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


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'.

| improve this answer | |
  • Wow!! That's a huge coincidence then!! (haha I'm very inexperienced in linguistics, do such coincidences pop up all the time?) Both words are especially dear to me, the former from Lion King and the latter in the name of my country.. Thanks for your prompt answer! – Anonymous Nov 5 '17 at 16:04
  • 2
    @Anonymous - Yes, there are really many coincidences in unrelated languages. – Yellow Sky Nov 5 '17 at 17:40
  • 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
  • 2
    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
  • 1
    False Cognates Alert :) – WiccanKarnak Nov 6 '17 at 7:14

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.'

| improve this answer | |
  • 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.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.