Word coincidence


Senior Member
English, USA
The following words mean "this", if not refered otherwise. They all contain a coronal consonant in the beginning:

French: ce [sə]
Turkish: şu [ʃu] → that (slightly: pej.)
Arabic: هذا ['hæːðæː] (in other dialects: ده [dæh], or ذا [ðæː])
German: dieser ['diːzɐ]
Hebrew: זה [ze]
Scottish-/Irish-Gaelic: seo [ʃoː]
Icelandic: þessi ['θɛsːɪ]


Japanese so- “that” (sono, sore etc.)
Akkadian šu / ši “that”
Sumerian re / še “that”
Finnish tämä ”this”, tuo "that"
Tagalog ito “this”, dito "here"

et (probably) cetera.
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  • Ironicus

    Senior Member
    English & Swahili - East Africa
    The phenomenon of coronal or similar consonants in pointing-words probably arises from tongue-pointing. If your hands are busy and you try to point, you will point with your tongue, and your tongue will move to the front half of your mouth to do so.


    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    Japanese so- “that” (sono, sore etc.)
    Akkadian šu / ši “that”
    Sumerian re / še “that”
    Finnish tämä ”this”, tuo "that"
    Tagalog ito “this”, dito "here"
    Obviously, in the case of Hebrew, Arabic and Akkadian it isn't a coincidence.


    Turkish; German
    Oh, I remember something:

    a kiss:

    Arabic: بوسة ['buːsä] (< ?)
    German: Bussi ['bʊsiˑ] (→ "a small-sweet kiss (on the cheek)", < pusa (slaw.) = kiss)
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    Senior Member
    Turkish Atık (something thrown out of the house, something that is going to be thrown out, junk, scrap, dreg, waste)
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    Senior Member
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Arabic false cognates that I know (also thanks to the forum and wikipedia):

    ArD "earth": Earth (German Aarde)
    ðayl (dhayl) "tail": Tail
    nabil "noble": noble
    sharif "honorable" (a title also given to tribal protectors, also later for governors of certain regions, see here & here): sheriff
    farw/fira' "fur": fur
    kahf "cave": cave
    ṭawil (colloquial verb ṭaal "to become tall, long") : tall
    tarquwa (Plural taraqi) (collar bone): trachea
    baq "mite": bug
    kafara (to cover/hide): cover
    kama "like": Spanish como (like)
    anta "you": Japanese anata/anta "you"

    French Nuque (from Arabic nukha'): English Neck (from PGmc)
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    Senior Member
    French (France)
    I think the words for "kiss" with initial b- are onomatopoetic. They crop up spontaneously in a large number of unrelated languages.


    New Member
    日本語 (Japanese)
    Some of my examples from a part of the Japanese and Finnish language guides I write.
    (I myself am Japanese-Finnish BTW. ).

    Example of words written same (pronunciation may be a little different):
    Finnish meaning Japanese (only one given)
    Sora ------------------------------- Gravel Sky (空)
    Himo ------------------------------- Lust Cord (紐)
    Hinata ------------------------------- Tow Sunshine (日向)
    Kanki ------------------------------- Bar Dry season (etc.) (乾季)
    Kenkä ------------------------------- Shoe Quarrel (喧嘩)
    Koko ------------------------------- Whole Here (ここ)
    Sakka ------------------------------- Dregs Author (for etc. See above) (作家)
    Hikari ------------------------------- Nerd Light (光)
    Toki ------------------------------- Sure Time (時)
    Kutsu ------------------------------- Call Shoe (靴)
    Suru -------------------------------- Sorrow (to do) (する)
    Rikka -------------------------------- Mote First day of summer (立夏)
    Sato -------------------------------- Crop Villiage (郷)
    Sakki -------------------------------- Gang Some time ago (さっき)
    Hima -------------------------------- Home Free time (暇)
    Suku -------------------------------- Family Fond of (好く) and other meanings
    Aho -------------------------------- Glade Idiot (アホ) dialectal
    Hiki -------------------------------- Sweat Backing, pull
    Tämä ------------------------------- This Ball (魂)
    … etc (example, kui, kun, sai, tai, kai, hana, doku, haiku, kaiken).
    Some words which may sound like Japanese words: Takana (behind), kaikki (all),
    nami (sweets; means ”wave” in Japanese).

