The English word "terror" is derived from the Latin "terrere", meaning "frighten". I noticed in reading a passage in Isaiah the Hebrew equivalent of "don't be afraid" which is אַל־תִּירָא ('al tira' - the ' is a mild glottal stop) where "be afraid" is "tira'" and "don't" is "'al". The form of the verb here is the second person (Qal) imperfect. The infinitive is יָרֵא (yare'). It's a stretch, but is there a chance that the Latin word could have roots in the Hebrew?

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    I turned out to be what's known as a chance resemblance. Oct 27, 2019 at 8:21
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    Which should be the default assumption for similar words between unrelated languages.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 27, 2019 at 13:53
  • Why this question was downvoted?
    – Quidam
    Nov 12, 2019 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


Almost certainly not. Latin terreō "frighten" has cognates all across the Indo-European world (AGrk tréō "to be afraid", Sanskrit trásati "to tremble with fear", OCS tręsti "to shake", OIr tarrach "timid", etc). This is strong evidence that it descends from a Proto-Indo-European word for "fear".

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    There is an alternative theory that it relates to *TERS, meaning $dry$. (Sudden fear causes a dry mouth.) Oct 27, 2019 at 11:13
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    @BertBarrois Oh, interesting, hadn't heard that one before. So cognate with "terra" and "thirst" in that case?
    – Draconis
    Oct 27, 2019 at 17:08
  • I cannot recall where I saw this theory, and I don't believe it myself, but it isn't any wilder than the metaphoric connection among gorse ~ horrēre ~ harṣayati. Oct 28, 2019 at 11:48
  • The same analogy can be drawn between scare, uncertain beyond Norse "shy, timid", to a similar root, *(s)kel- "withered" cf skeleton; cp *(s)ker- > shrink; be sure to scroll down, they list two entries: a) "to cut", b) "to turn, coil"; scroll further for "see *(s)skel-, *(s)kelH-". Cp *sker- without s-mobile? Cp screw, uncertain; cp G aufschrecken "to jump up, scared", Schreck "scare", Schrecken (idem); cp Leid "sorrow" vs Leiden < leiden "suffer"; Leidenschaft, Passion.
    – vectory
    Nov 14, 2019 at 21:39

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