Sense & meaning

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Can you tell me what words you use in your language for 'the sense/ meaning of life' and 'the meaning of a word'? A note on roots of those words is welcome too.

    - zin : the root seems to be sentire, to feel/ perceive, as in the English sense
    - betekenis, be-teken-is (nis perhaps), referring to the meaning of 'sign', maybe linked with showing, pointing at, even also with 'teach' in English
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014
  2. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    - смысл "smysl" ['smɨs(ə)ɫ]. Cognate of the words мысль (thought) and мыслить (to think). The prefix has quite a wide variety of meanings, I am not sure which was supposed to be here.
    - значение "znacheniye" [znɐ'ʨenʲɪ(j)ə]. Cognate of the word знак (sign). Another meaning of the word "значение", quite naturally, is "significance".
    I also must add than in some cases the first word can be used instead of the second (meaning "meaning"), but not vice versa.
  3. learnerr Senior Member

    As far as I know, in English both words are possible in both contexts. They (the English) just happen to have two stocks of words, one Germanic, the other derived from Latin and Greek. ;)
    - значение (loosely corresponds to the French la valeur);
    - смысл (loosely corresponds to the French le sens).

    The second word is more, so to say, 'plain', the first word may be used in the same context as the second when the second word was already overused. Of course, they have their shades of meaning that make them more or less suitable in a given context, too. The first word, значение, is related to the noun знак ('sign') and to the verb значить ('to mean', in a wide sense of the word; also 'to matter', '[about something or somebody] to appear important because the thing in question implies something else as well'), it is in fact a noun derived from the second verb, which is in its turn derived from the simple noun; as such, this verb appears to be similar to the French counterpart not only in its use, but also, and especially, in its, I would say, "internal meaning". The second word, смысл, is related to the verb смыслить (to be able to connect ideas, to be able to to work out conclusions) and, it looks like, to мыслить (to think, although usually another word is used in this meaning, думать), and also to the noun мысль (a thought); the latter verb is the same as the former verb, but without the prefix с-, that means "co-", "together", and is pronounced as "s-".
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014
  4. arielipi Senior Member

    Oh dear thomas, in hebrew sense gets many words, meaning gets three.

    to mean - להתכון lehitcaven - כ-ו-נ
    meaning - משמעות mashma'ut
    understanding (of something, i.e. one understands something) - מובן muvan

    (one of the five) sense(s) - חוש khush
    sensement, sensing, feeling - תחושה tkhusha
    feelings, senses - רגש regesh
    consciousness, awareness - תודעה toda'a, הכרה hakara
    brains - שכל sechel
    intelligence (manufactured intellignece in hebrew uses this word, though in general it is wisdom) - בינה bina
    knowledge-state, logic - דעת , da'at, הגיון higayon
    understanding (of something, i.e. one understands something) - מובן muvan
    interpretation - פירוש perush
    explanation - הסבר hesber
    use, value, benefit (though i also would add gain) - ועלת to'elet
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:

    «Το νόημα της ζωής» [to 'no.ima tis zo'is]
    "The-neuter definite article nominative singular meaning-neuter noun nominative singular of-feminine definite article genitive singular life-feminine noun gen. sing."

    «Νόημα» ['no.ima] (neut.) --> that which is perceived, purpose, meaning in general < Classical neut. noun «νόημα» nóēmă (same meanings) < Classical masc. noun «νόος/νοῦς» nóŏs (uncontracted) /noûs (contracted) --> mind, sense, intellect, reason, purpose, aim (with obscure etymology).
    «Ζωή» [zo'i] (fem.) --> life < Classical fem. noun «ζωὴ» zōḕ (also «ζοὴ» zŏḕ, Doric «ζωὰ» zōà & «ζόα» zóā, Aeolic «ζοΐα» zŏḯā); PIE *gʷeih₃-/*gʷieh₃-, to live cf Lat. vīta > It. vita, Sp./Por. vida, Fr. vie, Rom. viață; Proto-Slavic *životъ > OCS животъ > Bul./Rus. живот, BCS живот/život; Cz./Svk život.

