In Tamil, there is a single word எண்(eN) which means 'count', 'number', 'think'. I am wondering if this is unique to Tamil? I am wondering if the other old classical languages have a similar word.

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    In English count has one sense of think, "consider, regard as": "I count him an honest man." Is the Tamil word employed for think in other senses? May 3, 2017 at 20:21
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    In Spanish, contar is a verb meaning to count (numbers), with a derived noun la cuenta 'the bill', for which one asks at a restaurant. Contar also means 'to tell a story'. This is very similar to the English meaning of account: do the accounts, account for every purchase, give an account of, his account of his experiences, etc. It is not at all uncommon for them to have those two meanings. Perhaps it's because stories are pan-human, while accountancy isn't.
    – jlawler
    May 3, 2017 at 21:04
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    @jlawler Native English tell/tale also doubles this way. I've always fancied it's because a narration 'adds' up the particular actions one after another. May 3, 2017 at 21:45
  • Also Hebrew: 'sefer' = a book, 'sippur' = a number. The root SFR has broadly the same range of senses as "cont-" in Romance (from Latin "computare") and "zahl/tell" in Germanic.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 1, 2017 at 17:31

3 Answers 3


The English word "reckon" has the same two meanings.

  • OP asked for "old classical languages". ;-) Jul 2, 2017 at 20:18

This is the case for Russian.

The word считать [ɕːɪˈtatʲ] has two meanings:

  1. to count as in "I counted my cats; fifteen are they";
  2. to consider, to think as in "I think that I'm too fat".

The etymology dictionaries (Vasmer) provide with the following explanation (note the Old Indic origin):

< Old Indic сḗtаti «to comply, think, discover, understand», kḗtas «thought, idea, will», cikitvā́n «understanding, knowing»,
Avestan čikiθwā̊ «wise»

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    I don't think Vasmer is claiming that the Russian word is of "Old Indic origin". I think he is saying that the two words are cognates.
    – fdb
    May 9, 2017 at 17:10

The English verb to ponder carries the two meanings of to think, mull over and to weigh, measure, from Latin pondus "weigh", which gave both the Italian verbs pensare and pesare, "to think' and "to weigh" respectively.

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