The Dutch words for “body” are two : “lichaam” and “lijf”. The second one is related to English “life” as well as to Hebrew “lev”, which says “ heart “. The first one, “lichaam” or “LiCHaaM” we believe to be related to the Hebrew word “LeHeM”, that means “bread”. Let us see why we do think so.
    By the way, the famous Biblical town of Betlehem, in Hebrew says “House of Bread”, but an Arab will tell you it means “House of Flesh”. This is a small indication versus our thoughts.



    In the Bible we find the root “L . GH . M” with two different basic meanings. One is that of “combat”, which seems outside our field. The other one expresses the concepts of “bread”, “alimentation”, “grain (like wheat)” and “to eat”. True, the two basic concepts have been linked by supposing that fighting or struggling for one’s existence is a human activity akin to that of finding food, necessary to survive. But we are not certain of this. There can be other explanations for the similarity in sound between the two ideas. For now we limit ourselves to the question of “bread and body”.



    In German we find the words “Brot” for “bread”, “Laib” for “loaf” and “Leib” for “body”. Usually the difference between the first two is seen as between leavened and unleavened bread. So the word “Laib” would come from Germanic “hlaiba”, “unleavened bread”. We find this also in Old-English “hlaf” and we see the kinship with Russian “chleb”. This word means “bread” as well as “grain”. It is quite possible that these words are related to Hebrew “leghem”, via a simple metathesis.



    Two important English words have been derived from this same root : “She who kneads the bread” , Old-English “hlaefdige” lost its initial “h”, became Middle-English “lavedy” and ended up being a “Lady”. And “he who protects the bread”, Old-English “hlafward”, losing as well that “h”, via Middle-English “loverd” became a noble “Lord”.


  • BODY

    German “Laib” acquired its “a” in order to be distinct from that other word, “Leib”, or “body”. The pronunciation did not change by this invention of a different spelling . For us the interesting aspect is that of having the same word for both a loaf of bread and a human body. This brings us to a similarity that recalls the one between the Hebrew and Dutch sounds for the words “leghem” and “lichaam”, meaning respectively “bread” in Hebrew and “body” in Dutch .


    Obviously the second word Dutch offers for “body”, “lijf”, is a strict cousin of German “Leib”. It expresses “living entity”.



    German “Brot”, like English “bread” and Dutch “brood”, originally indicated only “leavened bread”. Barm, or the yeast formed on malt liquors by fermentino, gives an impression not unlike that of a spring, and this is expressed by the use of the two-consonant-root “B . R” that lies at the origin of “barm” itself and of the Dutch words “bron” (source, “spring ) and “brand” (fire). In German we find here “Brunnen” and “Brand”, in English only “brand” and “to burn”.


    Perhaps because unleavened bread has gone out of fashion, “bread” mostly conquered also the terrain that belonged to “loaf”. This word became limited to its actual meaning, but very interesting is that a “loaf” can also be of meat. This brings us again nearer to the Semitic root “L . GH . M” standing for “bread” in Hebrew” and “flesh” or “meat” in Arabic.


  • BODY

    Looking further into the two Dutch words, we see first that “lichaam” in Middle-Dutch also had the form “lachame”, which makes it identical to the Hebrew verb “to eat” and nearly identical to the Arab noun for “flesh”. This should not be just fortuitous.


    The other word, “lijf”, in its declinations has “liv-“. Its meanings are more than in Modern Dutch. “Lijf” means “life” just as in English, besides “body”.


    It is related to Hebrew “lev, liv-“ that stands for “heart”.



    There is one more remark to be made regarding the Hebrew root “L . GH . M”. The consonant “L” is used to indicate the concept of “to”, or “toward”. Going “to Jerusalem” is “liyerushalaym”. “To write” is “lichtov”. The combination of the consonants “GH” and “M” is found in the word for “life” : “ghaim”. That means that Hebrew “leghem” or bread sounds like “towards life”. But that would lead up a wrong track. The “m” in “ghaim” indicates a plural form, and its root is just “GH . Y”. Often the root is indicated as "GH . Y H", but that "H" is not a third consonant, but the indication that a vowel is pronounced after the "Y".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 19.40.39