    Some words which sound like Japanese in different forms (Finnish grammar):
    “Suki” (a form of ”sukia” – ”to groom”) – but the Japanese word 好き (suki – ”to like”), sounds like ”ski” in standard Japanese (and the Finnish ”u” and Japanese ”u” are different).
    “Kuroi” (a form of ”kuroa” – ”to gather”) sounds like Japanese 黒い (kuroi – ”black”)
    “Teki” (a form of “tehdä” – ”to do”) sounds like Japanese 敵 (teki – ”enemy”)

    Other things:
    In Finnish, another word for pajamas is ”yöpuku” (”yö” means ”night” and ”puku” means ”attire”)
    In Japanese the word for night is 夜(よる、yoru) and the kanji also has a on'yomi reading of ”ya” and ”yo” (although pronounced differently form the Finnish yö).
    In Japanese the word 服 (ふく、fuku) means ”clothes” and sounds like ”huku” and is somewhat similar to Finnish ”puku” in spelling.

    Here are many words for “bitch” (as in spiteful woman) in Japanese, some are すべた (subeta)、じゃじゃうま (jajauma)、阿婆擦れ (abazure) and 尼 (ama), the last two having many spellings.
    Is it common to say something like この尼!(kono ama!) when calling a woman a “bitch”.
    In Finnish, there are also quite a few words for it. A common word is ämmä which sounds like Japanese ”ama” and can translate as ”bitch”, ”old hag”, etc...

    Some more explaining...

    “Sora” means “gravel” in Finnish, while in Japanese 空(そら、sora) means “sky”. While the “R” in both sounds kind of like an “L” sound, there is difference between them.
    Of course in Japanese, “R” is not rolled by the tongue, and it comes out naturally sounding near the letter “L” (sola). In Finnish, the “R” sound is rolled (the tongue moves up) more so depending on its position in a word, as in this word.

    “Kut-su” meaning “call” in Finnish and 靴 (k(u)-ts(u)) meaning “shoe” in Japanese is not pronounced the same. The “U” sound in “ku” in Japanese (compare the “coo” in English which is somewhat similar sometimes, like in “cooker”) is short and does not sound like the Finnish “U” (which sounds like the “U” in the word “you”, try pronouncing the “oo” in the English word “cool”). The sounds are also split. The Finnish is “kut-su”.
    The Japanese is “ku-tsu”.

    “Toki” means “sure” in Finnish, in Japanese 時(とき、toki) means “time” (as in a moment of time).
    Written as 朱鷺 (etc.) it means an ibis bird.
    ここ(此処、”koko”) not to be confused with 個々 (“koko/individual”) is a place word in Japanese, and is often translated as “here”. In Finnish it means “entire” or “size”.

    “Sakka” in Finnish means “dregs” or “lees”. In Japanese it means “author” when written as 作家,
    “last summer” when written as 昨夏 or ”writing songs” when written as 作歌.
    “Hinata” means “to tow” in Finnish. In Japanese 日向(ひなた、hinata) means “sunshine”.
    光(ひかり、hikari) means “light” in Japanese, while in Finnish it is slang for “swot/nerd” from “hikipinko”. Note the differences between Japanese and Finnish “R”.
    Kenkä (meaning ”shoe”) in Finnish sounds like 喧嘩 (kenka); a quarrel.

    Despite a few similar sound patterns (hi, na, ki (k)ka, (t)ta, su, k(ko) mi, ou, ku, etc.) in small words, there is absolutely no relation between the languages. Finnish is a language comparable to Estonian in grammar and belongs in that language family (it is not Indo-European).
    Japanese is a isolate language with no relation to any other language, though shares some similar
    grammar to Korean.

