A שד (pronounced shade) is a demon or ghost, in Hebrew. In English, the word 'shade' is used to mean ghost or demon in some places. (I find it in fantasy novels a lot.)

Is there any relation?


2 Answers 2


Probably not.

The etymology of English "shade" (newest to oldest) is something like:

  • Modern English "shade"
  • Old English sċeadu (shadow)
  • Proto-Germanic *skađwaz (shadow)
  • Proto-Indo-European *sk(e)h₃-tos (darkness)

There's decent evidence for this being a native Indo-European root; while it was most productive in Germanic, it has descendants in different parts of the world as well (Ancient Greek σκότος/skótos, Irish scáth, loaned into Finnish katve).

The main etymology of Hebrew šed that I've found is:

  • Modern Hebrew šed (spirit)
  • Aramaic šēḏā (demon)
  • Akkadian šēdu (a male lamassu (protective zodiac deity))
  • (Unknown preceding Proto-Semitic form - but see fdb's answer)

(Transcribing all of these because my computer does not like changing text direction mid-line.)

There doesn't seem to be any obvious connection between *sk(e)h₃-tos and šēdu, in form or in meaning. This is more likely just a coincidence.

  • 2
    Hmm. Well, that's a pretty good coincidence.
    – Mithical
    Jan 9, 2017 at 17:57
  • 8
    @Mithrandir Linguistic coincidences are legion. They happen all the time. For that reason, the default position when encountering a linguistic coincidence is to treat it as just that: coincidental, and nothing more, until such time as evidence is produced to make a concrete connection. In other words, when you hit a coincidence, either ignore it or see what the already-established etymologies have to say (as Draconis has done here in their answer).
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 9, 2017 at 18:57

Akkadian šēdu is probably cognate with Arabic saʽd “happiness”. Aramaic šēδā and Hebrew šēδ are most probably borrowings from Akkadian, with reversal of the meaning (“good spirit” > “pagan god” > “evil spirit”).The proto-Semitic form would then be *s1aʽd.


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