The English word sibling comes from sib + ling. According to the OED the etymology of sib is:

Etymology: Old English sib(b , = Old Frisian (and Frisian) sib , Middle Dutch sib(be , zibbe , Old High German sippi (Middle High German sippe ), Gothic (un)sibjis . With the noun uses compare Old Frisian sibba , sibbe , Middle Dutch sibbe , etc., Old Saxon sibbio (Middle Low German sibbe ), Old High German sippo (German sippe , sipp ) kinsman.

Are there another other equivalents of the word sibling in other European languages which come from the same root? The German word "geschwister" for example seems to come from Middle High German geswister, from Old High German giswestar which is a different root as far as I can tell.

In fact I am not even sure which other European languages have a word for sibling. It seems that French does not but Danish has "søskende".

  • did you mean root? – Anixx Jun 16 '16 at 19:11
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    If you want a random example, sibling is "sourozenec" in Czech (West Slavic, similarly súrodenec in Slovak and Sorojenec in Slovenian). This word is composed of sou-rozen-ec, and literally means something like a co-birther. As an answer says, Slavic languages including Czech use the old root in "sebe/sobě" (self). – Luboš Motl Jun 17 '16 at 13:12
  • Modern WF has "sibbe (N) (kinsman)", "besibbe" (related: e,g. "Frysk en Ingelsk binne besibbe talen" (Frisian and English are related languages) ,"sibskip". No word like "sibling" exists though. – Henno Brandsma Dec 12 '16 at 7:43
  • Could you explain what "WF" is? – Lembik Dec 12 '16 at 11:35
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    @Lembik West Frisian – J. Siebeneichler Dec 6 '17 at 15:11

The English sibling is ultimately derived from the Proto-Indo-European *s(w)e-bh(o), an enlargement of the root *swe- "self" and is related to the second element in the English word gossip.

Slavic languages have words which are also derived from the PIE *s(w)e-bh(o), for example, Russian has the root seb- ("себ-") also meaning "self" (для себя - 'dlya sebya' - "for oneself"). There is also an adjective sobstvenny ("собственный") - '(one's) own' formed from another variant of the root, *sob-.


German has the word Sippe, meaning tribe or kinfolk (in a broader sense), nowadays probably mostly used as a deprecative word for someone's family, which has the same root as English sibling:

From Wiktionary:

From Old High German sibba, sippa, from Proto-Germanic * sibjō. Cognate to English sib.

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