What is the etymology of the Hebrew word יָלַד, transliterated, yalad. The Hebrew Lexicon offers no etymology.

This is an effort to research the linguistics pertaining to a question on BH-SE, How can Three Questions be solved and the Math Still be Correct. The solution requires that begat be understood as conception.

2 Answers 2


The root w-l-d “to beget” (of a man) and “to give birth to” (of a woman) is found not only in Hebrew and Ethiopic, but in all Semitic languages (Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, South Arabian, Ethiopic etc.) The shift of initial w to y is regular in Hebrew and Aramaic.

  • Thank you. How is this root defined in these languages?
    – Sarah
    Mar 3, 2014 at 17:57
  • 1
    It has the same meaning in all these languages: "beget" and "give birth to".
    – fdb
    Mar 3, 2014 at 18:01

It has cognates in many other Semitic languages, all with the same meaning "give birth", so I would say that that is the "essence of its meaning". (I've never seen this root used to mean "travail", by the way; if it's attested in that meaning somewhere, this is probably a secondary sense.)

The other two roots you mention are probably unrelated. y-l-l "howl" looks onomatopoeic, while y-l-ʕ (which seems to be a hapax, i.e. possibly a nonce creation in the single verse in which it appears) presumably comes from loʕ "mouth".

  • 1
    Indeed. Ethiopic ዎልዴ, "wolde" ("son of", in patronymics) is from the same root.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 2, 2014 at 23:50

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