Animals have legs, and so it seems do terms for animals. Bulls in particular: Hebrew šūr (שור), Arabic θaur (ثور), Sanskrit sthūra, Greek ταυρος, Latin taurus, Russian туръ, Gothic stiur. Is there any way to know who took what from whom, and when? The odds against mere coincidence are long.

Is it even possible that Hebrew baqar (בקר), Arabic baqar (بقر) derive from Latin pecus/pecora, meaning either cattle or property in general? (In this case, Sanskrit, Baltic, and Germanic cognates based on *PEK’U rather than *PEK’OS seem to rule out the reverse direction.)

  • Interesting question! There is a root B-Q-R, but it doesn't have any obvious connection to cows.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:53
  • 1
    Is the question about one of these specific word groups, both or all Wanderwörter between IE and S in general? Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 4:19
  • @Draconis -- My modern Hebrew dictionary lists BQR as cattle. Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 11:20
  • @Adam Bittlingmayer -- Those specific words for animals only. Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 11:22
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    @BertBarrois Rephrase—there is a Hebrew word bāqār "cattle", but it doesn't seem to tie into a broader triconsonantal root B-Q-R. There is a triconsonantal root B-Q-R but it seems unrelated to the "cow" word (compare Arabic baqara "to split", baqqār "gravedigger", etc). If bāqār had tied into the root system fully, it would be solid evidence that it had originated in Semitic and couldn't have come from IE—but unfortunately that's not what we see.
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


This is not an answer but I couldn't share the image in a comment.

From: Menges, Karl H. “Etymological Notes on Some Non-Altaic Oriental Words in the Old-Russian Igoŕ-Song.” Oriens, vol. 9, no. 1, 1956, pp. 86–94. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1579602.

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  • "Osm" is "Old Semitic" or something like that?
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 16:27
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    @Draconis I believe, Osm. is (Old) Osman (Ottoman). The Turkic of a particular historical period.
    – tum_
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:38
  • Aha, that would be it!
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 17:51

Bert, your question requires a complete study to get a chronology for the words mentioned. As a loan word grazing through time and nations it seems almost impossible to point to an origin.

BQR may relate to ‘butcher’ as בשר (bsr) means ‘meat’. Latin macello (butcher) may relate to muscle and מהכוחַיִל (mhcuchjl) meaning ‘from the force’ in Hebrew and beef is mostly muscles and muscles are parts of the body that give strength. The letter ‘m’ in the Hebrew word I would in this case call an aglutinative prefix which in itself means ‘from’. We could pose that muscle has Semitic roots. BQR is harder to pinpoint but if the B is replaced by an S we get words like Turkish sığır besides words like boğa and bacağı (bull and leg). Egyptian wsr (F12-S29-D21) meaning powerful shows a description of the bull. All in all some conclusions can be made. I apply one of the rules I found in animal naming that a name of an animal is based on a description of a characteristic of the animal or its use for humans (or sometimes geographical reasons). In this case descriptive: its powerful muscles. And beef (use as meat). Osm (the Osman example) shows an invertion of musc(le). עם הכוח חיל a Hebrew phrase that is possibly cognate to muscle oruscle is its corrupted compound. Os-m/Osm/Ox-m (from power). Another indicator is the letter Alef which is /a/ but means ‘strength’ and is a bull’s head’. We know that cattle was domesticated long before all these languages arose. So we have to look for clues in culture and function, characteristics and usefulness of these animals in their names. These names still contain that knowledge if we dare to look for it.

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