E 0978          WAR,  WERIAN

The word " war " and the Old English verb " werian are of Germanic origin .

H 1061             ר ר ו ש ; ב ר י י                     

Concept of root : conflicting

 Hebrew word


English meanings

ר ר ו ש

י ר י ב




Related English words

war, Old English werian

Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ש ו ר ר


;י ר י ב





sh . w . r . r <

*w . r ;

y. r . b


αρκεω ;




to defend ;


 . r k ;

ou r




to defend

(‘) . r c

Old English


to defend

w . r




w . r

Middle Dutch

weren ; werren ; warren

wéren ; wèrren ; warren

to defend, protect ; fight ;

take away

w . r



Proto-Semitic *YARIB < *WARIB --- *WĀR Indo-European

Proto-Semitic *SHORER < *SHOR --- N.P. in Indo-European



This entry is related to and must be compared with entry E 0977 (Hebrew 0375). This comparison shows us how in this field of meanings that regard human conflict and defense, one language may follow more than one development .


Against an adversary the most basic thing to be done is to defend oneself. And this means conflict. If the conflict is more serious, it is a war. And these are the ideas one finds expressed in the roots of this entry.


In various tongues a second meaning is that of "to close, shut off", a classic way of defending things against predators of any kind.


  • Hebrew. The word "yariv" with its root "Y.R.B" is based on the root "R.Y.B = rift", having added a prefix W that later has become a Y. This root is found in entry E 0782 (Hebrew 0842) and is related to the root "R.W.B. = to fight, quarrel" of entry E 0742 (Hebrew 0836).


    A possible prefix " W ", that later becomes " Y ", frequent in Hebrew, carries the meaning of "to be, become". It would have been applied very early, before Semitic an Germanic went separate ways. There are more similarities with Germanic in this category of roots.


    The second word , "shor" has been constructed with a prefix SH that should stand for "that which" or "he who". The W of the original root came to be pronounced as "O" , thus giving the result "shor".


    Some more words have to be taken into consideration to complete the picture. An " ע ר, ‛ar " is an enemy. And against an enemy it is simply necessary to defend oneself or other people : " ע ר ב , ‛arav ". It seems that sometimes an Ayin , "ע" , is found instead of a W. And we find both versions again : with or without final B. This root with B is mentioned in entry GR 1224 (Hebrew 0174).



  • Proto-Semitic . We have no direct evidence from other Semitic languages, regarding both words . On the other hand the words related to "yariv", mentioned in this entry, give several clear indications. The root "* י ר ב , Y R B", or anyhow its predecessor "* ו ר ב , W R B" . For the comparison we have the vowels as seen in Hebrew, that may well have been in use in Proto-Semitic.


    As to "shorer", there is a verb meaning "to be strong, to be firm" that is present with two consonants as " ש ר , SH . R, shor" in Syriac. With three consonants, extended through doubling of the second consonant " R ", it is used in Aramaic " ש ר ר , SH . R . R." One may ask if the concept of strength and firmness may be related to that of a "tough" adversary. It may indeed, but the iter is not easy to define. Proto-Semitic presumably used the brief version, but also already the lengthened one.


    There is also a verb " ש ר ר , S . R . R., sarar, = to rule, reign, dominate". It is unclear if this root with a sibilant " S " instead of " SH " might be related. Rulers often are felt by the people as adversaries !


  • Greek and Latin , as so often, have abolished the initial W without any substitution ( Hebrew substitutes it normally with a Y ). They also have an extra consonant K .


