Is the Latin word vivere (to live) cognate to the Hebrew word aviv אביב (Spring)? Someone pointed out the resemblance to me, and it looks plausible, but I haven't found any conclusive answer.

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    I'll leave it for a better historical linguist than me to give you a definitive answer, with the proper reconstructions, but I will say: very very very unlikely. The (first) 'v' in the Latin (which would have been /w/ rather than /v/ in Classical Latin anyway) goes back to Indo-European /gʷ/; while the Hebrew /v/ goes back to a /b/.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:44
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    Unless you have something really strong to go on, your basic assumption should be that it's coincidental. The two words don't even have similar meanings!
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 23:42
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    This question has been marked as "off-topic: Language-specific grammar and usage questions". It is, however, not language-specific as it is about a comparison of two languages; it is also not a grammar question, nor a usage question. For this reason, I've voted to "leave open", even if on its own merits, this question should probably be closed due to lack of basic research. Make of that what you will, I'm tired of seeing this close reason being used in bogus ways.
    – LjL
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 0:25
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    @LjL Without a close vote reason for bad etymology questions, many of us use the top close vote reason. It is not illegitimate because this question is not about linguistic systems, it is instead about the arbitrary coincidental vague similarity of single words in two languages. But we should change the text of the close vote reason.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 3:07
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    Additionally, I don't even think that it is appropriate to close this kind of questions, since they are after all about linguistics and there's nothing intrinsically inappropriate about them. They do tend to lack any basic research, which is precisely what downvotes are for. But still, voting to close with a reasonable explanation certainly beats voting to close with a bogus one.
    – LjL
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 14:03

2 Answers 2


Latin viv-ere "to live", viv-us "alive" is regularly derived from PIE *gweyH3- "to live, be conscious". It has nothing to do with Hebrew aviv אביב (spring). Neither phonetics nor semantics match.


Arnaud Fournet's answer is correct: there's no evidence for a relationship. But to add a bit more evidence that there isn't a connection…

The Classical pronunciation of vīvere was something like /wiːwɛrɛ/, while the Biblical pronunciation of אָבִיב was something like /ʔɑːbiːb/. Both words are attested well before the relevant sound changes (W-hardening and beghadkephath spirantization) made them look similar.

In addition, אָבִיב is a regular formation in Hebrew. The pattern קָטִיל (_ā_ī_) is fairly well-attested in Hebrew for periods of time, and the root אבב ('-b-b) for "beginning to grow" is attested in both Hebrew and Aramaic. It's very unlikely that a loanword would fit so nicely into the Semitic root system.

Finally, vivere is a regular formation in Latin. It comes from the well-attested Indo-European root *gʷ-yh₃-, with cognates in Germanic, Indo-Aryan, Hellenic, Slavic, and Celtic at least. This pretty conclusively rules out a loan into Latin.

EDIT: To drive the last nail into the coffin, Nadav Har'El has brought up Amharic አበባ (abäba), from the same Semitic root. This shows that the '-b-b root is significantly older than the Latin language itself. There could still have been some contact between an older stage of IE and an older stage of Semitic, but as you've seen, the underlying IE and Semitic roots don't look anything alike; their descendants have converged by chance.

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    FWIW, the major English cognate of vivir is quick. Although in modern English it tends to refer to speed, there are some archaic or technical terms like "quickening" where it retains the meaning of "alive". Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 1:02
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    Write. I'd like to add that the root "abb" is indeed an early semitic root, as evidenced by the name of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addis_Ababa, referring to a flower, in the Amharic language. When these languages split, Latin did not exist yet, so it cannot be a borrowing from Latin. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 7:14
  • @NadavHar'El Oh, that's a fascinating bit of information! I didn't know it had any Amharic cognates; I'll update.
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:41

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