    The issue is they carry a lot of the same sounds and also because Finnish grammar is complex and has 15 cases, the words often change, and in another form they make sound Japanese-like while the word in the simple case does not. Example “Pik-ku-ha-i-ka-ra” (pikkuhaikara), “na-ka-ta” (nakata),
    “hak-ku-ri” (hakkuri), etc. Some other sounds include the differences between “ko” and “kou” in pronunciation which both languages are similar in, and alike sounds.
    Some say that Finnish sounds like a Japanized European language, or what would happen if one puts Japanese, Italian and German together (in sound).

    Russian яма (jama/yama) -- "pit" sounds like Japanese 山 (yama) -- "mountain".
    Никуда (nikuda) -- "nowhere" sounds like 肉だ (niku da) -- "it's meat".

    P.S. I know many Hawaiian words which are "false friends" of Japanese and/or Finnish words. I can post them if anyone is intrested...
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    Senior Member
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Thanks for the extensive list (I'm interested in Japanese) :)
    But the thread is actually about false cognates (quite different from false friends), which are words similar in pronunciation AND meaning in 2 languages, which aren't cognates (not from the same origin).
    Like Arabic anta "you" and Japanese anata/anta which also means "you". The 2 words are similar in meaning and pronunciation, but have different origins. Also Japanese namae and English name, which are also similiar in meaning and pronunciation, but have different origins.
    Otherwise, there are much more false friends between different languages.


    New Member
    日本語 (Japanese)
    Oh, I am such a baka. (Hazukashii...:)) I'm sorry. My fault, I see. Thank you for the note. I must have read the post wrong... Then in that case, perhaps I can suggest Japanese 切る (kiru) which basically means "cut" but also can mean "kill" (similar to the word 殺す (korosu)), it therefore has similar pronunciation AND meaning as the English word "kill" (kiru --> "kil(u)). Although its a bit sloppy compared to your example. Also the word for "name" seems to alike in many languages from what I seen... Also I think the Finnish and Japanese word for "bitch" sound quite similar (as I posted in the previous post). (Can use 尼 (あま,ama in Japanese and can useämmä in Finnish for roughly the same meaning -- like in "出て行け!このクソ尼!二度と俺の前に姿を見せるな!").) Wanted to suggest Japanese 霞(かすみ,kasumi) -- "haze; mist" with Finnish sumu -- "mist/fog" -- not similar enough in pronunciation enough.

    兄 (ani) (兄貴/aniki) -- yet another word for "elder brother" in Japanese and Greenlandic "ani" which also means "elder brother (a girl's). Thanks again~
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    Senior Member
    Dravidian Tamil - Vilakku - Lamp/Clear off
    IE - Fulgere, Bleach


    Tamil Vayal (Farm)

    Latin Ville

    The best coincidence.
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    Senior Member
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    Chinese = 土耳其
    Turkish = Türk

    The thing is that the Chinese word means "wall builder" (duvarcı~tuarjı) in Turkish.

    Actually, I think 土耳其 (Tǔ'ěrqí) is clearly from 'Turkey' (how's the Turkish word for Turkey pronounced?) since the last character is pronounced 'kei4' in Cantonese. :)

    By the way, the Chinese word for 'Turk' is 突厥 (Tūjué; the last charcter is pronounced 'kyut3' in Cantonese). This transcription goes back over a millennium, so the strange sound is inevitable. :D


    Senior Member
    Türkiye: http://translate.google.com/#tr|en|t%C3%BCrkiye

    Duvarcı: http://translate.google.com/#tr|en|duvarc%C4%B1

    Here is another rather hilarious coincidence.

    Basque language - Wikipedia

    The Basque language is called "euskara".

    In Turkish the word you hear means "the black speech" ~ "the black dialect". :eek:
    Under certain conditions, it might also mean "the northern speech" or "the western speech" because colours also represent directions among Turks.

