E 0783          SEED

The word " seed " is of Germanic origin .

H 0877         ה ד ש

Concept of root : agricultural field

Hebrew word


English meanings

ה ד ש


land-property, field

Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ה ד ש


agricultural land ,

-property, field

s . d .




terrain, ground, bottom, base

(‘) . d . ph < s . d .(ph)




s . d

Middle Low German



seeding-field, seed, seeding

s . d .

Middle Dutch



seeding-field, seed, seeding

s . t

Indo European

  • (*se );
  • (*sei)

to sow

s . e



Proto-Semitic *SADÉ --- *SĀD- Proto-Germanic < SĒ- Indo-European



This entry is related to number E 0784 (Hebrew 1006), in which Hebrew uses a different sibilant, TS instead of S .


A "sadé" in Hebrew is a field that is used for agricultural ends. Mostly such fields have to be sown, with seed. The problem we encounter regards the origin of the words in the three language-groups found in the above table. Generally the verbs with the meaning of "to sow" do not have a dental after the main vowel, but the nouns meaning "seed" have a "D" or "T". From the brief root "SE" have thus been built:


SE > sēan, with noun "*seds" (Gothic)
sāen, with noun "sāt" ( OHGerman )
säen, with nouns "Saat, Samen" ( German)
så with nouns "sad, sæ" ( Swedish etc.)
сеять, seyatj, with noun семя, semya (Russian)
SE + Y > sঙian (Old Saxon)
säjen, with nouns "sād, sāt ( MHGerman)
zaaien, with noun "zaad" ( Dutch )
SE + W > sawan, with noun "sæd (Old English)
> to sow, with noun "seed" (English)
SE + R > serere, sevi, serui, satum, with noun "semen" ( Latin )
> zar'ŕ, with noun "zér'ŕ ( Hebrew, non Indo European)
SE + M > Samen ( German)
> semen ( Latin )
> семя, semya (Russian)


One may think and debate long over the details, but the basic concept is that people have begun speaking with very brief roots, like this "se-" and then gradually have built out and diversified both roots and their meanings.


We remain in this entry with a couple of question marks about the possible common origins.


The problem will be looked into further in Entry E 0868 (Hebrew 0940 , "shetil"). There we will see that the words on the basis of SE + T(I) may have another far cousin in Hebrew.


  • English, German and Dutch. The problem is which came first, the seed to sow on the field or the field that is to be seeded. If the seed came first as the meaning of the Germanic root, we have a question mark , but if the field came first, the common origin with Hebrew is very probable.


  • Greek "edaphos" is considered to be related to the words "to sit" and "settle". But the meanings "bottom" and "riverbed" would not fit into this. Perhaps the meanings of "base" in general and of "bottom" have been created by adding the second part of the word : "φος" . The first part may simply mean "terrain, ground" and even "field", to be used but not necessarily to settle upon, just as is the case with the other words of this entry. The added part "φος , phos " is also found in some composed words as first part: "φοσσευω , phosseuo" is " to besiege" and "φοσσατευω , phossateuo" says " to make camp". It is not present as a separate word, but it shares a "settling" function in the aforementioned ones.


  • Proto-Semitic. We find a supposed root "*S . D Y ", but there is no real basis for this supposition . Nearly all if not all Semitic languages have just "S D" like Hebrew or "SH D" like Ugaritic and Phoenician that used this root for the group of meanings of "field, land or ground" , meanings comparable to those of Hebrew. Akkadian "shadu = open country". Aramaic has "saddā". Amharic "sed(d)a = unfenced ground" . We like to agree to a supposed : "* ש ד , S . D" , but cannot exclude that there were already two versions, with also a "* ש ד , SH D" . For the comparison we have maintained the vowels as in Hebrew, possibly used as such in Proto-Semitic.


  • Proto-Germanic. Older and newer Germanic languages have an initial "S" that in German is pronounced "Z" and in Dutch also spelled "Z". The following vowel is originally an "A" that has become an "O" in the English verb and an "E", pronounced a long "Ī " in the noun "seed". The "A" in the north often is pronounced near "O" in verbs or near "Ē" in nouns. In the verbs we find an second consonant "W", that sometimes becomes a "Y" and often then disappears. Old High German shows the sequence "sāwan, sajen, sāen". In the nouns we find a dental , nearly always "D", but as usual in German and its predecessors a "T". Proto-Germanic probably had the forms "*S Ā W-" and "*S Ā D-".


  • Indo European. Regarding "seed", the common reasoning tells us that there was an original root, a very brief " *S Ē-" , with the specific meaning "to sow". From this root have been built the words in the above table. And thus we see ourselves again in a situation in which Germanic is nearer to Semitic than other branches of Indo-European are.






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 28/11/2012 at 17.36.30