E 0535 (TO) LICK

The verb " to lick " is of Germanic origin .

H 0551 ק ק ל

Concept of root : licking

Hebrew word


English meanings

ק ק ל

laqaq, liqqq

to lick

Related English words

to lick, Old English liccian

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ק ק ל



to lick

l . q . q <

*l . q


* l.q, l.ql.q

to lick

l . q


λειχω ; λιχμαω ; λιχανος

leikho ;

likhmao ;


to lick ;

to lick ;


l . kh




to lick

l . z




to lick

l . ng <

l . g




to lick

l . cc

Old English


to lick

l . cc


to lick

to lick

l . ck




to lick

l . ck


likken, lekken

likken, lkken

to lick

l . kk

Middle Dutch

lacken, lecken , licken




to lick

l . ck



Hebrew LAQAQ, LIQQÈQ < Proto-Semitic *LAQÀ --- *LIK-, *LAK- Indo-European



This entry offers a many-fold similarity, with a number of European tongues and Hebrew using the same root for the same message.


Remarkable is that a number of European words use a vowel " I " as the principal vowel , just like the Hebrew one does in the so-called intensive form "liqqq". As basic form in Hebrew is considered not "liqqq", but "laqaq" . The question can be asked why there is no substantial difference in meaning between the standard or basic form " laqaq " and the intensive form " liqqq ". Perhaps the in practice often repetitive character of the action of " licking " is responsible for this .


It is then remarkable that several Germanic languages have doubled the second consonant , that is the one with the K-sound, just as is the case in the intensive form in Hebrew liqqq. And we will see that there are Germanic verbs with a vowel " A " like " laqaq " , but not all of these have kept a single , that is un-doubled , second consonant.


Important is the other, related root, recognizable in English "to lap". As known the difference is that "to lap" is what for example a dog does in order to drink: pull up the water with the tongue. Human beings have quite some difficulty in lapping, but are good at licking. "To lap" has its cognates in Latin "lambere", Greek "lapto", as well as in various other groups of Indo-European origin.



  • Hebrew. Three -consonant roots in which the second and third consonants are identical, as here in "ל ק ק , L Q Q", usually have been derived from an earlier two-consonant root , more precisely by the doubling of the second consonant. In this case the original root would be "*ל ק , L Q", clearly more similar to the various European roots.


    This is confirmed in the hypothesis for the Proto-Semitic word , with vowels pronounced in the place of the dots . There exists also a version " laqlaq" in Hebrew , which confirms the original form "laq-".


  • Hebrew. There is another root in Hebrew, related to the one of this entry, with a more ample range of meanings, as it says "to lick, lap up, eat" : "לחך, laghakh ". This second root "L GH K" is more distant from Germanic roots and it may be either a parallel or a secondary later development in Semitic, out of "L Q Q". It is found also in Aramaic, Arabic and Ugaritic.


  • Proto-Semitic. This root in the older form with two consonants, "L : Q ." is found in Arabic "laqqa", with only one consonant "Q", but doubled into "QQ". The root probably was used in Proto-Semitic as a two consonant root "*ל ק , L . Q ". and the later developed "*ל ק ק, L . Q . Q " may not yet have been present.


  • Greek.The words "λειχω , λιχμαω , λιχανος " have KH instead of K , a typical Greek development. In reality a KH is an aspired K . The kinship between these Greek words and those of the other European languages is generally accepted .


  • Russian uses a Z in "lizatj", but a Z in Russian regularly corresponds with K or G in Germanic. This is in harmony with the so called "satem-centum"-rule, that in reality is not such a generally valid one. In Russian indeed we find also another verb, not influenced by that same law :"лакать, lakatj" . But then this word is especially used for the case that other languages serve with that other root "L . P/B" : "to lap". That's the way languages may proceed.


  • Latin has a nasalized form of the same root, that is it has inserted an N before the G. This is confirmed by the existence of two other words without nasalization : " ligula = lingula " for " tongue of land " as well as " ligurrio " or " ligurio " for " to lick at " ( also figuratively ) .


  • Italian "leccare" is certainly related to the other words, but does not seem to come as usual directly from Latin. Instead it is considered a loanword from Germanic, though it is not clear from which specific language the loan would have taken place.
    It uses the same vowel " ‘E " as German.


