I noticed these two words share the same central consonants, and wouldn't it be fascinating if the l-b-n semitic root has a common source to the English "albin-" as in albino and albinism?

I did some basic research, and it seems that "albino" comes from the latin "albus" which in its root lacks the third consonant of the semitic l-b-n, which would seem to make the connection less likely. "לבן", meanwhile, comes from the same root in Proto-semitic, so if there's shared ancestry, it extends back somewhere on the order of a few thousand years. Not sure what to do from here to follow this further down the rabbit hole, so I'm hoping that one of you is similarly fascinated to me on this connection.

Edit Notes:

  • Thanks @cmw for pointing out that while "albus" lacks the "n" in the root, albino and albinism come from the modified "albinus", meaning related-to white as opposed to referring to the color white itself. Modified the above slightly to reflect this
  • Somehow didn't notice a misspelling in an earlier version of this question. Fixed!
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    To the close-voters: this may or may not be on-topic, but it surely isn't a language-specific grammar and usage question.
    – Draconis
    Sep 7 '21 at 19:00
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    @Draconis I think we should request SE staff for a fourth close reason to be used on low quality etymology questions. If one of us is elected mod then maybe we can do that.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 8 '21 at 2:04
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    @curiousdannii If we add low-quality etymology questions as a fourth close-reason (this is, by the way, not a trivial thing to do, if I recall correctly), this would not be an example of it. This is a good etymology question that shows an absolutely reasonable level of research undertaken. Sep 8 '21 at 10:40
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    @Janus I disagree, this question gives no reason to think it's not coincidental. That should always be the null hypothesis for any is-there-a-link etymology question. Good questions should give something more than surface level similarities.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 8 '21 at 10:45
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    @curiousdannii That pretty much rules out any etymology question whose asker isn’t a historical linguist already. The fact that coincidence is the null hypothesis does not make any question where coincidence is the answer off-topic. Sep 8 '21 at 10:48

Draconis is correct, but I want to add an additional note. Latin did not "chop off" the final consonant. What really happened is that we start with the word albus, which is an adjective meaning "white", and add another adjectival suffix ending in -inus (-a, -um), to get albinus, essentially "pertaining to" or "relating to the color white." It was a Roman name.

This is the very same suffix we see throughout Latin, though, and is how we go from Constans to Constantinus, mare ("sea") to marinus (hence "marine"), or even Latium (the name of the area surrounding Rome) to Latinus. The -n- is not part of the stem at all.

  • I don’t think the asker meant to imply that Latin ‘cut off’ any part of its own root, just that looking at the root itself, the base word without the suffix, instead of the word that started the train of thought, you effectively ‘cut off’ one of the three consonants that albino and the Hebrew word have in common. Sep 8 '21 at 7:45

It seems to be a coincidence.

Latin albus comes from PIE *h₂elbhos, which has a lot of descendants: Hittite alpas, Sanskrit ṛbhú, etc. So if there was a borrowing, it would have been back in the PIE stages.

There may have been contact between PIE and Proto-Semitic, but the similarity between *h₂elbhos and *L-B-N is much less striking. So I'd consider this coincidental; one English descendant just happened to end up looking more like the Hebrew, but many other descendants did not.

  • Sanskrit ṛbhú,- "skillful" can hardly belong here. Hittite alpas "cloud" is also problematic,
    – fdb
    Sep 8 '21 at 13:50
  • There are more descendants of h₂elbhos just in English as well. For example, elf, or the place names Albania and Elvet.
    – OmarL
    Sep 8 '21 at 15:29
  • @OmarL. If you look these up in a reputable etymological dictionary you will find lots of "possibly" and "perhaps".
    – fdb
    Sep 11 '21 at 22:23

If we are looking for a Semitic parallel to IE *h₂elbh-o- > Lat. albus a better candidate might be the Semitic word for “milk”, Arabic ḥalab, Hebrew ḥālāḇ, Aramaic ḥalḇā, conceivably a Wanderwort or a very ancient borrowing in one direction or the other.

Then, at a more speculative level, one could ask whether there is some link between Sem. ḥ-l-b “milk” and l-b-n “white” (in Arabic also “milk”), that is: a biconsonantal root *l-b with two different extensions.

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