    i/ «Αίσθηση» ['esθisi] (fem.) < Classical 3rd declension fem. noun «αἴσθησις» aístʰĕsīs --> perception, knowledge, sense (i.e. physiological sense, sense of humour/time) < PIE *h₂eu-is-, to perceive cf Skt. आविस् (āvís), adv. openly, manifestly, evidently; Hit. u-uḫ-ḫi, to see; Lat. audīre, to hear, listen.
    ii/ «Σύνεση» ['sinesi] (fem.) < Classical 3rd declension fem. noun «σύνεσις» súnĕsīs --> faculty of quick comprehension, sagacity, knowledge < compound; prefix, preposition, and adverb «σύν» sún (Att. «ξύν» ksún) --> with, together (with obscure etymology) + Classical v. «ἵημι» híēmĭ --> to send away, let go, throw, hurl; PIE *(H)ieh₁-, to throw cf Lat. iacere, to throw, cast, hurl.

    Sense (verb):
    i/ «Αισθάνομαι» [es'θanome] < Classical deponent verb «αἰσθάνομαι» aistʰắnŏmai --> to perceive, understand, apprehend by the senses < Classical 3rd declension fem. noun «αἴσθησις» aístʰĕsīs (for its etymology see above).
    ii/ «Νιώθω» or «νοιώθω» (both spellings are common) ['ɲoθo] < Classical fem. noun «ἔννοια» énnoiā --> act of thinking, reflection, cogitation, notion, conception; compound, prefix, preposition, and adverb «ἐν» ĕn --> in, within (PIE *h₁en-, in cf Lat. in > It. in, Fr./Sp. en, Por. em, Rom. în; Proto-Germanic *in > Ger. in, Eng. in, Dt. in, Isl. í, D./Nor./Swe. i) + Classical masc. noun «νόος/νοῦς» (see above).
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014
  6. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, everyone. Now, I can see clearly that Greek uses /noma/ for the the sens of life, but I am not so sure about what a Russian speaker would use. Your information, Learnerr, is quite interesting, but I am still not sure.

    Interesting is that 'zin' can also refer to the five senses,but as 'zintuig', 'sense tool' AND to direction. Maybe interesting to know is that 'zingeving' (giving sense [to life]) is now fairly popular as a whole branch focusing on contributing to how people can find (make ?) sense in life...

    @Apmoy: we don't link feelings with 'sense' really, and in fact few of the numerous meanings of 'sense' that you list. But that may be interesting. However, I notice that those are meanings and words that you link with 'sense'. What is the basis of that? Your own intuition? (Thanks !)
  7. learnerr Senior Member

    For the meaning of life, the only possible phrase is "смысл жизни". "Значение" may be assigned to words just like "смысл" can, but when they are assigned not to words but to things, they differ a lot: the first says what the thing means for something else, where something else is a known object, the second says what the thing is and what is the reason for its existence, i.e. how should we think of it.
  8. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic:

    "Meaning" is معنى /maʕna/ (meaning of life = maʕna al-ḥayaa)

    "Sense" is حس /ḥiss/ (sense of humor = ḥiss al-fukaaha)
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, Ahmed, but how do you translate 'the meaning of a word'? /maʕna/ as well? The /ḥiss/ is more like a feeling, I'd say...
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  10. arielipi Senior Member

  11. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    There are several relative characters in Chinese, and they form quite a few words.

    The most common counterpart of "sense", I think is 感 "gan3". The character describes "feeling".
    The most common counterpart of "meaning", I think is 意義 "yi4yi4".

    In Chinese, the two concepts are very different. We say 生命的意義 "the meaning/purpose of the life", but not "the sense/feeling of the life".
    We say 幽默感 "sense of humor", but not "meaning of humor".
    We say 詞語的意義 "meaning of the word", but not "sense of the word".
  12. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, the strange thing about 'sense' is that its meaning is so diverse: feeling, meaning, direction, ... I thought that the words are not often interchangeable in Germanic languages either, but 'sense' and 'meaning of life' seem both possible in English (though 'meaning' is more common), not in Dutch.
  13. learnerr Senior Member

