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?


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

  • 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 '17 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 '17 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 '17 at 11:57

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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