Does Swahili (and hence cognates of other Bantu languages) simba have any relation to सिंह (~singh or ~simha in Hindi and Sanskrit respectively according to Wiktionary, please correct me if I am wrong), or is it simply a coincidence? After all, they sound very similar and have almost identical meanings. If so, did this borrowing result from contact? Did Bantu and Indic/Indo-European language families have common ancestors? A cursory search on Wikipedia doesn't yield any clues.

Links: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Bantu/%C7%B9c%C3%ADmb%C3%A1, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/simba#Swahili, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/सिंह) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_languages#Suggested_macrofamilies

  • * A cursory search on Wikipedia doesn't yield any clues.* Asking a middle schooler would yield equal value – William Nov 10 '20 at 11:44

That is a coincidence, the two words are not related, neither are the Indo-European and Bantu languages.

The Swahili simba 'lion' comes from the Proto-Bantu *ǹcímbá 'any of various wild felines or similar, including wildcat, lion, leopard, civet, genet'.

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    @Anonymous - Yes, there are really many coincidences in unrelated languages. – Yellow Sky Nov 5 '17 at 17:40
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    Coincidences like this are very common. Any two languages taken at random will divulge a dozen or two words or word-like chunks that look or sound very similar and mean very similar things. That's unavoidable because there are many orders of magnitude fewer word-shapes available in any language than there are meanings to apply to them. The devil is in the details, in this case the meaning of "very similar" -- just how similar do meanings and sounds have to be? – jlawler Nov 5 '17 at 21:11
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    The majority view among Indologists is that the Sanskrit siṁha “lion” does not have an Indo-European etymology, but that it is a substrate word. Thus, the question of whether or not Indo-European and Bantu are related is of no relevance to this question. – fdb Nov 5 '17 at 23:18
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    False Cognates Alert :) – WiccanKarnak Nov 6 '17 at 7:14
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    This is only half an answer, missing the other root. Wiktionary (through our @Aryaman) makes the less bold claim "is likely unrelated". The Sanskrit form is compared to Tocharian, Chinese, Tibetan--all possible to have loaned from Buddhist scripture, yes? Chechen and other languages I don't know about are mentioned, too. The thing is, a root sinĵʰás is proposed, which is obviously not the same as Proto-Bantu, however for a limited time-depth under several assumptions (e.g. about contact). I wonder how Bantu is reconstructed, if writing came very late, – vectory Jan 1 '19 at 9:26

Indic languages are not related to the Bantu languages genetically; however, both Hindi/Urdu and Swahili were influenced by Arabic due to contact between speakers. Neither of these words arose through mutual loans from Arabic, though; 'lion' in Arabic is 'أسد,' or ' 'asada.'

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    siṁha is Sanskrit. Arabic has nothing to do with this. – fdb Nov 6 '17 at 9:50

Trade goes back to the 5th century BCE between India and the east coast of Africa. Under such circumstances, loan words occur between languages that are otherwise unrelated. A possible example: The word "sangha" in Sanskrit refers to "community", as does the word "sanga" in the Shona language.


i think both can be related as well as it could be a coincidence. relatedness possibilities are numerous as East African Coast of the "INDIAN" Ocean had been trading with Malabar Coast and Beyond and were connected by land since eternity. But, as Lion is one of the most prominent animal in all languages throughout the history. And Lions were found all over the world as well. Therefore introduction of the word, to and from India (or Indo-european) and Africa (sawahili) origins is equally plausible.
On the other hand, convergent evolution in human societies is a common occurrence. seemingly independent groups of people developed similar tools, skills, social structures and designs. similarly many words in unrelated languages often sound similar because ultimately all words originated from sounds. e.g. words describing sounds, animal sounds and natural phenomenological sounds and sounds associated with basic human actions and emotions like yawning, coughing, sobbing, laughing, etc. Thus both convergent development or built-in tendencies or genetically determined human social and intellectual progress resulting in similarities between unrelated societal groups should be explored more. And at the same time we should be open minded in examining the possibility of complex interactions and relations among distant societies. Trans-Atlantic Pre-Columbian interactions have recently been discussed, similarly ancient Indo-African interaction and diffusion should also be explored further.

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