    In Russian the word "sense" as in "sense of humor" or "five senses" is translated with the word "чувство", "feeling", but this word cannot be applied to meanings of words.
  14. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Well Greek uses «αίσθηση» ['esθisi] (fem.) for sense, and «αίσθημα» ['esθima] (neut.) for feeling, both have the same PIE root *h₂eu-is-, to perceive.
    Also, the verb for sensing, and feeling, is identical, the meaning of sensing is interwoven with feeling: «αισθάνομαι» [es'θanome] (so not only intuition, but reality)
  15. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    In the meantime I realize that we do see the link: we can say zin OR gevoel (feeling) voor humor.
  16. francisgranada Senior Member


    értelem - both for life and words
    jelentés - for words

    ért- to understand
    jelent- to signify, denote
  17. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)

    smysl (života)
    = the sense (of life); related to mysl (= mind) and mysliti (= to think);

    význam (slova) = the meaning (of a word); prefix vý- (out-, ex-), the root is zna-m- from the Protoslavic zna-mę (= sign, symbol) related to Greek gno-ma; related verb zná-ti (= to know, gno-sco); the Russian знак (= sign) and значение (= meaning) have the same root zna-;

    also smysl = sense as in "five senses" (sight, hearing, ...);
  18. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    Exactly, the use of /maʕna/ is equivalent to use of "meaning" in English

    /ḥiss/ is from the root /ḥ-s-s/ and words related to "feelings" are derived from that root

    It seems that Arabic (ḥ-s-s) and Hebrew (kh-sh-sh) are cognates
  19. momai Senior Member

  20. arielipi Senior Member

    Correction friend, kh-v/'-sh
    its of the resting ayin hapoal (3 al-verb) verbs.
  21. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    "sho3our/masha3er" and "i7saas/a7asees" are used interchangeably to mean "feeling".

    Interesting that the roots are different although the words look similar as Arabic "ḥ" is a cognate of Hebrew "kh" and "s" is a cognate of "sh".
  22. arielipi Senior Member

    actually, the root you thought is a feeling translated as 'afraid' (i afraid so)
  23. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I asked at the Italian forum, and I was told that meaningful ('zinvol') would be translated as 'significativo'. To me there is quite some difference between 'significant/ -ce' and 'meaningful', but I suppose that is a biased viewpoint. My problem is based on the fact that I am afraid 'significant' or any similar word might not convey that existential, fundamental, maybe spiritual aspect. But maybe the content is or may be quite like that.
  24. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    The original meaning is direction, cf. German Uhrzeigersinn (Sinn des Lebens - Richtung des Lebens).
  25. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I had thought of that too, but refers to sentire, 'to feel', and considers 'meaning' and 'direction' based on that. refers to [bold by me]

    Based on that a link to direction could be considered plausible, but I wonder who you must/ can believe... In the meantime I do see that Podkorny lists the following as meanings of PIE*sent-;
    So, you might be right. Thanks for the information!
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
  26. aruniyan Senior Member

    Nice topic.

    In Tamil,

    We have words,

    uNar : Sensing
    uNarchi : Sense of life/feel, feeling of touch
    uNarthu : To make one feel, make one understand

    pulam, pulan : Sense organs used to denote the 5 Senses, (The root should to get in touch with, Interact)

    porul : Meaning, Object (the root should be "comparison", to bring one's character on to other, Poruthu- fixing one onto other.)
  27. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    The Tagalog for sense based on your given word sample is "kahalagahan or katuturan" while the meaning is "Kahulugan". The root word for kahalagahan is "Halaga" (wt. of importance or significance) , the katuturan has "Turo" ( value morally) and the Kahulugan has " Hulug" ( The result that fall in place, hulug has meaning fall(Something that has weight or meaning and it appears in Tagalog too as "Payment" or "Something that has value" that need to be placed in right place or use).
  28. franknagy

    franknagy Senior Member

    Sense of a word: Egy szó jelentése. (Jelentés=significance.)
    Sense of the life: Az élet értelme. (Értelem=reason.)

    Yo have asked to analyze the roots of the words.
    Jel = sign,
    jelen= present,
    jelent = means (3rd ps. sng.),
    jelentés = meaning.

    Ért= understands (3rd ps. sng.),
    értelem = reason.

