Word coincidence

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Moro12, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. Moro12 Senior Member

    I am interested in the rare phenomenon of "word coincidence" in different languages.

    What I am specifically looking for is a situation when:

    1. There are two different languages A and B.
    2. The language A has a word M. And the language B has a word N.
    3. The words M and N have identical or close meanings.
    4. The words M and N are pronounced alike. (Not exactly the same, but still pretty "alike" to be recognizable).
    5. M and N are not borrowed from the same source. (M is not borrowed from B; N is not borrowed from A; M and N are not borrowed from the same third language).
    6. M and N are not derived from the same source due to genealogic affinity of A and B languages.
    7. The languages A and B may be completely unrelated linguistically, or may still be allied - that does not matter if conditions 1 to 6 are met.

    I understand there might be very few examples.
    However, the following is the only example I can suggest by myself:

    English: name
    Japanese: 名前 [namae] = "name"

    The words are completely unrelated, as the Japanese 名前 is a compound word with two roots: [na] meaning "name" and [mae] meaning "before, in front of".

    I wonder if somebody could provide more examples.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  2. francisgranada Senior Member

    Italian: chi (< Lat quis, IE origin)
    Hungarian: ki (Uralic origin)

    Both are prounced [ki] and mean "who"

    French: Qui est-ce?
    Hungarian: Ki ez?

    Both are pronounced very similarly [kies, kiez] and mean "who is it/this?"
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  3. francisgranada Senior Member

    Romanian: fiu (< Latin filius - son < Proto-Indo-European *bheue- to be, to grow)
    Hungarian: fiú ( < Proto-Finno-Ugric *pojka - son, boy)

    (when pronounced, the Hungarian "ú" is longer)

    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  4. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Pojke is also a boy in Swedish. Would it be of Finno-Ugric origin?
  5. francisgranada Senior Member

    Maybe yes, it could be directly from the Finnish poika.
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    In fact, it's not that rare, and between basically any two languages you can find dozens of examples without too much effort. Of course there can always be disagreement about how close the meanings or pronunciations have to be. But if you set out to find common words in two unrelated languages, you will usually be able to find a lot of them.

    This essay might be of interest to you (it also contains a lot of examples):
    How likely are chance resemblances between languages?
  7. Maroseika Moderator

    Spanish temprano and Russian рано [rano], both mean 'early'.
    Of course, Spanish word contains extra "temp", but in Russian it is also relate to time (темп [temp] - time, tempo).
  8. Moro12 Senior Member

    A very interesting investigation. Thank you, CarnPrep!
    I've especially liked its strict mathematical approach.
  9. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    1.)Tagalog: Paumanhin (patience) Greek: Ipomoni 2.)Tagalog: Ibigay English: Give ( Read this backward and it become "evig") 3.) Espaniol: Tono Tagalog: tunog(sound)
  10. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Italian muta "he/she/it changes" (transitive or intransitive) < Latin mutat < Old Latin *moitat
    Finnish muuttaa "he/she/it changes" (transitive) < muu- "other" + causative -ttaa

    Tagalog ulo "head"
    Kamass ulu "head" (thought to be cognate with Finnish alku "beginning")

    Old French gros "large" < Late Latin grossus "thick", thought to be cognate with Breton bras "large"
    German gross "large" , cognate with Eng. great, Dutch groot, etc.
  11. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
  12. Anja.Ann

    Anja.Ann Senior Member

    Hello everybody :)

    Italian: "fine" from Latin finis (nice, excellent, pleasant, thin, refined)
    English: "fine" from old French fin (nice, excellent, pleasant, thin, refined)

    Ciao :)
  13. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    Those would actually be related words.
  14. Anja.Ann

    Anja.Ann Senior Member

    Then I must have missed something when I read the specifications detailed by Moro :)
  15. Jabir

    Jabir Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    Portuguese "mesa" and Urdu "mez", both meaning "table".
    Portuguese "chave" and Urdu "chabi", both meaning "key".