    ... Of course it wouldn't really be hilarious if there really was a connection between the Tursks and Turks.
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    Senior Member
    Another really funny coincidence which reminds me of the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

    The Japanese word Kimono is also a Turkish sentence meaning "Let me wear that thing".

    giy: to wear
    giyim: clothing
    giyeyim (spoken as giiyim): Let me wear
    onu: that thing, it



    Senior Member
    French (France)
    This one is not actually a coincidence. English “table” and Arabic ṭāwula (or ṭāwila) both derive from Latin tabula, the Arabic presumably via Italian tavola.


    Senior Member
    Are these coincidences?


    topla: gather, assemble, to put things in an orderly fashion on a place or object (like to put things on (or around) a table, or a chest, or a room. So, a gathering would be "toplantı").
    tavla: backgammon, to fool someone by laying a trap (the same meaning in Mongolian) (the aim of tavla~backgammon is the fool your opponent by laying a trap & you have to gather the stones before the opponent)

    tavla - Wiktionary

    getir: gather

    wonder (English) ~ Andır (Turkish) : remember, resemble, remind of (from "an" meaning "to call a moment or someone or something to mind")
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    Senior Member
    English - US, Korean
    Hebrew כֹה (ko; 'so/thus') and Japanese こう (kō; 'this way').
    Hebrew הזמין (hizmin; 'to make an appointment, to order (a product or service)'), Korean 주문 (jumun 'an order').

    EDIT: More Hebrew coincidences and possible-coincidences at your door!
    מה (ma) and Korean 뭐 (mwo), both "what"
    דרך (derekh) and German durch, both "through" (phono-semantic matching to Yiddish דורך?)
    לבן (lavan) 'white' and "albinism"
    עבר (cross over, pass) and "over"
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    Senior Member
    English\French\Italian Antique
    Hebrew\Arabic עתיק/عتيق 'atiq
    I suspect it's not a coincidence. The meaning of `atiq = antique is under Aramaic influence (see for example the book of Daniel), different from the Biblical Hebrew `atiq = of large quantity (for example in Isaiah). Aramaic could be influences by Latin or maybe another IE language.

    `atiq is also a noun, at least the feminine form `atiqa, see for example רשות העתיקות.


    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Italian: man mano (step by step, progressively)
    Chinese: 慢慢地 màn man de (slowly)

    Not exactly the same... but close enough.
    Gr. «σκατούλα» [ska'tula] --> little sh*t
    It. " scatola" ['skatola] --> box

    Anc. Gr. greeting «οὖλε» hoûlĕ --> be well
    Eng. "hello"

    Gr. «βραβείο» [vra'vi.o] (Anc. Gr. «βραβεῖον» brăbeîŏn) --> prize
    It. exclamation "bravo, -a" --> well done

    Anc. Gr. «γὲ» gè (emphatic particle) --> at least
    Ger. "ja"

    Anc. Gr. «μαδαρός» mădarós --> bald
    Lat. "maturus" --> ripe
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    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Japanese niwa "garden"
    Slovene njiva "(cultivated) field", Russian niva "cornfield", etc.

    Of course, gardens and fields can be very different things, so this isn't necessarily such a good match.


    Senior Member
    France - French
    And in many languages, 'ma' or 'mam' will mean "mother"... (or variations of the vowel: Mu, Amu, etc.)
    Relics of our universal "natural" language (if this existas at all), or a trick played my the mothers of old days because "mamamamam" is probably the first sound a baby will ever utter, anywhere in the world? "Listen: he/she called my name!!!!"


