How widespread across language families is the root, krt, meaning cut/short?

This root is prevalent across the Indo-European and Semitic language families. It may have spread across languages like technical terms today. But, to do so meant there was a point of contact between those languages. This root seems old enough to have spread before writing developed.

Indo-European: Webster gives the etymology of short as “[Middle English, from Old English sceort; akin to Old High German scurz short, Old Norse skortr lack].” (Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). (Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Eleventh ed.) In modern German kurtz means short. In Spanish cortar means to cut and corto means short. In Latin curtus means mutilated (cut). In Sanskrit kartayati means cut and kridhu4 means shortened.

Semitic: In Hebrew כָּרַת (karat) means cut. In Akkadian cuneiform karātu means cut and karû means short.

With this root showing up in Sanskrit and Akkadian, the connection may be before written language. What other language families does this root show up in? Ancient languages of other language families is a plus.

Note: the connection between between some Indo-European languages and Semitic languages is obvious. Greek got it's alphabet from Phoenician. We know it's Phoenician because that is where many of the Greek letter names mean something.

Earlier were the Babylonian (Akkadian language) and Hittite Empires. Indo-European languages were widespread around the Semitic languages.

  • 2
    Note: German kurz (no t in standard German orthography) and its immediate cognates are from a Germanic loan from Latin curtus. If it had been an inherited form from the same root, it would likely have been either *hurd- or *hurt-. The Spanish is obviously also from Latin curtus. There are lots of other cognates from the same root, though: shear, scrotum, shirt/skirt, score, carni-(vore), (ex)coriate, etc. (and that’s just the ones that happen to have made their way into English). Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 3:23
  • How is the last paragraph relevant? If you want to add Akkadian and Sanskrit in the mix, the root should either originate in IE and have been borrowed into Semitic much earlier (because Akkadian is much earlier than Phoenician), or have been borrowed into IE before Sanskrit split off, long before the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet...
    – Keelan
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 14:02
  • @Keelan A deleted answer seemed unaware of how far back historic connections go.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


Before leaping to conclusions about prehistoric borrowing, you should consider two alternative hypotheses: (1) echoic origin, and (2) coincidental similarity.
Arabic lacks an obvious cognate to KRT (כרת), but it has QŢ3 (قطع), QŢM (قطم), and QŢŢ (قطط) all meaning cut. Perhaps KT and QT imitated the sound of chopping, or KRT the sound of sawing.

Random similarities are entirely expected and quite common. Given a few thousand phonetic possibilities for roots in each family, and a few thousand meanings, the you are likely to find a handful of roots with seeming cognates in the other family. If you make further allowance for imperfect phonetic and semantic matches, you will find lots more. It is hard to put numbers on this phenomenon because human beings are apt to perceive remote semantic connections, and to look for patterns, similarities, and reasons where none really exist.


Wiktionary:short #Translations seems to be a good start for answering such questions with regard to modern/living languages.
It has no grouping by language families, however.

  • This is not an answer. Since wiktionary offers in many cases no etymological information, it is not even a helpful comment. It's also disingenuous to expect that a relevant lexeme had to turn up there, despite semantic change, synonymy and sound change. It barely even helps to discover wanderwords. But it's good for recent loanwords, see vulcano (Icelandic and one other are the only outliers). This answer is also rather unconventional. The customary obligation is to trace each word in its respective language family to show dissimilar roots.
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 21:16
  • @vectory The question asked how widespread the word is across language families, not for a thesis of how they are related to each other
    – b a
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 19:37

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