I have noticed that the Latin vici means both road and conqueror. Interestingly, in Hebrew the root כבש is used for both כביש (road) and for לכבוש (to conquer).

I see a few different reasons why this could be. Might anyone clarify?

  1. Coincidence.

  2. There is some connection between road-building and conquering. Perhaps one builds a road in all places conquered?

  3. One language adopted words of a similar root for arbitrary reasons. Then the second language, having one of the words but lacking the other, looked to the first language for how to build the new word off the former.

Note that this phenomenon is not limited to just Latin vici and Hebrew כבש. I can post other examples, across other languages, if needed.

  • Reason #3 is attested across languages, it's called a calque. – Typhon Jun 3 '14 at 14:47
  • You are totally wrong about Latin, "vici" is neither 'road' nor 'conqueror.' 'Road' is "via", 'conqueror' is "victor" or "superator". "Vici" means "I have conquered", that's the 1st person singular Perfectum Indicativi Activi of the verb 'vinco.' – Yellow Sky Jun 3 '14 at 16:06
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    @YellowSky Actually he's not totally wrong. Vīcus, vici means various things (neighborhood, village, town, small farm) and among these also "road, street, path". It's true that in that case we're talking about the genitive and not the nominative, and the question didn't clarify this, so something doesn't add up here. Anyway, you're right saying it's also a verb, and that it doesn't mean conqueror. – Alenanno Jun 3 '14 at 16:44

In Latin the two words are unrelated. The basic meaning of vīcus (of which your form vīcī is the genitive) is actually "district, neighborhood, village, etc.", although it does also sometimes mean "road, street". Vīcus is from a Proto-Indo-European root weiḱ- (which gives among other things Greek oîkos "house", whence eco-nomy, eco-logy). Vīcī "I conquered", the perfect tense of vincō, is from PIE weik-, a different root which gives words meaning "fight, defeat, etc.". The two roots look very similar, but are distinct lexemes and probably unrelated, since "plain velar" k and "palatalized velar" were distinct phonemes in PIE (at least, this is the majority view).

The two Hebrew words, on the other hand, probably are related. The root כבש k-b-š has, in addition to the "conquer" meaning, also a meaning "tread down, press, apply pressure"; this gives "road", since a road is something paved. The two senses look like they could very plausibly be related, namely the "conquer" sense arising from the "tread down" sense -- cf. English "oppress" and metaphors like "downtrodden".

  • de Vaan 2008 mentions its several derivatives, L. villa possibly being one of them; also its cognate in Russian ves' 'village' (as in "po vsem gorodam i vesjam"). – Alex B. Jun 4 '14 at 0:58

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