    I do believe these words are same in Persian, but not sure.

    edit: I don't know if English "door" and "star" have same origin that Persian "dar" and "setare"...
  16. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    Yes. From Proto-Indo-European *dʰwer- and *h₂stḗr.
  17. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Pojke is a direct borrow from the Finnish poika, before that a boy was gosse, or other dialectal names, such as sork on Gotland, which is still in use.
  18. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I just remembered:

    Welsh mae "(there) is"
    Tagalog may "there is", "to have"
    Polish ma "has" (not absolutely sure that it's not related to Welsh mae, but it doesn't seem likely)
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
  19. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Does the Russian "воля"/Italian "voglia" fit? They sound close, and they mean nearly the same, the first being a will and the second being a wish. And I highly doubt they are cognates (though I'm not a specialist, so I can't know for sure...)

    Also, a funny example: the English "to have" vs the Italian "avere".
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
  20. francisgranada Senior Member

    The Russian воля comes from the Slavic verb *voliti and the Italian voglia from the Latin volo, velle. They are cognates and together with the English will, German wollen etc... they are of *PIE origin (*wel-/*wol-)
    Indeed, it's a good example. Even better: Spanish haber and German haben... :)

    (the Germanic haben, to have etc... have different origin/etymology than the Latin habere)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2017
  21. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I don't think that habere : have is a simple case of false cognacy.

    The Latin word is traced back to IE *ghabh-, whose original meaning is thought to have been "grab, take" (see IEW, pp.407-09). The Germanic word is traced to IE *kap-, whose meaning is thought to have been "grab" (IEW, pp.527-8).

    It's very hard to believe that two verbs *kap- and *ghabh- co-existed in the same language, with very similar phonetics and the same primary meaning, without there being some etymological relationship between the two. I think that one of these words was originally a variant of the other, or that the two words originally had more divergent meanings, but then one of them semantically influenced the other.

    (I hope the above doesn't come off as pedantic, but habere : have is so commonly put forward as an example of false cognates that I thought the problems with this example were worth mentioning.)
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
  22. CapnPrep Senior Member

  23. مر هر Member

    The usage of "haver" is totally different of "to have", at least in Portuguese. And I don't believe it is different from Portuguese in Spanish nor Italian.

    "Haver" meaning is closer to "there is"
  24. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    I'll bring an Hebrew-Greek example: Midwife.
    Hebrew: מיילדת Meyaledet (from the root yld that means child)
    Greek: μαία Maia (if anyone knows its etymology I'd like to hear)
  25. Explorer41 Senior Member

    Oh? Well, I can't know what you mean, but...

    "ho un gatto" = "j'ai un chat" = "I have a cat";
    "ho un sogno" = "j'ai une rêve" = "I have a dream";
    (the most striking one) "ho ricevuto la tua lettera" = "j'ai reçu ta lettre" ~ "I have received your letter".

    Are here any mistakes? I mean the usages of "avere"/"avoir"/"to have". Is the usage different from the Portuguese usage? Interesting...
  26. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    «Μαῖα» has the same PIE root with «μάμμη» (affectionate term of address for mother and later grandmother)--> *ma-, mom/mum/mama
  27. francisgranada Senior Member

    Simply, in some Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Neapolitan ...) the verb habere (in sense of "to have") has been substituted by the verb tenere ("to hold"), while in other Romance languages (French, Italian ...) the original meaning of this verb survives.
  28. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    It is not the "original" meaning to be exact, for classical Latin simply used "it is to me" structure to express "I have." I think French borrowed the expression from Italian.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  29. francisgranada Senior Member

    "Original", in this case, from the point of view of the Proto-Romance (or "vulgar Latin"). E.g. in old Spanish, the verb haber had also the meaning of "to have", thus the French borrowing from the Italian seems to me a bit improbable ... (to say so)

    (but the discussion about the verb habere is not the object of this thread ...)
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  30. NewtonCircus Senior Member

    Dutch (Belgium)
    This thread made me smile the moment I opened it. Since Dutch and German have a lot of words with similar or identical spelling/pronunciation, but often completely different meanings, mixing words from both languages can get funny.