  • Hebrew and Middle Dutch. As often it is useful to have a look at Middle Dutch . This time this is because it has in common with Hebrew that it uses practically in parallel two versions with the same meaning . One of them carrying the vowel A and the other the vowel " I ".


    Middle Dutch also has a third version, with a vowel " E ", like we find in German and Italian .
    Hebrew " laqaq " is near to Middle Dutch " lacken " and " liqqq " sounds near to " licken ":


    Hebrew Middle Dutch

    laqaq lacken

    liqqq licken



    But this similarity as such does not clearly provide additional material for a claim of kinship .
    More striking is the parallel between Hebrew and Dutch intensive versions of verbs, as shown in our chapter : " Getting Intensive ", (Hebrew 0001_aa26).


  • Hebrew and Germanic. German has a version " schlecken" besides "lecken " . This version with an initial " SH-sound has also some added meanings , such as "eating with pleasure " . Middle High German had and the Nordic languages only have versions with an initial S , like Norwegian " slikke " , meaning " to lick " .


    The important thing for us does not lie in the added initial "S" , which is a frequent phenomenon in Germanic languages . Instead it lies in the fact that many scholars agree that these words , like also Gothic " bilaigon = to lick at ( bi- is a prefix and –on a suffix ) " have as their ancestor a Germanic " * slaikijan " , with a single, non-doubled second consonant " K " ( or in Gothic "G" ) and the use of a vowel A . This brings those words nearer to the vowel of the Hebrew basic or standard verb " laqaq " .


    On the other hand we cannot agree with the supposition some scholars make, that these forms without double consonant and with a vowel A would be relatively young . On the contrary , it must be very old and has lived on until , perhaps only, Middle Dutch . There is quite some debate on the matter , and we will not go into its details, but the striking thing is that Germanic gives us two versions with " lak- " and "likk- ", much as Hebrew does . As the basic form for Proto-Germanic the hypothesis is "*laigon" , though some suppose there may already have been a version "*(s)likkon" or even " *slikkan" .
    The Hebrew root without S indicates that this consonant, where it is or was found , has been a later addition .


  • Proto-Germanic. As seen in the note on Hebrew and Germanic, there are interesting comparisons to be made regarding the roots of this entry. One notes that in the combination " L (I/E) K" both have versions with single or double "K". If the "K" is double the vowels are usually "I" or "E", like in Hebrew, but in front of the single "K" ( or "G") we also find the vowel "A" again as in Hebrew (Gothic "*bi-laigon". A phenomenon not seen in Hebrew, and typically Germanic, is a prefix "S" that is often applied to this root.


    In the Nordic languages this "S" does not change the meaning, that remains "to lick". See Swedish "sleka", Old Norse "sleikja", Norwegian "slikke" and Danish "slega" with the "K" having become "G" as often in Danish. In other languages the combination "SL . K" gives different meanings , as Middle Dutch "sliken, slicken = to swallow". German "schlecken" mainly says "to nibble, eat or munch sweet things" but also (still) to lick, that normally is expressed by the word "lecken". For meanings related with "to swallow" there are versions of "SL . K" with the vowel "O" or "U". See German "Schluck" and Dutch "slok" that say "swig, gulp, swallow". In these cases the prefix "S" stands for a development in meaning, which is far from always the case in Germanic.


    Proto-Germanic in all probability had "*L I KK-" and also "*L A K-".


  • Indo-European in some languages of the Balto-Slavic group and in Armenian has words that use " L (A) K " for " to lick " and related meanings . But mostly a vowel " I " is found.


    Latin has "lingo, lingere = to lick"


    Old Indian offers two developments. One is that of "lēdhi", also "rēdhi", in which the "DH" is a development out of an older "GH" or even "K". The other one is "lihati" with the same meaning and "H" instead of older "K".


    Armenian offers a "lizum, lizem, lizanem" as verbal forms for "to lick".


    Celtic contributes an Old Irish "ligim", perf. "leluig". Cymric has its "llyfu, llyw = to lick" in a not uncommon development.


    Slavic in Old Church Slavonic had "lizjo, lizati".




    Indo-European probably had "*L I K-" , used more than "*L A K-". The use of the vowel " I " from very old times may signal the iterative or intensive character of the typical action licking mostly has. So the more original vowel "A" has lost ground already in the far past, remaining only in a few positions.







Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 22/05/2013 at 8.18.43