solid hypothesis for Indo-European here. Regretfully our comparison stays limited to Semitic and Greek.






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 15/11/2012 at 16.29.45