E 0540 LION

The word " lion, laish " is, via Old French, of Latin origin .

H 0536 ש י ל , א י ב ל ; ( ה ) א ב ל

Concept of root : lion

Hebrew word

pronunciation

English meanings

; (ה )א ב ל

א ; י ב ל

ש י ל

law’, lewa’;

law’, lewi’ ;

lash

lion, lioness;

lion, lioness

lion

Related English words

lion

Comparison between European words and Hebrew

Languages

Words

Pronunciation

English meanings

Similarity in roots

Hebrew

א ב ל ;

א ה ב ל ;

א י ב ל

-

ש י ל

law’,

lewa’;

law’,

lewi’

laish

lion;

lioness;

lion;

lioness;

lion

l . w .

-

l . w . y

-

l y sh

Greek

λεων, -ντος

λειουσι

leon, -ntos

leusi

lion

to a lion

l . (o)

l y (ou)s

Greek (Homer)

λίς

(acc. λίν)

līs

lion

l (i) s

Latin

leo

leo

lion

l . (o)(n)

English

lion

lion

l . (o)(n)

German

Loewe

lœwe

lion

l (ow)

Dutch

leeuw

lw

lion

l (uw)

Russian

лев

lyw

lion

l . w

 

 

Hebrew LAW'À < Proto-Semitic *LAB'À --- *LĒW- Indo-European

 

 

The question is not if all these words for "lion" are of common origin. This looks quite certain. But we must ask if the opinion that the Germanic words have been derived from Latin and the Latin word from Greek can be right. Loaning words from Latin was done mostly on the basis of the declensed forms. Thus the Germanic speakers would have talked about "leon". But they did not. In fact we see in the neo-Latin languages the N, that has as well been brought into English via French. The fact that Germanic languages use a W in words for "lion", reinforces the idea of common origin rather than loaning of words.

 

Also the Latin word has not been derived from Greek, as this language had adopted an N also in the nominative. Greek has formed several variations , like "λεοντας, leontas" and "λιονταρι, liontari" , which is still the common word in modern Greek. But especially interesting is the dative form we have given, "leusi", that has neither an N nor NT. It is not to be supposed that the N was absorbed and therefore we find a word that is quite near to Hebrew "laish". Also the Homeric word "lis" for "lion" is near to Hebrew, in fact nearly identical. Greek scholars in fact consider the possibility that classic "leon" was a loanword. Peculiar remains that the word "liontari" has a second part that is the same as another word for "lion" in Hebrew : "ari" or "ari".

 

A word for "lion" has been necessary in south-eastern Europe and the Middle East, where the animal lived when Greek and Hebrew were spoken. Also people in regions without lions will have heard about this impressive animal. And the forebears of Germanic and Slavic speakers may have lived in regions where at the time lions were present.

 

In entry E 0552 (Hebrew 0561) we try to explain why we think that the word "la'ish" may not , or not only ,mean "lion", but instead "lynx".

 

Note:
  • English "lion" comes from Latin "leo", that has in its declensions an N added : "leonis" etc. Well known is the Roman phrase on maps of Africa: "Hic sunt leones" or "Here there are lions".

 

Note:
  • Hebrew. A more common word for "lion" is " א ר י ה , arieh " (also " א ר י , ari), that has become a common given name, like Latin "Leo".

 

Note:
  • Lion’s B and W. As is well-known , a B in pronunciation may change into a V or W. If this happened in a given language before alphabetic registration or writing of the sound of words in that same language had begun, we may find a W. If instead the alphabetic registration took place before a B changed into a W-sound, we see a B written that later came to be pronounced like W or V. Perhaps Hebrew, that stood at the beginning of the Alphabet, demonstrates this case, as the lion and his mate are written "LBA" and "LBAH", but pronounced "LAW’A" and "LEWA’A".

     

    But there is also a quite different possible explanation. When the people of the days of Abraham began to write Hebrew alphabetically, perhaps a lion already was called "law’" or "law’". The scholars knew that a W-sound might be an original W, like the letter Waw " ( ו ) ", or a way of pronuncing the letter Beth " ( ב) " . They may have chosen for the writing of the name of a lion a B, when in reality it had never been B, but just W, as in Germanic.

     

    There is a reason for this second supposition. We see in European spelling of words for "lion" letters that often are related in their development to the W-sound, like the O in Latin "leo" and Greek "leon".

     

    Especially interesting is the use of the "В" in Russian. This letter is pronounced W, but the Russians upon confronting the problem of the changing of the B into W, have decided to create two different letters: "В" and "Б" , pronouncing the first one as "W" and the second one as "B". Meanwhile the Chechs write "lev" and the Poles "lew".

 

Note:
  • Indo-European . Words for "lion" begin with an " L " and end mostly with a consonant "W" or the related vowel "O", with some normal variations. As vowel an " E " is used between the two. A hypothesis for Indo-European is simply "*L Ē W".

 

Note:
  • Proto-Semitic probably had already the same root found in Hebrew. It is related to Ugaritic that uses "L B W" and to Akkadian "labbu, labbatu". Arabic has "labu'ah". For Proto-Semitic may be supposed a : "*ל ב י א , L B Y Aleph " and the briefer "*ל ב א , L B Aleph" .

     

    The pronunciation of the consonant " B " was certainly still the original : " B ".

 

 

 

 

 
Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 25/01/2013 at 17.01.55