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I just saw this insightful and touching video by John Green where he makes the connection between 'to gather' and 'together'. One could say "let's gather at the bus stop" for instance, causing the together-ness. In the comments, people started going into this and found that this is similar in their language as well.

  • German: "zu sammeln" and "zusammen"
  • Polish: "zbierać" and "zebranie/zbieranina"
  • Dutch: "verzamelen" and "(te)samen"
  • Greek: "Μαζί (mazi)" together, "μαζεύω (mazevo)" to gather
  • French: 'to gather' = '(se) rassembler', 'together' = 'ensemble'

My question is, is there actually a connection between the words on a semantic level? Like the causation relation I propose above? Or is this simply an evolution of two different Indo-european stems?

  • French: 'to gather' = '(se) rassembler', 'together' = 'ensemble' – Mathieu Bouville Jul 24 '19 at 5:34
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    The meaning of ‘gather’ is essentially ‘cause to be together’, so yes, I’d say there definitely is a strong semantic connection. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '19 at 13:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Indeed, or one could equivalently say the meaning of 'together' is 'gathered'. – Mark Beadles Jul 24 '19 at 13:16
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    Ah, those little inspirations when we realize what we think of as two concepts are actually the same! You can get them almost nonstop if you go in for Proto-Indo-European roots, though some of those roots have not been rootbound for 5 millennia. – jlawler Jul 24 '19 at 13:40
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    Consider also French conte, compter, German Zahl, zahlen, English count, account and tale, tally, Hebrew סִפּוּר (sippur - 'story'); סָפַר (safar - 'to count'). Three different roots - two of them in English - each having meanings including "tellling a story" and "counting items". – Colin Fine Jul 26 '19 at 18:08
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According to Etymonline, the English word goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root:

Old English togædere "so as to be present in one place, in a group, in an accumulated mass," from to (see to) + gædere "together" (adv.), apparently a variant of the adverb geador "together," from Proto-Germanic *gaduri- "in a body," from PIE *ghedh- "to unite, join, fit"

So it's not surprising that PIE-derived languages would have a related verb and adjective.

It is interesting how little relationship the languages' words seem to have to each other. But maybe I just don't know how to pronounce Polish? Or I'm not seeing the way the sounds mutate between languages?

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  • Even though this only references English etymology, I am inclined to accept this as the correct answer because it goes back to PIE (and PIE's always good). – Bram Vanroy Jul 24 '19 at 18:49
  • That root derives PGem * goda, "good", from *gadona "to join, fit, where PGem *gadurojan, "to gather" is subsumed tentatively by Kroonen; wiktionary also lists *gadur "together. However, neither gives more than Germanic and Balto-Slavic reflexes for the PIE root, which appears to be not enough. AGr agatha, "good", is given a rather different etymology. There's Gothic goths, "good" listed in the cognates, which is just too ironic. Of course everyone WT is sure that God is unrelated, though WT has no idea how to derive it. I'm not convinced of the PIE-ness of this. – vectory Jul 26 '19 at 21:20
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As it has been pointed out, it’s interesting that this works although the words don’t seem to be related between (some of) the languages. At least I cannot come up with a common root for engl. “gather” and German “sammeln”.

The German and Dutch versions are obviously related. What surprises me though, is that French “ensemble” and German “zusammen” do seem to be related.

That’s a connection I never would have made! ;)

Edit: In the comments on YouTube, someone pointed out that in Indonesian you have “bersama” for ‘together,’ deriving from “sama” meaning ‘equal’ or ‘same.’

This close similarity really surprises me, as you also have “beisammen” as an alternative to “zusammen” in German. Plus, this makes me think that “zusammen/sammeln” are related with engl. ‘same,’ meaning that when you come together, the different individuals become ‘same’.

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  • The Indonesian word bersama is indeed (partially) related to German zusammen: Malay and Indonesian sama is a loan from Sankrit सम (sama, “same, equal”) which is an Indogermanic cognate of German zusammen. On the other hand, the prefix ber- is purely Indonesian – jk - Reinstate Monica Jul 26 '19 at 14:20
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    All, surely, from the IE root "sm" = "one", which also undelies similar, seem, , resemble, simultaneous, simple, same, homo-, hetero-, semi-, hemi-, – Colin Fine Jul 26 '19 at 18:01
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Yes, of course there is a semantic connection. When things have been gathered, they are together, aren't they. So "together" is the result of having been gathered. So it's not surprising that they should share an etymology is many languages.

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  • It would be interesting to see some Indo-European root for this. – Bram Vanroy Jul 24 '19 at 15:14
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    @Bram I am sure you will be able to find a PIE root for each language you mentioned in your question. – Wilson Jul 24 '19 at 15:23
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    I have voted down this answer because, as true as it may be, I don't think that "you can easily look this up yourself" is a valid type of answer. It can be a comment if it's something worth stating. – LjL Jul 25 '19 at 15:09

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