In English and Spanish, the words for “welcome” have an uncanny relation: the translation (so to speak) is almost (if not completely) literal. Bien means ‘well’ and venidos means ‘come/came’ in the plural or something along those lines. I looked up if it came from Latin (in English welcome), and it said that it didn’t. So, I am wondering if there is a reconstructed PIE phrase of invitation that translated as “(you’re) well, come” or something like that.

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    I don't know the details off the top of my head, but I suspect a calque rather than inheritance. (A "calque" is when a phrase is translated word-for-word into another language and becomes an idiom.)
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 3:59
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    Just to further muddy the waters: in some variants in some Very High Alemannic dialects, the first part is wol or even göt (gut). And of course the general construction is similar in South Slavic, Turkish, Armenian, Persian... Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 17:46
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    The rather surprising word-history of English "welcome" can be found here: oed.com/view/Entry/…
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 19:01
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    How on earth is this a "translation or identification" request, the reason stated for the close votes? Seriously, are people voting Close and selecting a reason at complete and utter whim? Sorry if this seems like an overreaction, but I'm going through the queue and it gets more ridiculous the more of them I review.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 18:16
  • Also, the completely unrelated language Sami has the word "buresboahtin" for welcome and this also means "well come" in the same way as the English and Spanish words you have pointed out Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 19:26

3 Answers 3


It seems that English welcome derives from wilcuma, where wil- seems to derives from proto-Germanic * wiljaną. On the other hand, Spanish bienvenido(s) (French bienvenue(s), Portuguese bem-vindo(s), ...) and similar expressions in other Romance language, are recent constructions, not attested in classical Latin. This seems to exclude a common origin of the English form and Romance forms.

  • Recency does not exclude common origin. Probably a semantic loan. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:54
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    Part of your answer is quoted material and you should provide a link.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 15:15

The etymology of the two expressions goes back to different sources, but the conceptual link is somewhat similar. "Welcome" goes back to "will" and not to "well" (etymonline.com/word/welcome). So the semantic origin would be something along the lines of "your coming suits my will/wish". "Bienvenidos" and Romance cognates, instead, go back to Latin "bene" ('well'). There is no exhaustive explanation in the etymological dictionaries of Romance languages that I have consulted, but the semantics should be something like "I consider your coming good".

  • will and well are themselves related, although it's unclear how long this connection remained clear in the minds of speakers
    – Tristan
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 13:34
  • @Tristan But "will" and "well" are completely unrelated to "bene", which means this phrase by definition cannot go back to PIE, which is the asker's question.
    – cmw
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 5:20
  • @cmw sure, the main point of the answer is correct that the two phrases are not directly related. I was just addressing the 'goes back to "will" and not to "well"' which, whilst not wrong, glosses over the fact the two words are themselves connected. As I said, it's also unclear if the connection between "will" and "well" would have been clear at the stage when "welcome" was formed (likely no later than common West Germanic, as the phrase has descendants throughout the branch)
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 9:43
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    wiktionary suggests the Latin is a calque of the Frankish reflex (with this showing confusion between will & well after the medial -ja- was lost, something seen in most modern reflexes outside Germany), which can't be ruled out
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 9:46

Accepting that "wiktionary suggests the Latin is a calque of the Frankish reflex [...] which can't be ruled out" (@Tristan), the question is about the origin of welcome.

The reconstructed root of come is also found as exponent in Sanskrit (eg. अध्वगत् (adhvagat, “traveller”) अवगन्तोस् (ávagantos, “to descend; to approach; to visit; to obtain; to undertake”), en.wiktionary: गम्).


welcome is rather sugggestive of an older typus of word formation. However, as an interjection, the context is so eroded, it is very unlikely to yield any significant evidence.

before 900; Middle English < Scandinavian; compare Old Norse velkominn, equivalent to velwell1 + kominncome (past participle); replacing Old English wilcuma one who is welcome, equivalent to wil- welcome (see will2) + cuma comer


Ideally, it should tell us something new about the root *gʷem- and its derivation.

PS: As for well respectively will, Dutch wel is informative

  • cf. *Phillippa et al.

    PIE pie. *uelh1-, *uolh1- ‘kiezen’ (LIV 677),

    Vergelijkbare afleidingen in andere talen zijn: Oskisch ualaemom ‘best’; Sanskrit várīyas ‘beter’; Welsh gwell ‘id.’.

    i.e. wil- = ‘choose’

  • van Veen & van der Sijs,

    de grondbetekenis zal zijn ‘naar wens’.

    i.e. well = ‘as desired’,

  • de Vries,

    Het veel besproken got. waila zal te lezen zijn als wĕla en niet met tweeklank

  • van Wijk,

    Got. waila “wel, goed” is met oi. vélâ- “geschikte tijd, gelegenheid, tijd, grens, raakpunt” en ier. fêil “kerkelijk feest” [dit komt echter van lat. vigilia] gecombineerd. [Ook wel heeft men hierbij gebracht, van oergerm. i-vocalisme uitgaand.] Veeleer echter is waila als waíla op te vatten en met wel identisch

(etymologiebank.nl: wel)

That's problematic. Cf. en.Wiktionary.

First, the tweeklank (diphthong) readily suggests E. wail, cp. PIE *way-.

Second, Old Irish feil, cp. Welsh gwel, from “the imperative of Proto-Celtic *weleti (“see”)” and, third, Latin vigilia "watch, awake" > Old Irish féil "feast" are confounding, PIE *wel- “to see” and *weǵ- “to be strong” respectively.

Fourth, besides, Old Irish féile is on the one hand genitive of féil “feast” and on the other hand a “generosity”:

From Proto-Celtic *wēliyā (“modesty”), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *wey- (“turn”), *wāg- (“to be bent”), which could be related to Latin vagus (“wandering, strolling”).[...]

Fifth, Latin ave "hello" is on one hand “from Punic [script needed] (ḥawe, “live!”, 2sg. imp.)” but, on the other hand, “The form might have been contaminated by Etymology 2”, imperative of aveō “to desire”.

Sixth, we have equivalent Latin vale, which see.

Well, it is save to say that this mess of mechanic reconstructions based on crude sound correspondences does not allow any phraseology of interjections which are typically shrugged of as onomatopoeia (cp. oi, ey, hey, hi, lo, ...).

The wide array of vaguely similar meanings should be quite suggestive, however. More research is needed.

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    I have no idea what this is about, or what its relevance is to the question.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 18:25
  • It says literally "the question is about the origin of welcome" (relevance) and "welcome is rather suggestive of an older typus of word formation" (what this is about). It's not saying that "there is a reconstructed PIE phrase of invitation" (o.p.), because "the context is so erroded," It's a nicer way of saying you have no idea. Your comment specifically confirms this.
    – vectory
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 1:53

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