When writing a text message with my phone, I often write "good n8" to say good night. Yet, I notice that this could also work in many other languages, or if not, it's pretty close. For instance :

Language - translation of eight - translation of night

French - huit - nuit

German - acht - Nacht

Dutch - acht - nacht

Spanish - ocho - noche

Portuguese - oito - noite

Norwegian - åtte - natt

Swedish - åtta - natt

Romanish - opt - noapte

And so on...

Is this a mere coincidence, or is there an actual link between both of these words?

  • night, eight – bytebuster Feb 18 '15 at 19:43
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    i don't think "good n8" works in english at all. "good neight? huh? in german it actually makes sense because "nacht" and "acht" rhyme. "eight" and "night" don't. – ell Feb 19 '15 at 0:16
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    Commenting on: "i don't think "good n8" works in english at all. "good neight? huh? in german it actually makes sense because "nacht" and "acht" rhyme. "eight" and "night" don't. – sgroves 1 hour ago" 'Eight' and 'night' DO rhyme when spoken by an Australian. – decemberjazz Feb 19 '15 at 2:07
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    Must provide a comment from an Australian: it's a nice attempt at making a joke, but it's way off the mark. Roughly, a really broad "strine" accent would pronounce night as noight, and eight as maybe ight. – a different ben Feb 19 '15 at 5:02
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    Indeed, another Australian here -- can't conceive of an accent regional or urban where this is true. – jogloran Feb 19 '15 at 5:05

"Eight" comes from Proto-Indo-European oḱtou and "night" comes from nokʷts, so there is some similarity in the historically earlier forms. Due to ordinary sound changes into Italic and Germanic, you find similarities in the daughter languages, which explains the similarities of these words. But 'similar' is different from 'identical', and there is no special connection between these two words. If you look at the "satem" languages (Slavic, Baltic, Indo-Aryan) they look less similar, since "eight" will have something like [š] instead, again due to a regular sound change.

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    To add some satem correspondences, compare Russian vósemʹ 'eight', Lithuanian aštuoni 'eight', and Sanskrit aṣṭa 'eight' with Russian nočʹ 'night', Lithuanian naktis 'night', and Sanskrit nákti 'night'. – limetom Feb 18 '15 at 21:06
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    This is a bad answer. *h3eḱteh3- and *nokwt- have only –t- in common. – fdb Feb 18 '15 at 21:57
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    I assume you noticed my PIE data. When ḱ and kʷ neutralize because of independently motivated sound changes, you expect formerly-different things to become more alike. To rephrase, the daughter-language similarity is due to the particular daughter-language rules, not the PIE source. It is obvious that ḱ and kʷ are similar: similar is different from identical. – user6726 Feb 18 '15 at 22:38
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    It would help a little if you put an * before hypothetical forms. I would contest that *ḱ and *kʷ are "similar" in that they are not sounds, but purely algebraic symbols for hypothetical proto-phonemes. Nobody knows how PIE sounded. – fdb Feb 19 '15 at 9:48

The Latin word for night is nox/noct-is and for eight octo. There is a similarity of sounds, but I think it is highly improbable that there is some etymological relationship between the two words. I can 't think of any idea that would lead to naming a quantity of 5+3 after night. What has night to do with a number? Even if we don't know the exact ideas behind the words for the numbers we may assume that there is some logic in them. Words are no arbitrary invention.

The ancient Germanic peoples and perhaps their predecessors measured just about everything in terms of tides. According to wikipedia (I know that is a less than ideal source) they used eight tides to measure day and night - not sure if this is at all helpful

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide_(time)

  • Both words go back well beyond "the ancient Germanic peoples", whoever they may have been. – Colin Fine Jul 19 '16 at 16:01

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