Have is said to come from the PIE word that means to keep. (Habere in latin also comes from PIE for to take.) I have been thinking that, because some words such as street have been borrowed from Latin into later Proto-Germanic, considering the similarities, could have come from Latin habeo/habere?

I think the b could have changed into f and then a v. The 2nd and 3rd happens from PIE *p a lot.

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    You actually don't need b > f > v. b > v is common enough on its own, without requiring the sound to change voicing twice. Feb 4, 2020 at 23:41
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    In fact, b > v between vowels happened in Vulgar Latin! However, "have" has a well-attested PIE etymology, so there's no reason to suppose an extra borrowing.
    – Draconis
    Feb 4, 2020 at 23:59
  • While it is pretty clear that to have is not a borrowing from Latin (or later Romance) into Germanic, there is the possibility that to have has borrowed some of the meanings of Latin habere, a process named * Lehnbedeutung* ('semantic loan') Feb 5, 2020 at 13:19

2 Answers 2


English "have" is not cognate with Latin "habere" - even though they seem very close to each other.

English "have" is from PIE *kap- "to seize, take," cognate with Latin "capere." Grimm's law shifted PIE *k to proto-Germanic *x, which became English /h/.

The Latin habere's etymology is a bit less attested, but might come from PIE *ghabh-, which also means "to seize, take."

  • German "haben" can't be regularly from *kap-, don't be silly
    – vectory
    Feb 5, 2020 at 5:17
  • "a bit lesd attested" has to be the understatement of the year. It is basically not reconstructable for PIE so poor is the evidence (as far as it is presented in wiktionary: celtic and Italic, also known as Celt-Italic; correct me if I'm wrong).
    – vectory
    Feb 5, 2020 at 5:34
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    @vectory Do you know about Verner's Law?
    – TKR
    Feb 5, 2020 at 5:54
  • @vectory - The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European says "Although *ghabh- is primarily attested in the West (e.g. O[ld]Ir[ish] gaibid 'takes,' Lat[in] habeō 'have,' Lith[uanian] gabenù 'present,' Pol[ish] gabać 'sieze'), it provides one of the Sanskrit words for 'hand' (gábastin-)" p.271. Feb 5, 2020 at 16:58
  • Maybe wiktionary is more up to date, and maybe the root is not as wide spread as the Oxford Introduction to PIE claims, but I was using a different source, so had different information Feb 5, 2020 at 17:01

Could they? Sure, it's possible. "Yeet" could also be a borrowing from Proto-Western-Romance *jejt-, which survived unattested in one obscure English dialect for several centuries before becoming famous in the era of Vine. But it almost definitely isn't.

In other words, quite a lot of things are technically possible. It's very hard to prove a negative. It's technically possible that Japanese and Arapaho are Indo-European languages, and it would be extremely hard to show 100% conclusive proof that they aren't—even though that theory is ridiculous and there's no evidence to support it. That's just the nature of science.

This is why Occam's Razor is important: the simpler explanation is often the better one. It's somewhere between difficult and impossible to prove that Proto-Germanic *xabjaną existed before all contact with the Romans, because all our attestations of Germanic are post-Roman-contact. But we can say with good confidence that the PIE root *k-h₂p- existed, and that if this root's *-ye- present had survived into Germanic and gone through the usual sound changes, it would have come out looking exactly like *xabjaną. This is a simpler explanation that doesn't require us to assume any loanwords, so Occam's Razor says it's probably the better one.

  • I guess this one is a popular one mainly because of the very analogous ways in which descendants of habere and descendants of *xabjaną tend to be used, both as verbs for "have", and as auxiliary verbs for some kind of past tense and/or perfect aspect. That's a kind of Occam's razor, too, just from a different perspective. I'm not saying I don't believe in the accepted etymology, but it was one of those linguistics things that blew my mind a little when I first read about it, because I had always subconsciously assumed that the Latin and the Germanic had to share an origin. Yes I know.
    – LjL
    Feb 5, 2020 at 1:52
  • @LjL A very good point! I assumed the same, until it was brought up as an example of Grimm's Law in some class or other.
    – Draconis
    Feb 5, 2020 at 1:53

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