Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)?

BACKGROUND: I suggested to a forum of linguists that a certain Semitic word (attested to in Hebrew and Aramaic) is the basis for a similar-sounding Germanic word which essentially means the same thing. They rejected my proposal on the grounds that they know of no early interactions between Semitic and Gemanic peoples, see here for the discussion.

  • I just found a related question: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/911/… I thought you guys would have pointed out if this question was asked before... Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 13:25
  • 1
    I'm guessing you're talking about Proto-Germanic and proto-Semitic. Otherwise, Yiddish is a perfect example of a Germanic language (AHD) with some extra Hebrew vocabulary.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 2:48
  • @Mitch Indeed, I meant earlier examples, not just Yiddish. Commented Feb 23, 2019 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


There are some very controversial theories by the German linguist Theo Vennemann postulating a contact between Phoenician and proto-Germanic in the 6th to 3rd century BCE. The evidence for such contact is very thin and most linguists don't follow Vennemann.

The specific question on the origin of the word God was asked here before, and the consensus is that the word God derives from proto-Indogermanic and is not a loan from Hebrew or Aramaic. Such chance coincidences occur very often between any pair of languages.

  • 6
    A similar coincidence is Nahuatl teotl 'god' and Greek θεός 'god'. No relation nor contact between those languages whatsoever.
    – Midas
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 15:55
  • 3
    @ubadub While I don't at all agree with Vennemann's theories, he does still provide quite a lot evidence and a reasonable scientific explanation of it (even if I think that explanation is completely wrong). "Crackpot" seems unfair.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:22

No - however that doesn't mean semitic words which described man-made goods did not enter the Proto-germanic wordstore when that good was traded - words such as this are known as 'Wanderwörter' or 'wandering words'. The Akkadian (the oldest known semitic language spoken in Babylon) word for silver was 'kaspum'. When refining was discovered refined silver was known as 'kaspum ṣurpum' ('ṣarāpum' meant 'to refine') or just 'ṣurpum'.
'ṣurpum' seems to have been the source for the proto-germanic word '*silubra' from which comes English 'silver' and German 'Silber'.

However I can see no good reason to suggest that the word 'god' is such a Wanderwort.

  • 3
    “Silver” has cognates not only in Germanic, but also in Balto-Slavic (e.g. Russian серебро). So even if it were of Semitic origin (which is very far from certain) this would not be evidence for a relationship specifically between Semitic and Germanic (which is what the question is about).
    – fdb
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 17:26

I concur with @Ned - e.g. Matasovic in "Areal Typology of Proto‐Indo‐European: The Case for Caucasian Connections" mentions trade between Sumerian folks, North Caucasians and Yamana culture. In my humble opinion an important objective of trade was slavery, so even if the trade was indirect through intermediaries, language would have been brought along anyway.

By the way, for gada you might want to take a look at Egyptian "dd" - stability, common Anglicization Djed.

Consider a current theory for "god" as from a Lombardic "godan", variant of "Odin", a Germanic deity, also "Wotan", which wiktionary gives derived from *weh₂t-. Compare that to "veda" and above "mwt". That's not comprehensive nor coherent, but mighty interesting. Note *weh₂t- is linked to Old English ƿoþ /woːθ/ - sound, noise, cry, '''speech''', articulation, eloquence, song, poetry, voice. But more so Ger. "Wut" - strong emotion; cp. "rush", "rage" with "rushes, reeds" and "papyrus" and the like.

  • 1
    I fail to see any connection between ḍd or mdw and "stem" or "house". Could you explain more clearly what you mean?
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:25
  • @Draconis. No, I can't. It's a loose association, sorry. Temple is too big a word, anyway. Cp. similarly: Ger. "Stall" (stable, pen) from "stell-", cf. "stellen, stehen" (stand) ... "stick", PIE steyg- (to pierce, stick) with Ger. "Dach" (roof), PIE (s)teg- (to cover) ... Ger. "Stift" (pen, peg, pin), "Stiftung" (?) ... "staff" - stick, loyal servants, likewise Ger. "Stab" (staff), "Offiziersstab" (high command, subservant to the major) ... ruler ... support ... out-post ... and temple itself with alt. ety. PIE temp- (to stretch, string) to which cp. maybe "pillar", Lt. "pila", Oscan errect
    – vectory
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 3:57
  • 1
    Sorry, I'm going to have to downvote—loose association without explanation doesn't answer the question and only serves to confuse.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 4:19
  • @Draconis, that's not fair because downvoting means you think it's wrong, but if it's unknown you have as little proof for your assumption as I do. One important word to look at is wheel, PIE kweklos, supposedly akin to semitic - is that not so? The association is necessarily loose if associates were in fact loosely associated! The party line concerning chance incidence is tiresome and only means the requirement for proof is high. So without evidence in either direction the problem remains undecidable. I suggested a closer look and showed how confusing it would be. I will amend it, soonish.
    – vectory
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 11:39
  • 3
    This isn't about the answer being right or wrong, it's about it not clearly answering the question at all. If you can clean it up and make it clearer what you're talking about, I'll happily retract the downvote.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 15:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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