E 0518          LAD, CHILD

The words " lad " and " child " are of Germanic origin .

H 1050            ד ל י                     

Concept of root : child

 Hebrew word


English meanings

ד ל י

yeled , yelad-


Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ד ל י

yeled, yelad-


y . l . d <

*w . l . d


lad ,


lad ,


l . d ;

ch . l d



Proto-Semitic *YALAD < *WALAD < *LEDÀ --- *LAD English



In entry E 0517 (Hebrew 1030), "walad", the predecessor of "yeled" is seen in its relation to English. There the word for "child" was "walad". The change in the use of vowels, from A+A into E+E, is another rather general development seen in very old Hebrew. Interesting is that this change in vowels was not applied to all flexions of a noun. Above is also mentioned the form "yelad-" , in which the second A has been maintained. As the little line shows, "yelad-" is the first part of flexed forms, such as the plural form "yeladim" for "children". And in the female version we see the first A maintained, as a female child is a "yalĕda".


In modern language, there is another change. Most people in Israel are of European descent, with their forebears having lived in Europe for some 2000 years. Of course these forebears spoke European languages, from Spanish to Russian and not to forget Yiddish. In those European languages the typical Hebrew habit of having three consonants with two vowels in a root ( as yalad ), is uncommon. Normally three consonants will have one only vowel, as in English (child) . Through this influence the short ĕ , that is heard in Hebrew (yalĕda) , is no more pronounced. Thus in Israel a little girl from a " yaleda " has become a "yalda ".


  • Hebrew. The root of "yeled", "Y : L : D" has developed out of an older root "W . L . D" already before Biblical times. This is just one example of a general tendency, according to which roots that began with a W, had this changed into Y. This specific root is exceptional in that the older form also still survived, as referred to in entry E 0517 (Hebrew 1030).


  • Hebrew clearly shows a brieferolder two consonant root " L . D " in the noun for "birth" and "birthgiving, that is " ל ד ה , lédà" . In the absence of a habit of abbreviations as modern languages love so much, this shows that "walad" had received a prefix or new first consonant " W ".


    This prefix " W " must have carried a meaning, and one may suppose that it made the new word " Wa + LaD" as "is + born". Other suppositions, less probable, might be "what + born", or perhaps " and + born ", anyhow " the "child".


  • Proto-Semitic had the root "* ו ל ד , W L D", still present in Hebrew, besides the later developed "* י ל ד , Y L D". It is very important to remark that the older initial consonant "W" in Semitic roots may continue to exist together with its successor "Y". This is the case in Hebrew and also in Ugaritic, that uses both roots for the meaning of "to bear children".


    Aramaic " י ל ד , yeled and Canaanite used the Y, but many others stuck entirely to the initial W, with " W L D " in Arabic and Ethiopian "walada". Also seen is " ו ל ד , W L D" in OS Arabic.


    Akkadian is particularly interesting, in that it has two words, "walādu with "W L D" and "ildu with "Aleph L D" and līdu with "L D". These are then considered as later forms, but especially "L D" is more probably an older form, remaining from before the application of the letter/sound " W " as a prefix to the older root "* ל ד , L D" that probably existed as well in Proto-Semitic.


    We note that some Semitic tongues introduced or anyhow had a vowel stop or Aleph before or after the initial consonant.


  • English. In entry E 0517 (Hebrew 1030) is also seen how "lad" and "lass" have an original root "L . D " in common with Hebrew "walad" , as the basic noun for "birth" or "birthgiving" is " lédà ". But how do things stand with the word "child " ? The initial "CH - sound" in English usually is an alteration of an older K-sound. And in fact Old English had "cild".


    In the development of speaking, of languages, we very often see a K, G or GH-sound in a language either become S, SH, TSH or CH, or even Y ( English "you" ) or correspond with a W-sound in another language (Wales = Galles ).


    This is all very intricate and so complicates the resulting questions. It certainly does not mean that a K is the same as an S, or that CH is the same as Y. But one can neither say that if one word begins with CH ( English child ) or K (Old English cild ), it cannot have a common origin with another word that has precisely the same meaning but begins with a W ( Hebrew walad ), or Y ( Hebrew yeled ). See the following Note.


  • English and Proto-Germanic. Not much is clear about the etymology of "lad" and "child". Not even from which language group they have originated. Though they seem non-existant in other tongues, we suppose they are of Germanic origin, because "lad" has a feminine form that is "lass" and this could be a contraction of "*ladess", with a suffix "-ess" for the feminine version.


    Meanings like "serving-man, young fellow" are normal developments in practical use, of the same kind seen with words like "boy, fellow, child" etcetera.


    "Child", in Old English "cild", probably still pronounced "kild", in a supposition of cognateship with "lad", would have had a very improbable K-sound added as a prefix. The plural is "cildru, cildra" in respectively the nominative and genitive cases.


    There is an open question to what extent and in which way "child" may be related to the German word "Kind = child". Both use a plural with an R, in the case of "children", Old English "cildru", Dutch " kinderen " and German " Kinder ". True, such plurals are not fully uncommon outside English, but still rare. And this similarity is a strong indication towards a basic similarity.


    In the Nordic tongues the normal word for child is "barn", or "a born one". But Old Norse still had also the word "kind" for "child", also sayingh "descendant, offspring".


    English "kind", noun and adjective, is presumably in origin the same word. In Old English"cynd" its meanings are quite a few, clearly related around he concept of "birth, offspring": "origin, generation, birth, offspring, gender, species". One might think of the difference between "cild" and "cynd" as due to a diversification, useful on account of the too wide range of meanings of the original "cynd". But on the other hand we see an important indication from Gothic has "kilðei = womb", with inkilðo = pregnant". Swedish and Norwegian "kull = the young ones (together), litter" and should have an origin related with the Gothic word. This points to a possibility that "cild" and "cynd", both Old Eglish, are in fact not related at all!


    Further there are words, that presumably are related to "kind". Icelandic like Old Norse has "kundr" for "son, descendant", that then belongs to the group of "kind".


    One has to ask if and where a link to "lad" can be seen. Norwegian has a word "askeladd = neglected child", in which "ask = ash" and "ladd = child", a bit like "cinderella". On account of this Norwegian word, not documented in Old Norse, some believe that the words "lad" and "lass" are loanwords from Nordic, but that is a too far going conclusion.


    As a conclusion there is no easy presumption for "child" being related either to "kind" or to "lad".


    The comparison has to stay between Semitic "ledà, walad" and English "lad, lass".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 16/12/2012 at 12.10.55