E 0823          SIGN

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

H 0874            ן מ י ס

Concept of root : sign

Hebrew word


English meanings

ן מ י ס


sign, signal

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ן מ י ס


sign, signal

s (i) m


σημα ;


sèma ;


sign, signal ; to signal

s (è) m



Proto-Semitic *SIM-À --- *SÈMA Greek



As the word "siman" is found in Post Biblical texts , the immediate supposition is that it has been loaned from Greek, in this case from "sèmeion" that has about the same meaning . This may sound true, but remains uncertain. Many words that existed at the time never found their way into the Biblical texts, just as many hundreds are found just once only. The hypothesis is then extended to Aramaic "simana" because that is more like "sèmeion", but also to Arabic "sima". A bit odd that these three languages upon loaning from Greek would have acted this way. But not impossible as such.


Greek "sèmeion" is an old word , developed out of the even older "sèma" we mention in this entry. No further etymology has been found for these words, that existed aside each other. If "siman" has been loaned from Greek, the lender should have been "sèma", not "sèmeion". The fact that Hebrew uses an "I-sound" instead of an "E'-sound" does not exclude the hypothesis of borrowing, as a change of sound of this vowel has occurred between classic and modern Greek, and this change may have begun in the Hellenistic period .
If the supposed borrowing is a fact, the odd thing would be that a final "N" has been added to the Greek word, without any necessity of the kind for the Jews who knew Greek perfectly well.


If "siman" is just an old word that did not find its way into the text of the Bible but is found in somewhat later writings, it may well be related to the important Hebrew root "S.Y.M" that stands for "to put, place, set, erect" as is very much done with a "sign". The same root is even used to express "to determine" and "to direct". Perhaps the Jews heard and liked Greek "sèma", but they had and kept their "siman" , a typical Hebrew form on the basis of "sim." The S-sound in the verb "sim" is spelled with the letter Sin, the S-sound of "siman" with the letter Samekh, but these two characters are often interchanged .


English "sign" comes via Old French from Latin "signum" with the same meaning. The first part is similar to Greek and Hebrew, but no further link has been discovered up till now.


This entry is related to E 0824 (Hebrew 1024) .



  • Proto-Semitic. Aramaic "simana" and Arab "sima" give some basis indeed for a hypothesis of a root "*ס י ם, S Y M" in Proto-Semitic. Hebrew "-an" and Aramaic "-anà" are suffixes for the shaping of nouns.


  • Greek and Hebrew. The letters N in the above mentioned words are not part of the root. They are both suffixes, one to form a noun, (Hebrew) , the other to form a verb (Greek).


  • Indo-European. The information in Entry E 0824 (Hebrew 1024) , referring to Latin "signum" and older Germanic words, in that entry leaves no room for Greek "sèma". This word seems isolated within Indo-European and Greek scholars give it as without any known etymology. Our comparison remains therefore between Semitic and Greek, still with the menacing opinion about loanwords.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 28/11/2012 at 16.49.47