E 0948          (TO) TURN, TOURIST

The verb " to turn " is of Germanic origin .

The word " tourist " is of French origin .

H 0983                 ר ו ת                

Concept of root : round movement

Hebrew word


English meanings

ר ו ת


to wander, explore

Related English words

tourist, turn, from French

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ר ו ת


to wander, go round, explore

t (u) r

Old English

tyrnan ;


to turn

t (y) r n





t (u) r




to turn

d r . y

Old High German



to turn

d r . (‘)

Middle Dutch



to turn,

go round,

to wander

d r . y



Proto-Semitic *TUR --- TOUR TŪR French < *TŪR- Indo-European



Modern tourists have little new to explore. They go around and visit places other people have explored already. But in older times in Hebrew the word for "to wander" could be the same as for "to explore", and we see so in this entry. The question is then if Hebrew " tur", the verb that says "to wander, explore", is related to "tourist". Let us look at the generally established history of the word "tourist": "tourist", "tour" and "turn" have been derived from Old French "tour, tourn, torn = turn, circuit ".


This came is seen as having come from Latin "tornus = lathe", a turning table , traverser. The word was loaned from Greek that had a word "τορνος , tornos", that was as well a "lathe" , but also a (pair of ) compasses (not a compass ) a roundshaped form or a centre. Now follows the second part : Greek "tornos" would be related to "toros", that was an auger or drill for making holes with a turning or screwing movement .


This can be all not quite off the mark, but some other influence must be responsible for the loss of the N during the "French period" .


First it is seen in Greek , stepping from "tooling with a turning movement" to "tooling with a turning object or tool", from a "toros" to a "tornos". But "torn-" was also present in other words with or without a message of roundness or turning, alternated with "torm- ". Examples are " tornoo = to surround", "torma = wheeltrack", "tormos = tub" , "torneia = rounded piece of wood (for building ships)". Without listing more of those words, a basic observation must be that a turning movement was expressed in Greek by words with "torn-" or "torm-" in them and that the famous "tornos = lathe" was just based on the same root. So why was the N lost again in French ?


We know that French is formed as a Latin spoken by Celts with Latin rulers, and later absorbed by Germanic rulers, especially the Franks that have given the country , the language and the people their names . And their language has had enormous influence in the forming of the final language. So the answer lies in the Germanic root for " to turn", that is related to it, but does not have the N. Therefore we look at German "drehen", Dutch "draaien" and finally Middle Dutch "draeyen". In this last verb, with its old meanings, we see how the circle of our "turning" closes. Besides saying simply "to turn" it also still said that somebody who went to "draayen" , in fact "went off", went "to wander".



  • French, Latin and Greek. Latin "tornare" just means very specifically to work with the turning table, an impressive invention already present in Classic Greece, with the name "τορνοω , tornos". Then there were two related verbs: "τορεω , toreo = to perforate" and "τορευω , toreüo = to chisel, carve, engrave". Both did not specify any turning movement. This possibly became expressed by the addition of the consonant "N" after the original "TOR-". The specific verb became "τορνευω , torneüo.


    Amazing remains, but it is the general opinion, that " TORN ", the form with which this so very specific tecnical circling movement was expressed, has conquered so much semantic ground that was far from it, had nothing to do with girating movements, as now served by Italian "tornare", French "tourner" and English "to turn".


    The French "tour" does no have that " third consonant " N " and in fact serves a different groups of concepts, similar to those of Biblical Hebrew "TUR" and to old Germanic words like Middle Dutch "draeyen". Old French, basically Latin in origin, has drawn extensively from Germanic sources and sometimes has built on mixed influences. This may be the explanation why French today has "tour" without " N " as well as "tourner".


  • Hebrew and Middle Dutch. The Hebrew vowel between " T " and " R " is recognized in Latin "turnus", Greek "tornos"" as well as in the many related words that refer to turning movements. In Germanic this is absent. As so often there is no vowel between the first two consonants, here D an R. This is compensated in the linguistic development by the weight after the R and perhaps the presence of the Y in Middle Dutch "draeyen".


  • Proto-Semitic. This root can be recognized in cognates in Arabic "tara = he went around" and in Akkadian "taru, tayaru = to turn around, turning back"" and it was probably used in Proto-Semitic: "*ת ו ר , T W R". It is worth while to mention another very interesting couple of Akkadian cognates, in which there is "D" instead of "T" and "Y" instead of "W ( or U)" : dālu = to go round" and "dayyalu = explorer, spy"!


  • Indo-European. The existing hypothesis is "*TER-". This is seen as the basis also of Greek "teiro, teirein" and Latin "tero, terere" that say "to rub". Rubbing can be done with all kind of movements and semantically "to rub" has little to do with "to turn". Indo-Europeans will have had distinguished words for " to rub", "to turn" and presumably "to wander".


    The Indo-European roots should indeed be without the final " N " that as shown has been introduced in Greek for the concept of "to turn". Here we have a rather obvious "*T Ŏ R-".


    For the message of "to wander", subject of this entry, the probable vowel was " Ū ", in *T Ū R-".


    Later, in the development of Proto-Germanic, a metathesis took place between the vowel and "R ", the consonant that has this tendency. In the process or later on the vowel changed into an " A "-sound.


  • Hebrew and tourism. Here one finds the word ת י ר, tayar = tourist. The consonant " W ", as so often is the case, has become a " Y ".
    Important is that besides the root of this entry, we also find the word ט י ל, thayèl to say " tourist ". In this case TH corresponds with T and R with L, which is a quite international phenomenon. Indeed in the above Note on Proto-Semitic we mentioned an interesting couple of words from Akkadian.





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 11/12/2012 at 18.10.53