    A quote from Imre Madách's drama "The tragedy of Man":

    "Az élet célja a küzdés maga."
    "The purpose of the life is the struggle itself."
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting that goal/ purpose are linked with sense, but I suppose somehow that is the case in most languages, I suddenly think.
  30. franknagy

    franknagy Senior Member

    The twists of the negative forms are also interesting:
    értelmetlen = senseless,
    jelentéktelen = insigificant.
  31. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I had a quick look, and now realize that noone has pointed out the link between meaning and purpose explicitly. We in Dutch associate zin with meaning and direction ('sense'),and therefore indirectly with goal, or maybe even more directly.

    Maybe meanings reveal some goal, and therefore some sense/ directions, I now think.
  32. ancalimon Senior Member


    his (noun): sense
    hisset (verb): to sense

    san (verb) : to assume, to perceive, to sense
    sanki : as if, seems like
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
  33. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But then this has nothing to do with meaning, or has it, Ancalimon? Assuming may refer to meaning, though. But I suppose 'his' does not refer to the meaning of a word, let alone the meaning of life...
  34. ancalimon Senior Member

    Misread the topic.. No they are different words. "Meaning of life" is "yaşamın anlamı". Can't use "his" here. I think "his" is either Arabic or Persian in origin.

    But "san" verb on the other hand can be used that way:

    For example:

    Yaşamayı ne sandın? > What did you think living was? ~ What did you make of living?
  35. francisgranada Senior Member

    Or perhaps in a diferent order: feeling (sense<sentire) implies some meaning and also some direction/goal ...

    Let's see the etymology of the Hungarian értelem (sense), maybe it's interesting for you. It comes from the verb ért that means "to understand" ( An other verb, érez, means "to feel". Both ért and érez derive from the same stem ér which means "to reach". Thus to uderstand could be interpreted as "to reach mentally" and to feel as "to reach physically". So both the Hungarian értelem and the English sense go back to something like "to reach, percieve ... mentally or physically".
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
  36. ancalimon Senior Member

    "er" also means "to reach" and "to understand" when used with the word mind (mind reach) in Turkic languages but not "to sense".
  37. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That is quite an interesting contribution, Frank. But don't be mistaken: my 'sense' had the meaning of direction. I think the term is quite difficult to pinpoint in languages, I suppose, because of the complexity of the meanings...
  38. ancalimon Senior Member

    Another word related with san in Turkish is "sanrı" meaning "delusion, illusion, hallucination"
  39. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    This san association looks very interesting, but I am not sure I understand this:
    What is the root in anlami? And how do I have to interpret the last sentence? Something like 'How did you make sense out of life?'
  40. francisgranada Senior Member

    I think (or rather hope) that I understand you, but I think the meaning "direction" of the word sense is secondary, i.e. it does not reflect the original sense of the word sense :)...
  41. ancalimon Senior Member

    Yes it means exactly that.

    The "ı" suffix means "its, his, her". The word is "anlam".
    The root of anlam (meaning) is ProtoTurkic *ān meaning "grasping, thought, comprehension, perception, cognition, consciousness, nous"

    Also there is another meaning of the word "san" which is "fame, reputation, appellation~designation~title". I guess that also is related as in "the perceived value of someone by other people". Another similar word which is related in meaning is "nam" (this time a loan from Persian) which this time used for "substantial value of someone by other people". So:

    If I were to give an example to what these are related with in English:

    nam: name. what people know a person by
    san: value. the perceived worth, honour, renown of a person. (which is somewhat imaginary I guess) For example, "princely, kingly, saintly, etc" (possibly we share this word with Japanese if there is a distant relation. It's an honorary title in Japanese)

    It seems like both anlam and san share the same root. I don't know what the initial S in "SAN" means though. There are many these kind of words in Turkic but not many people are aware of this since Turkic etymology studies are not very detailed and organized. Last part of the word "Khan" probably also is the word "an" and the word "on" meaning "number ten, a very big number" and also "being of universe" I think also is related with "an" since there are pictograms of depiction of human heads and the Sun (leaders and/or very respected people probably) that have ten dots around ~ inside them which are read as "ON" in Proto-Turkic by some.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014

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