I originally posted this a while ago on my blog, but someone recently suggested that I pose it as a question here.

A brief Wikipedia search on the origin of the word ‘god’ reveals the following:

The earliest written form of the Germanic word god comes from the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus. The English word itself is derived from the Proto-Germanic * ǥuđan. Most linguists agree that the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form * ǵhu-tó-m was based on the root * ǵhau(ə)-, which meant either ‘to call’ or ‘to invoke’.

Google came up with this link which presents a survey of various sources that attempt to decipher the origin of the word. It begins with a short summary of its conclusion, which contains the following sentence:

The word God is a relatively new European invention, which was never used in any of the ancient Judaeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.

I am befuddled by the fact that they seem to have overlooked a very clear source.

In Genesis 30:11 - we read:

וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה בגד \ בָּא גָד

And Leah said, "gad has come."

Targum [Pseudo-]Jonathan interprets:

וַאֲמַרַת לֵאָה אָתָא מַזְלָא טָבָא

And Leah said, "the good 'mazal' (astrological sign / luck) has come."

I would assume that if ‘mazal’ = ‘gad’ then we could have a pretty good indication of where the word ‘god’ came from.

If this isn’t good enough, note the word גדא which is mentioned several times in the Talmud. See, for example, Hullin 40a:

אמר אביי לא קשיא הא דאמר להר הא דאמר לגדא דהר דיקא נמי דקתני דומיא דמיכאל שר הגדול

...Abbaye said, "it is not problematic, for this is when he said [he was slaughtering it] for the mountain and this is where he said it was for the gada (referring some heavenly minister that some would serve as a god) of the mountain...

It is quite clear from the context that גדא דהר means just that; god of the mountain!

Does anyone have any knowledge that would help in figuring out whether or not these words (גד and god) are actually related, as they seem to be?

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    The answers below seem to conclude that this is a coincidence. I'll just add that the word is quite short and simple, and the significance you ascribe to the match would have been more likely had the word contained 7 or 8 syllables.
    – Double AA
    Aug 3, 2012 at 6:53
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    Although the answers that preceded me seem to conclude that "God" is not related to גד, it's interesting to note that Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (in his commentary to Genesis 1:1, in the end of his discussion of the word "א-להים") does say that "God" is connected to "גד."
    – b a
    Nov 1, 2012 at 1:42
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    It's very rare to have 7 syllables; perhaps you meant 7 phonemes? I have always been interested in the Abraham/Brahman connection but it's very hard to find anything scholarly on the matter in the midst of the morass of ecstatics online jumping on it. Nov 2, 2012 at 1:11
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    The uses of "gad" in this is all simply wrong; "gad" means goat. As for the Targum Jonathan here, the astrological sign Cancer is represented by a goat. "Gada d'har" would mean "mountain goat". Apr 18, 2014 at 15:23
  • Whether gad also means goat does not change the point. The point is that the word refers to a power that was worshiped, as is clear from passages in the Talmud such as the one cited, as well as Isaiah 65:11 הַעֹרְכִים לַגַּד שֻׁלְחָן. Cancer being the sign of the goat only amplifies this point.
    – Dov F
    May 4, 2014 at 2:45

2 Answers 2


Hebrew is an Afro-Asiatic language, whereas Proto-Germanic is an Indo-European language.

Both superethnic and cultural groups (Afro-Asiatics and Indo-Europeans) were connected through the history of trade, migrations, and the written alphabet. Afro-Asiatic cultures had trade routes throughout the Middle East, Orient, and Asia; and Indo-European cultures had both migratory and trade routes throughout the Orient, the Middle East and Europe; both groups shared these routes for thousands of years. The first written alphabet was Phoenician (Afro-Asiatic), and it was used as a model for the development of the Indo-European alphabets.

But we don't know of any relation between these two language families: they seemed entirely unrelated even in our earliest sources. If there is any relation, it is shrouded in the mists of remote prehistory (although some people hypothesise a prehistoric relation). Barring very strong evidence to the contrary, any similarity between a Hebrew word and a Germanic word must therefore be ascribed to coincidence.

had trade route interactions with Afro-Asiatic cultures for thousands of years

There are two theories about the origin of the Germanic word, which is still uncertain:

  1. It could be from Proto-Indo-European *ghau- "call, invoke", as the entity that is invoked;

  2. Or it could come from Proto-Indo-European *gheu- "pour", as the entity to which libations are offered.

Do you have any information about the origin of the Hebrew word?

