In what reliable source can I look up the etymology of English (or other) words stretching all the way back to Semitic languages, especially Hebrew?

I often have suspicions that certain words might derive from specific Hebrew words (e.g. 'each' from 'איש') but it is very difficult to investigate, confirm or deny my baseless speculation.

(The Oxford English Dictionary has great etymology entries, but never goes further back than Greek as far as I can tell.)

  • 1
    I doubt academia supports those assertions of hebrew going back to english but we know that the ancient hebrew script was or was similar to phonecian and english script derived from that ancient hebrew or ancient hebrew-like script. so aleph bet daled ABD (And now I think about it) Kaf Lamed Mem Nun KLMN Quf Reish Shin Tav QRST (academia would state that as known fact I think) But what you're talking about is zpeculation like Isaac Mozeson's "the word" which no doubt isn't academic. I heard Britain is from Brit Am, and British is from Brit Ish. A pinch of salt.
    – barlop
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 23:16
  • I do not understand your comment. Are you implying that the OED is not academic or that assertions aren't? I am looking for a source that can back up etymologies like these with sources, akin to the OED.
    – WAF
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 21:56
  • No criticism of the OED from me.All I meant was your example each/Ish,is no doubt not academic. I just looked at an example from the wikipedia list-Pharoah Clearly the same word as the Hebrew Paroh,but does it come from there or is there an egyptian name for Paroh.Well,I googled and found this link to an amazing looking online etymology dictionary etymonline.com/index.php?term=pharaoh " pharaoh (n.) Look up pharaoh at Dictionary.com title of the kings of ancient Egypt, Old English Pharon,from Latin Pharaonem, from Greek Pharao, from Hebrew Par'oh, from Egyptian Pero',literally "great house." "
    – barlop
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 11:33
  • i see the etymonline site doesn't give specific sources just lists all the sources it uses for all words. etymonline.com/sources.php?allowed_in_frame=0 And it looks like the etymological dictionaries it uses don't focus just on hebrew but on all english words whatever their origin. I notice another thing you can do is search for hebrew on that site, then get all words whose descriptions have the word hebrew in them. etymonline.com/…
    – barlop
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 11:56

3 Answers 3


Sometimes the Hebrew word is also a derivative of another language, so the similarity is correlative, not causal. Ben Shoshan's dictionary is pretty good, as is Wikipedia. Hate to way it, but Mozeson's dictionary is a bunch of baloney. Another great resource is David curwin's excellent blog Balashon. If you have any suspicions, email him.

  • ADDeRabbi, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the very informative answer! Please consider registering your account by clicking on register, above, and following the prompts. This will give you access to all of mi.yodeya's features and will allow you to get full credit for your contributions.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 4, 2010 at 0:36

You might want to check out The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals The Hebrew Source of English, by Isaac Mozeson (whose name I seem to have no trouble recalling, for some reason). I have heard this work criticized as consisting at least in part of folk etymology, so caveat emptor.


Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky said over from sifrei kabbalah (mystical sources) that just like many holy souls fell in to the dark when Adam sinned so did many words of Lishon Hakodesh. Just like the Yerushalmi says we are in Galus (exile) to acquire geirim (converts) i.e. those fallen souls, so too we acquire back those words that were lost such as all those Egyptian words in Chumash, as well as all the Greek and Latin that became a part of our scholarly lexicon. Hence you will not find the root of many words tracing back to Hebrew as an earlier language because those words found their way into Hebrew later on after the formation of Greek, Latin, etc.

  • some words do have Semitic roots though, and the OP wants a dictionary that discusses them. This isn't an answer.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 3:28

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