E 0552          LYNX, LOX

The words " lynx "and Old English " lox " are of Germanic origin .

H 0561             ש י ל                    

Concept of root :  big cat

 Hebrew word


English meanings

 ש י ל



Related English words

 lion, lynx, Old English lox

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ש י ל <

* ש ו ל

laish <



l . y sh <

* l . (o) sh

Old English



l (o) x




lünx ;


lynx ;


l ü nx

l i s




l (y) nx

Old High German




l (o) hs





l (o) ks





l (o) s

Middle Dutch

los, loss



l (o) s





l (o)





l (o) s



Proto-Semitic *LĪSH --- *LŪS Indo-European



The usual translation of this Hebrew word is "lion" or "lioness". But it is seen in a phrase that sounds : " ל ב י א ו ל י ש , law’́ walaish ". Litterally this says, in singular , " lion and laish ". The translation in plural is unnecessary in English. The word "laish " is normally translated as " lion " . But a phrase that says " the place is full of lion and lion" is not convincing. Seen that a "lynx" in Dutch is called a "los", one may suppose that the two words are related. The lynx was a common animal in ancient Israel and the phrase " full with lion and lynx" is logical and convincing as a description.


It is still possible that the word "laish", that supposedly comes from an older form "losh", was used also to indicate other big cats , like a lion, but the similarity of the words "los" and antique Hebrew points in a different more specific direction. Also in case we are wrong and the Semitic word does not cover the concept of "lynx", the common origin remains obvious, be it with a differentiation in the development of the specific meanings between the two groups.


In Modern Hebrew a lynx is called a desert cat, but this is hardly a characteristic name for this animal . They just happen to live in desert-like zones in Israel . Elsewhere they certainly prefer the woods .



  • Proto-Semitic is seen with a root different from Hebrew , with a word "* layt-", based on Aramaic "letà" and Arabic "layth", both of course meaning "lion" and both being not all too similar to our Hebrew "lish". The words still may be related, but in this case it is not too certain that the original root would have had a T and not SH. The similarity with Indo European words, especially Greek, makes a sibilant more probable. Thus we must suppose that the Hebrew word has an origin, and that this may be in a Proto-Semitic "*ל י ש, L Y SH".


  • English. Regarding "lynx " it has just to be mentioned that some people want to link it to the root of "light" because the animal is seen as having such shiny eyes or because its fur is light in colour. Well, the eyes are not really different from those of other cats and its fur is not so shiny, however beautiful. Anyhow, the similarity with Hebrew as referred to above, is clear.


  • Proto-Germanic. As one sees from its development , in various Germanic languages the root for "lynx" has changed . First a guttural was introduced in front of the final consonant "S". The iter was classic, with in Old High German just an aspiration, an H, and later gradually a stronger sound, like in Old English lox. Then a nasalization was practized, in the process also making the used vowel sharper, from an " O " into an " I ". Of these two developments the nasalization is a very frequent one. The other, from O > I , is seen in Hebrew very often, also in this same word. But also in Germanic it has occurred often.


    Some people want to see the final S as a suffix for a male noun, but that is not common in Germanic . If Swedish says "lo" for "lynx", then it has just abolished the original final S. Proto-Germanic probably had "*L Ŏ S-".


  • Indo-European. Existing hypotheses are "*lūk's-" and a nasalized "*lūnk's-".


    Greek. As stated before, " λυγξ, lünx " erroneously has been linked to "λευκος, leukos" = brillant, white". It has been loaned into Latin and thus proceeded into English, substituting the older "lox". These words have a nasalization out of an older "*luks" or rather "*lus".


    Slavic has a hypothesis of "*rysj", in line with Old Slavic, in which the initial " L " has changed into an " R ". Also Russian obviously has the "R" instead of the original "L" in: "рысь, rŭsj = lynx". Czech "rys" has maintained the old Slavic " Y ", that probably has developed out of " Ū ". The same goes for Polish "ryś".


    Baltic enjoys a hypothesis of "*lūnč-", with a change from "K" into "Č". But Lithuanian shows "lūšis, lūszis < "*luk- , without nasalization. The indication remains rather "L U K-" or perhaps "L U KS-".


    Armenian gives an enlightening plural word "lusanunkh", indicating a basic "*L U S".



    Indo-European , in the supposition that the adding of a guttural " K " and the nasalization with "N" are later developments that also had not conquered Proto-Germanic, probably had a basic "*L Ū S-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 05/11/2012 at 11.20.55