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The German word Rahmen, which means frame (something you can put a picture in), looks like it could be cognate with frame if one could explain the initial f in English (or its loss in German). Is there something to this hypothesis or are they just false cognates?

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This question is in fact hotly debated. Some reputable scholars maintain that English “frame” is a borrowing from Old French, which had it from a Germanic form like *hraman, with hr > fr. In this case “frame” and “Rahmen” are cognates.

See the “Etymologie” section here: https://www.dwds.de/wb/Rahmen

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  • The Form *hraman isn't really well-supported (the attested Old German forms of Rahmen all lack an initial h) and it looks like a "tweaked" etymology just to make the pair frame/Rahmen fit. Jun 2, 2017 at 8:37
  • @jknappen. The link cites: "aengl. hremman ‘einengen, behindern’, anord. hremma ‘fassen, klemmen, drücken’, got. hramjan ‘kreuzigen’ (d. i. ‘an ein Gestell heften’), russ. (landschaftlich) krómy (кромы) Plur. ‘Webstuhl’,"
    – fdb
    Jun 2, 2017 at 10:11
  • On the other side, frame has a lot of Germanic cognates with initial f, including Scandinavian ones (a change hr- > fr- is essentially West Franconian, so no Nordic cognates expected in this case), e.g. (from the wiktionary entry on frame): From Middle English framen, fremen, fremmen (“to construct, build, strengthen, refresh, perform, execute, profit, avail”), from Old English framian, fremian, fremman [...]. Cognate with Low German framen (“to commit, effect”), Danish fremme (“to promote, further, perform”), Swedish främja (“to promote, encourage, foster”), Icelandic fremja (“to commit”). Jun 2, 2017 at 11:57
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Although they sound similar, these words are not related. Rahmen ultimately comes from Proto-Indo-European *rem(w)- ("a support, a base"). And frame ultimately comes from Proto-Indo-European *promo- ("front or forward").

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