    There is the story about the Belgian receptionist with a serious cold answering a call from a German client.. The German client noticed this and mentions "Deine Stimme ist irgendwie anders Heute" on which the receptionist answers “Ja, ich bin heiss Heute:D.

    Heiß = Hot in German
    Hees = Hoarse in Dutch

    Don’t take my word for it if it ever really happened :rolleyes:. There are quite a few of such funny stories with other words like slim, zagen, klappen.
  31. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Finnish hän "he / she"
    Swedish han "he"

    Finnish sitten "then"
    Swedish sedan "then"

    Again, I'm not sure that this is pure coincidence: even though the Finnish and the Swedish words are etymologically different, the speakers of these languages (and their ancestors) have been in contact for a long time, and it's possible that the meaning of one set of words (or the choice of these words over others) was influenced by that of the other set.
  32. djara

    djara Senior Member

    Sousse, Tunisia
    Tunisia Arabic
    Arabic أرض ardh English earth both meaning earth
  33. darush Senior Member

    Persian(Farsi): ki means who
    kie is who is it', but people of Isfahan says: kies
    in Persian, colloquial arm(upper part of the hand) is kat(pronounced as English cat), it is also the wing of birds.
    Hugarian hand: kat
    this should be a logical reason; Uralics had near contacts with Indo-european people, especially Iranic people. but there is a different example:
    I heard water in Arabic(ma ماء ) is very similar to water in Thai(mai) and in an African language(mai also).
    I've found out there are three words that begines with N, are very similar almost in all Indo-european languages. they are new, name and no.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012
  34. Moro12 Senior Member

    "Water" in Thai is not "mai", it's "naam" น้ำ (pronounced with high tone).
  35. francisgranada Senior Member

    To be precise, Hungarian kéz, Finnish käsi (Proto-Finno-Ugric *käte)
  36. darush Senior Member

    yes, I meant Proto-Finno-Ugric. excuse me!
    thank you Moro. I just heard it..
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2017
  37. ancalimon Senior Member

    Most coincidences I see are between Latin and Turkish.

    Turkish: abil , ebil
    English: able

    Turkish: dı , di ,du ,dü
    English: did


    Turkish: deliriyom (I'm getting mad, I'm getting crazy)
    English: delirium

    Turkish: egemen (dominant, sovereign)
    Greek: hegemon, ecumeny ...

    Turkish: katılık (ally, those that join)
    Greek: catholic

    Turkish: töre (law, instructions from you elders)
    Hebrew: torah

    Turkish: batkın (better suited for piercing)
    English: bodkin

    Turkish: kut
    English: God, good

    Turkish: kavra
    English: cover

    Turkish: kıvır
    English: curve

    Turkish: ku, kup
    English: cup

    Turkish: kaptır
    English: capture

    Turkish: kaç (run away)
    English: catch (to catch someone running away)

    Actually I have created a list of thousands of coincidences like these :) Turkish is a fun language.

    My last discovery is:

    Turkish besili (physically strong)
    English imbecile (physically weak)

    Although I'm not sure whether it's a coincidence or not.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  38. aruniyan Senior Member

    Tamil word for water "Neer" and Greek word for water "Nero"
  39. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    The present participle in Turkish is -en; while in Latin -ente

    Venentem virum video. = Gelen adamı görüyorum.
  40. patriota Senior Member

    The Japanese often end their sentences with "ne." We also do that in Brazil in some sentences (not as often though) with "né?" from "não é?" = "isn't it?", "right?".
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  41. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    -(t)a is the most common infinitive suffix in Finnish. In some stem classes, the -t- has disappeared (as in e.g., puhua "speak"), making the suffix look just like the North Germanic infinitive suffix -a (as in Icelandic tala "speak"), which is from earlier *-an.

