LA 1245           ALLIEVO, ÉLÈVE

H 0029          א ל ף

Concept of root: teaching and learning

Hebrew word


English meanings

א ל ף

alaph ;  illeph

apprehend ; teach

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


א ל ף

alaph ; illeph

apprehend ; teach

a l . ph





a l . v





(e) l . v



Proto-Semitic *ALAPH --- *ALLEVARE Italian

Proto-Semitic *LAPH --- *LEVARE Latin



This is a peculiar case of similarity, because we find the same specific meaning in French, Italian and Hebrew, but not in Latin. Perhaps a common development, that of the concept of education, of teaching and learning, has taken place in Hebrew and, later but independently, in Neo-Latin. Anyhow the common origin and kinship are possible, but not at all certain.


  • Latin "allevare" with certainty is at the origin of the French and Italians words of this issue. Three meanings it carries are :


    1. to alleviate


    2. to lift


    3. to support, help


    But the specific meanings of "to teach" and "to apprehend" as found in French and Italian seem not to have been recorded for Latin "allevare" . This verb is considered a composed word, from "ad" plus "levare". It stood for "to alleviate" pains and "to reduce" faults or defects, but also for "to lift" . Thus "allevare" had these same meanings of "levare", but also that of "to help, sustain".


    A further problem lies in the origin of this verb "levare", that is seen in the word "levis = light (of weight)", but that also means "small, slight, unimportant". Indeed neither the range of meanings of "levare", nor that of "allevare" can be reasonably reconducted to those of "levis". Things remain hard to sort out, but there may have been two similar verbs "levare" in Latin, with different origins.


    There may be some mix-up between two similar roots in Latin too, because there is a verb "leviare", less used, but with the specific meaning of "to alleviate", that is also expressed by the complex verbs "alleviare" and "subleviare". Indeed both "levare" and "leviare" have their specific descendants in Italian, as seen in the Note below. The verb "alleviare", with the "I" in it, seems better linked to the mentioned word "levis", both in sound and in meaning.


    A conclusion for Latin may be that there are originally two different be it rather similar forms:


    1. leviare ( with "levis") : to alleviate.


    2. levare : " to help, support", used also for "to lift" that in some cases may be a form of helping, litterally and especially figuratively.


  • Hebrew "alaph" perhaps might be related to another verb, that has a B instead of a P,: " ל ב ב , libbèv = to prepare". This verb comes from an older root " ל ב * , lav " that must have had a comparable message. If this is right, the Aleph, as the initial vowel A, in "alaph", may very well be a later added prefix, that in this case had a diversifying function : from bringing up in general to teaching in particular. The difference between a final P and final B is limited, and during development B and P may flow over into each other.


    But then there is also a root ל ף * , laph ", that has messages of "to embrace, envelop, clasp", meanings that with some effort might be linked to the dealing of parents with children. This root has its sisters in Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic and may have been present in Proto-Semitic in its original two consonant form. It has been extended, as so often in Semitic, into a three consonant root by the doubling of the second consonant. ל ף ף * , laphaph "



  • Latin and Hebrew in this view both would have added a prefix with A-sound to the older root of common origin they shared.


  • Italian uses two verbs. One is "allevare" that says "to bring up (children), to rear (children as well as cattle) and to breed (cattle). The other one "alleviare" stands for "to alleviate, relieve". "Levare" also lives on in Italian and talks of "to lift, raise, take away". The idea of "to bring up" must be the one that is linked to the noun "allievo" for "pupil".


  • Proto-Semitic Proto-Semitic may well have had this same root "א ל ף *Aleph . L . P" as it is also found in Aramaic "'alaph" and "'illèph" that say "he learned" and Arabic "'alifà" and "walifà" that both also say " he learned". Similar roots with different meanings are found, like in "eleph = thousand". One of those meanings is "to be connected, linked together" and this is often seen as the same root that would then also have developed the messages of "to learn" and for the intensive form "to teach" and " to train". This does not convince much.


    Referring to the above Note on Hebrew, we see that Proto-Semitic may also have used a root ל ף * , laph ", but the meaning of "to embrace, envelop, clasp" is not too easily linkable to the "to support, help" of Latin "levare". Yet semantically such a development may have taken place, especially by adding a prefix " A (Aleph)".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 24/09/2012 at 11.25.16