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    @DovF Historical linguistics works by establishing systematic sound correspondences. One word is just not enough for this and may very well be a coincidence. Jul 10, 2012 at 17:59
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    @DovF: You would be amazed at the many striking coincidences that exist in linguistics, especially etymology! So, yes, I strongly expect this to be coincidental. If you look up the etymology of the Hebrew words, I believe that will shed some light upon the coincidence (or connection...). Unfortunately, I can't read Hebrew. Could you look the word up for me and give me a translation of what this etymological dictionary has to say about the etymology of גד? hebrewetymology.com
    – Cerberus
    Jul 10, 2012 at 20:27
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    @Cerberus Just for your information, that dictionary you linked isn't an actual etymological dictionary. It's one of many different mystic attempts to place Hebrew at the root of all languages. That becomes more clear if you look at the (English) introduction, which claims Hebrew has no roots in any other language and each Hebrew letter represents one of seven primal concepts that are combined to create meaning. As Alex B remarked below, a real etymological dictionary will ultimately trace it back to Proto-Semitic *gadd-/*gād-.
    – voikya
    Jul 15, 2012 at 7:24
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    By the way, Dov, for me, as in many parts of the English-speaking world, "God" and "Gad" have completely different vowels and certainly not "pronounced virtually the same".
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 23, 2012 at 22:38
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    @Cerberus I realize this is an old discussion, but you wanted it looked up in a Hebrew entomological dictionary, so: masculine noun, 1) good fortune, luck. 2) name of the god fortune (occurring often in Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions and as an element in many Phoen. and Aram. private names), related to JAram/Syriac "gadda", Nabatean and Palmyrene "gada", Arabic "jadd"
    – Mike
    Jun 29, 2014 at 21:13

Theological issues aside, I can see several wrong assumptions in your question.

"The word God is a relatively new European invention, which was never used in any of the ancient Judaeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin."

It's not entirely clear what you meant there. If you are talking about the English word "god", then why would you expect to come across an English word in a Latin or Greek text? If you are talking about the concept of "god(s)", then your assumption is inaccurate. It is a well-known fact that various Indo-European peoples had gods, attested by names of deities (Jupiter, Zeus, Perkunas etc.) and the word 'god', e.g. Latin 'deus', Vedic 'devas' etc. As a matter of fact, Father Sky is a very common deity in many IE cultures. A common motif is the main god fighting/killing some chthonic creature (a snake or a dragon).

Now about "Gad" and English "god". The wrong assumption here is what Yuri Otkupschikov called "chronological scissors" (chronological disparity). You are comparing words that don't belong to the same time period. Yes, in OE the word was "god" but looking at other Germanic languages you can't help but notice that originally the root vowel was not "o" but rather "u", e.g. have a look at this.

I'm not a Hebraist (nor a Semitologist) but here's what I've been able to find about the origin of the Hebrew proper noun "Gad". I strongly recommend looking it up at least in Klein 1987:

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A general remark on etymology:

"A generally accepted principle (advocated by Meillet) permits only comparisons which involve both sound and meaning together. Similarities in sound alone (for example, the presence of tonal systems in compared languages) or in meaning alone (for example, grammatical gender in the languages compared) are not reliable, since they often develop independently of genetic relationship, due to diffusion, accident and typological tendencies" (Campbell 2004: 356, emphasis mine - Alex B.)

Executive summary: I am very skeptical of your hypothesis/evidence and my answer is no.

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    Chronological disparity: Hebrew "Gad", OE "god", and current Ashkenazi Hebrew "guhd".
    – Alex B.
    Jul 10, 2012 at 18:55
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    @DovF, I see. So you want me to do all the work for you. Since “god” is a pan-Germanic isogloss (present in most, if not all, Germanic languages, in the same form), then this putative borrowing must have happened before the Germanic languages split into two groups (“from approximately 2500 B.C. to the beginning of our era”). Now about the putative borrowing via Latin (?), since you didn’t specify the possible “intermediary” language. If it was indeed the case, you should easily find traces of the Hebrew “gd” in Latin or whatever language you propose for Roman Christians. Any evidence?
    – Alex B.
    Jul 11, 2012 at 16:37
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    The only possibility that I could see was that perhaps this is an exceptional case of where a combination of sound + meaning survived from the common ancestors of the Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European proto-languages: some linguists hypothesise a common proto-language called "Nostratic". That would still be extreme speculation. But then one would expect the meanings and sounds to converge as one goes back in time to known proto-roots, which is not the case. Further, since the proposed Urheimats of PAA and PIE are far apart, and PAA is perhaps 10,000 years older, a link seems all but impossible.
    – Cerberus
    Jul 11, 2012 at 16:58
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    And, of course, Grimm's law is looming ...
    – Alex B.
    Jul 11, 2012 at 16:58
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    I know of one respectable scholar (Theo Veenemann) who argues for a number of borrowings into Germanic (specifically) from Semitic (the root of "earth" is one of his examples). But his theory has few proponents, and of course at the time depth he is not suggesting that the source is any semitic language that we have specific knowledge of.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 23, 2012 at 22:44

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