E 0805          SHELL

The word " shell " is of Germanic origin .

H 0758           ף ל ק

Concept of root : peel and to peel

Hebrew word


English meanings

ף ל ק

ף ה ל ק

qalaph, qillèph;


to peel;

peel, rind

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ף ל ; ק


פ ה ל ק

qalaph, qillèph; 


to peel;


peel, rind

q . l . p/ph





rind, skin

k . l . ph




to peel

g . l . b




sh . l






to peel;

peel, skin

sh . l



schil,schel, schaal;

schelp, schulp


sghil, sghel, sghaal;

sghelp, sghulp

to peel;

peel, skin;


sgh . l;

sgh . l p



Proto-Semitic *QALAP --- *KLŪP Indo-European



The complicated adventure of a daily used, down-to-earth root, indicating something that wraps and covers. Everybody did what they liked with it. We find that in Latin, Greek and Hebrew , and in some instances also in Germanic, it has acquired a labial as third consonant. Mediterraneans together ? The speakers of Germanic indulged in their common pleasure of placing an S in front of the root, without changing therewith its meaning.


A final labial was used sparingly, not by all and anyhow perhaps reserved for a special use, that of the covering used by molluscs. But in older use, for example Middle Dutch, "schelpe" is also used for bark, rind and scale.


It must be noted that sometimes the words of this entry are considered part of a group of words that mean "to cleave, split", that indeed have some similarity of roots. But the meanings are too wide apart to throw them together.



  • Proto-Semitic. Proto-Semitic presents the same root that we see still used in Hebrew : "*ק ל ף , Q L P" . It is found in Aramaic and Syriac ק ל ף , qelaph = to peel". Arabic qalafa and Akkadian qalāpu have the same message.


  • Greek "kelüphos" seems related to the verb "καλυπτω , kalüpto", that says "to envelop, enwrap" but also "to cover, hide". This might mean a difference with Hebrew, in that "kalüpto" indicates an action of covering and Hebrew one of peeling = uncovering. But we see the same phenomenon in English with the word "peel" for "cover" corresponding with the verb "to peel" for "to uncover". And in the German and Dutch words of this entry we see the same thing happen.


    The noun "kelüphos" finds its correspondent in Hebrew "qelippà" that is "peel, skin, rind".


  • Latin "glubere" obviously is not, as some think, related to Greek "glüpho = "to lick", nor to English "to cleave".


  • English instead in "shell" has not used this P. Understandably, because it did not have to distinguish shells from the sea from the peels of fruit, having abolished the Germanic root " SH . L" for this specific meaning . This was already the case with Old English "sciell".


    But English also has words that have the additional third consonant "P", as "scalp" and "scallop( the shell-fish)". "Scalp" is seen as a loanword from Old Danish and "scallop" as a loan from Old French.


  • Proto-Germanic. Germanic offers an interesting development, in that the root that has a final P is used for a different kind of cover, in fact a "shell", reserving the root without P for the peel, rind or skin of fruits etcetera.


    For the words without the final consonant "P" we find the usual division for the first consonant, that sounds "SH" in English and German, "SGH" in Dutch and "SK" in the Nordic languages, Gothic and Old Saxon. The consonant after the vowel is always "L", single or double. The vowel is less uniform, with "A" in most words for "scale" and "dish", and with "I" or "E" in words for "rind, peel", and specifically a short "E" for "shell" and its sisters. One may hypothesize this same distinction for Proto-Germanic, that thus may have used for differentiated messages the forms "*SK A L-", SK I L-" and "SK E L-".


    A specific problem lies in the Dutch words "schelp" and "schulp". that have their sisters "schulpe, scholpe" in Low Middle German and predecessors in Middle Dutch "schelp, schilpe, scholpe, schulpe". Here the root "SCH . L-" is extended with a consonant "P" , a phenomenon also seen in Greek and Hebrew. Therefore it was probably present as a variation also in Proto-Germanic, with the form "*SK E LP-"


    It is possible that words like Old and Middle High German and Middle Low German hulft and Middle Dutch holfter, that mean "quiver, hull, case" are related to the words of this entry.


  • Russian often changes an initial "K" into "SH", as can be seen in "шелуха, shelukhà = shell, husk" and "шелушить, shelushitj = to peel of, to shell, husk". One notes that the third consonant "P" that is supposed for Indo-European, has not survived in Russian. But in other Slavic languages it resisted, as in Czech "slupka = peel, skin". The "S" substitutes an older "K".


  • Indo-European


    The information from Germanic and Greek and indeed also Slavic gives an indication of a root "*K L P".


    Latin "glubere", with "G L B", in perfectum "glupsi" and participium "gluptum" has "G L P".


    Slavic has a hypothesis of "*tshŭlpj", comparable with a root "K L P".


    The probable form for Indo-European is "*K L P", which with a vowel " Ū" gives "*K L Ū P-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 31/12/2012 at 10.34.43