    But if we look at entry GR 1224 (Hebrew 0174) , we find also in Greek a "defender ", an "ουρος , uros " that does not have this extra consonant K. With that the common origin becomes much clearer


  • English "war" has remained alone, after in other Germanic languages this use of the root of this entry has been lost. These have anticipated the cultural development that condemns war by using "W . R " only to talk about "defense". Just like ministries have become not "of War", but "of Defense ". It is anyhow interesting to see how various nations call the forces that are available for defense :


    English and French : army, armée those who are armed
    German : Wehrmacht those who defend us
    Italian and Spanish : esercito, ejercito those who have been trained
    Greek and Dutch : stratos, leger those who are lying down ( in camps)
    Hebrew : ghayal the strong ones in waiting


    Oddly, while most Germanic languages abolished the word for "war", the French, Spanish and Italian enthousiastically adopted the Germanic term, changing in the process the W into GU, a real habit : guerre and guerra are their words for war now, and Latin "bellum" is out.


  • Middle Dutch "weren" is a verb that shows once more that particular interesting aspect of a remainder from more ancient cultures, in which meanings of words and roots could be more absolute than today. "To go, to come" for one root. So "weren", besides "to defend, protect" still could be used for "to fight" and also for "to take away". That is the case in which the adversary succeeds in deluding defense or protection. The root " W . R " indicates the conflictuality, in which people fight and usually one side wants to take away something from the other side that defends it. In fact the English word "war" has that same characteristic . It does not specify who attacks and who defends.


    In modern society attacking is considered principally wrong, to the point where defense has to be "measured", "limited", "balanced" with the action of the attacker or become forbidden as well. If a man defends his home against a robber, he may hit that attacker of his family only after having been hit ! The law still says differently, but the judges have decided new rules.


  • Old English had a different word for "war" : "orloge", that is still the word for "war" in modern Dutch "oorlog", but has been as good as abolished from the other Germanic languages. There is quite some uncertainty about its etymology, but it seems obvious that the first part has been derived from the old root " W .R" that is shared with Hebrew. If the letter "waw" or W is pronounced as so frequently is the case , as the vowel "O", one has "OOR" or "OR" . The second part "log" or "loge" probably defines as recognized the situation of open conflict. It is then related with "law", that in Old English was "lagu" or "set of rules". Thus "orloge" is "rules of conflict".


    So if we are at war, we are under the "rules of conflict", quite different from the rules during peace.


  • Proto-Germanic . It must be noted that Germanic "WAR", that in Nordic is "VAR", is a combination of sounds that is used to express various different concepts. That is very clear in the Scandinavian languages. In Swedish one sees "var = each", "var = where", "var = alert, timorous", "var = pus", "war = was", vara = ware", vara = to take care of", "vara = to be", "vara = to last". But then the concept of defending and protecting, probably based on original "V A R-", has become the verb "värja, värna ,vèrya, vèrna= to defend, protect". In Old Norse one finds " verja" for "to defend (also oneself), protect. "The vowel "E" is also present in German wehren" and "Wehrmacht".


    Gothic "*warjan" has a vowel A, but its meaning is "to hinder, forbid", which does not give certainty at all about a vowel A for the concept of this entry in Proto-Germanic, Probably it already had "W Ē R-"


  • Indo-European . The basic messages of the Latin and Greek verbs are those of "to avert, keep off adversaries and enemies by defending persons and property". For that reason words that have a message of "to lock with keys" or "to close with bolts" are of a different category. And no relation should be seen between "arceo" and "arca = chest, coffin, prison cell". But between the Germanic verb "weren" and the nouns "wering" and "borstwering = parapet, breast-work" there is a full relationship. This can be seen well in two Armenian words, related to Latin "arceo":


    Armenian "argelum = I defend, keep off, avert, keep at bay (enemy)" and "argel = obstacle, obstruction".


    Comparing Latin, Greek and Armenian with Germanic we see that the last one lacks the consonant "K" or "G". There is no logical explanation why Germanic would have abolished this sound. This makes it probable that also Indo-European did not have the "K" or "G". On the other hand Greek, Latin and Armenian do not have the "W" found in Germanic. We know that Greek always has abolished that "W". It is possible that the initial "W" as seen in Germanic was present in Indo-European, but with the vowel "A" as in the other languages : "W Ā R-".


    This finds a confirmation in "Old Indian "vâra, vâraná = warding off, resisting, opposing".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Monday 16 September 2013 at 14.25.35