    Finnish also has a suffix -(t)tu that expresses the past passive/impersonal participle of a verb: e.g., saatu "gotten" < saa- "get". This is similar to the past passive participle *-to- suffix seen in many IE languages (e.g., Italian cantato “sung” < canta- “sing”).
  42. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    The past suffix in Turkish is: -ti / -tı / -tu / -tü / -di / -dı / -du / -dü (which we decide according to vowel+consonant harmony). Ex: Konuşmak --> Konuştu (He spoke)

    The past suffix in Hungarian is: -te / -ta Ex: Mondani --> Mondta (He said)

    The past suffix in Japanese is: -ta Ex: Hanasu --> Hanashimashita (He spoke)
  43. Explorer41 Senior Member

    This is quite funny, because even a very small number of elements may entail coincidences. For example, some time ago I made fun with making a language (at that time the task turned out to be too difficult for me, and I gave it up after a half-year), and at the end the language had only a few words, grammatical constructions etc, and one complete text (short, only 200 words; a translation of a fragment of Ivan Bunin's short story). Still, later I realized (only when some months have passed), that it had quite a few of coincidences with natural languages! The most striking ones were my postposition "lar" (meaning "nearly all"; compare with the Turkic sign of the Plural number), and my prefix "e", making various forms of past tenses for verbs (compare with the Greek usage!). Also the word "to", which was an article in my language (just as well as it is an article in Greek). Though I didn't distinguish between definiteness and indefiniteness, instead I distinguished between concreteness and inconcreteness ("do"/"to"; the feature I sometimes miss in the natural languages).
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  44. osemnais Senior Member

    cherry/Kirsche on one hand and череша(cheresha) on another
    all meaning cherry
  45. ancalimon Senior Member

    Turkish: BEN (I , I AM)
    German: ICH BIN

    Turkish: BENİM (MINE)
    English I'M, MINE
  46. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    This one's epic:
    Chinese: 魑魅魍魎 - Chimeiwangliang - mythological monster
    English: Chimera - monster in Greek mythology

    I know this one isn't what you meant, but:
    批評 - to criticise - piping. The Cantonese pronunciation is not romanised this way but it is pronounced the same way as in English. Quite a coincidence!

    普遍 - pubian - common - pronounced in Cantonese as pou pin, which sounds like 'popular'. Note that both 普羅 puluo and proletariat come from French.

    頭髮 - toufa - hair - sounds like toupee

    We also end exclamations and interrogative sentences with 'ne' in Chinese.

    花卉 - huahui - decorative flower - pronounced in Cantonese as faa wai, which sounds like 'flower'.

    chou-fleur - cauliflower - lit. cabbage-flower
    花椰菜 - huayecai - lit. flower-cabbage (椰菜花 - yecaihua - lit. cabbage-flower - used in Hong Kong.)
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  47. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek, colloquially, the tuft of hair or the cowlick, is actually a «τούφα» ['tufa] :eek:
    According to prof. Babiniotis it's a Byzantine word, «τοῦφα» ['toufa] a loanword of Germanic origin: Old English, ðūf --> tuft, Old Norse, þúfa --> mound
  48. ancalimon Senior Member

    English: better
    Turkish: beter (it means worse)
  49. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    It's a small world! :eek:

    Classical Chinese/English:
    耳 - er - ear (now 耳朵 erduo. It's still 耳 in Cantonese, but it's not pronounced as 'er').
  50. Dragonseed Senior Member

    France - French
    Taiwanese "hsio" for hot, French "chaud", very similar pronunciation.
    Add "tea" in the mix: thė chaud (French) hsio tė (Taiwanese) meaning "hot tea"... Just a coincidence on "hot", and common root for tea - thė -/tė/...

    Another close coincidence (g)wa ma hsi (Taiwaneses我也是) = moi aussi (French) "me too!"

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