The words " wary ", " aware " and " beware " are of Germanic origin

H 0796 ה א ר

Concept of root : to see

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה א ר


to see

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה א ר


to see, look, perceive

r . (‘) . y ;

r . ‘


όραω <


horao <


to see,



h . r . <

*w . r .




to look at in fear ; fear, honour

v . r .



aware ;


wary; aware ; beware

w . r

Old English

wr ;

gewr ;


watchful, wary ;

aware ;

to beware

w . r



Proto-Semitic *RA'À --- *WĀR- Proto-Germanic < *WĀR- Indo-European



English " beware " is composed of " be " + " ware ", that has the root of "wary". " Middle English has abolished the old word " gewr ", choosing a form " awar " that has become " aware ". It is useful to know that the Germanic root of these words has been loaned into Neo-Latin languages. For example in the French word " guard " that again has been loaned into English . It is rather common to see a Germanic W at the beginning of a word become a G or GU in Neo-Latin languages .


Greek , Latin and Hebrew . The difference in this entry between these two words for " to see " in Greek and Hebrew, as we look at it is : Greek has a "HO" in front of the R, that Hebrew lacks. Now this "HO" according to Greek scholars earlier was "WO", that might correspond with a "waw" or "yod" in Hebrew. We find this W-sound in Germanic and Latin as well. And if the generally accepted thesis that Latin "vereor" is related to Greek "horao" is right, than we have yet the same phenomenon in Hebrew . We have to look into the details for that. To this is dedicated as well entry number E 0327 (Hebrew 1060) with " י ר א , yar’". That entry should be seen together with the present one.


The reasoning at the basis of this, regarding Latin "vereor" and Hebrew "yar’" is that both are based on the concept of "looking at" in a so-called pregnant sense, that is loaded with a specialized meaning besides that of looking. It sounds perhaps a bit complicated, but the "loaded" meanings are a.o." to look up at somebody with reverence", also becoming "looking at somebody in fear".


The common origin of the ideas of reverence and fear is anyhow a certainty. This is still felt in modern English when referring to "fearing God".


The same kind of development in message lies behind English "to respect" , that comes from Latin as a composite word, of which the main part "-spect" is a participle of the verb "specere" that stands for "to see". So this seems a common cultural phenomenon from very old days. Remain the facts that:


  • Hebrew did maintain the basic verb "ra’" for "to see" besides exactly following the scheme of the of Latin and Germanic ( w + r = to respect, fear" )


  • Greek did share with the other European languages the development in sound ( w + ra ), but not that of the meaning. It added a W in front of the old root but stuck to the message of "to see". After this it changed the W into H .


  • Latin and Germanic have the added W-sound in front of the R, and use the new root to express the concepts of "respect" and "fear", abolishing that of "to see", expressed by different roots.
    See entry E 0327 (Hebrew 1060). The prefix " W " caused a metathesis between from "RA" into "AR", which is a common phenomenon as such with a consonant " R ".


  • Hebrew. The "Y" is normally considered as a third consonant, and it is present in a number of verbal forms only, but in many others not. It is very important to note that where the I-sound appears, the Aleph as a second consonant does not need nor govern any other vowel. This means that the Y, yod, in this verb and in the other verbs of its class, might be seen as a kind of an improper root-consonant. It functions simply as any other vowel that is governed by a real consonant, such as the Aleph in the verb of this entry. Consequently there will have been a two consonant root, without that Yod. And in fact that two consonant root, Resh plus Aleph is seen in most verbal forms of our ra'. It remains uncertain when those Yod's have begun to appear.


  • Proto-Semitic. The same reasons adducted under the previous note on Hebrew, leave us in uncertainty as to the timing of changes that occurred. We see in Old South Arabic both "ר א , R Aleph " and "ר א י , R Aleph Y", in Tigre "ר א א, R Aleph Aleph", thus with double Aleph. Then in Moabite "ו א ר א, (W) Aleph R Aleph", Aleph without Yod, but also a "ר י ת , R Y T", Yod instead of Aleph. Then there is Arabic "ra'ā(y) = to see" . We suppose for Proto-Semitic the same situation indicated for Hebrew, without being able to guess when a Yod has begun to be introduced : "*ר א , R Aleph".


  • Proto-Germanic. The combinations "WAR" and "VAR" in Germanic languages are used to express various meanings, among which the one of this entry, seen in the mentioned English and Old English words. The initial "V" is used for example in Old Norse "var-r= attentive observant" and "vara= to warn, look after". Swedish "var" stands for "to be on guard" and related meanings. West Germanic languages use the "W" and this was probably as such present in Proto-Germanic: "*W Ā R-".


  • Indo-European. With "WAR-"in Proto-Germanic, "VERE-OR" in Latin and "WORA-O" in Greek , a hypothesis for Indo-European may comprehend an initial " W " and a second consonant " R ". It is difficult to establish a single consonant with exclusion of others. For our comparison we use " A " without absolute certainty: "*W Ā R-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 28/11/2012 at 9.23.42