    Senior Member
    English - US, Korean
    Hebrew תָּלָה (tala): he hung (something), Korean 달다 (talda): hang by tying/strapping, append (something).
    Even more strikingly, causal dependence ("X depends on Y") can be expressed by these verbs, in the form of "X is hung on Y" in both languages.
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    Senior Member
    Saw this and it occurred to me: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2660879


    Abound: early 14c., from Old French abonder "to abound, be abundant, come together in great numbers" (12c.), from Latin abundare "overflow, run over," from Latin ab- "off" (see ab-) + undare "rise in a wave," from unda "water, wave" (see water (n.)). Related: Abounded; abounding.


    ab: come together, hunt, chase
    on: great number, many ("onlar" meaning "they" comes from this "on". "On" also means "number ten". It also means "to crush"


    abon: come together in great numbers & come together and crush.


    aban: to try to overpower someone.
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    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Not a semantic match, but

    English rinse < Fr. rincer < Latin recentiare
    Icelandic hreinsa "cleanse" < hreinn "pure" < Gernanic * xrain-


    New Member
    United States English
    I'm new here (this is my first post), but I've been looking around this forum for a long time. This topic particularly sparked my interest because I was just thinking about this a few days ago, so I decided to post my thoughts on it.

    I've noticed a few similarities that don't seem to be connected. For example, Tamil நீ (ni) = you, Mandarin 你 (nǐ) = you
    Also, this is kind of a stretch, but there's Spanish Yo = I and Chinese 我 (Wǒ) = I.
    Even more of a stretch: Chinese has a question particle "ma" (吗), which is attached to the end of a sentence to make it a question. Thus, 你是中国人. (Nǐ shì zhōngguó rén.) = You are a Chinese person,你是中国人吗? (Nǐ shì zhōngguó rén ma?) = Are you a Chinese person?
    In Tamil, there is the tendency to add an -ஆ (-aa) suffix to a sentence to make it a question when speaking informally. Thus, உன் பெயர் காயத்ரி. (Un peyar Gaayathri) = Your name is Gayatri. உன் பெயர் காயத்ரியா? (Un peyar Gaayathriyaa?) = Is your name Gayatri?

    I grew up around Tamil in my house (so I understand it), but unfortunately I don't speak it. There is one person here on this post who speaks Tamil (Aruniyan), so if he would be so kind as to correct any mistakes I made...?



    Senior Member
    Turkic languages also have question particles at the end of sentences like mı, mi, mu, mü ,ma, mo. I guess that could be some really ancient connection. Still since we have no way of knowing this I guess they are coincidences.


    Senior Member
    Dear Vishr,

    Yes, in Tamil, ஆ-aa as suffix for making questions, avanaa? is it him? , appadiyaa? is it so? etc...
    -aa as suffix is also used for negation, for ex.. illaa(without there), varaa(without coming), kaanaa(without seeing).

    The root sound aa(long a) should have a primitive meaning of "unknown" and so has additional meaning of valuable/sacred, as I can see this in many words in other distant languages, in Tamil its used as suffix for questioning and negations.

    Sanskrit has prefix a- for negation.


    English - US
    Here is one that really amused me the first time I learned of it:

    Japanese: バラバラ (scattered, disconnected)
    Filipino: barabara (haphazard)
    I could never get a Filipino teacher to explain how we came to use this word :)


    New Member
    In modern Greek " ματι " means eye ...['ma·ti ] and it sounds similarly to the Malay/ Indonesian word " mata " with the same meaning !!

    In Greenlandic " ananara" means mommy...yani annecim...maybe there is a conection...lost in time (-15.000) somewhere in central Siberia...
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    Senior Member
    English, USA
    In modern Greek " ματι " means eye ...['ma·ti ] and it sounds similarly to the Malay/ Indonesian word " mata " with the same meaning !!

    Interestingly, the Greek word seems (if Wiktionary is reliable) to come from an aphetic form of ommátion < ómma "eye".

    Another pair of false "friends":

    - veto (found in English and many other European languages) is from the 1sg. present form of Lat. vetare "forbid"

    - Finnish veto "pulling"(from the verb vetää "pull") has a range of other physical and metaphorical meanings such as "traction", "strength", etc., and it doesn't seem implausible that it could be extended to the meaning "veto" as well (in the sense of "taking ['pulling'] a proposal out of consideration")


    something I remembered:
    1.Japanese perapera, adverb meaning speaking fluently. Something looks like blah blah....
    Japanese has only a r with sound near to l.

    2.Japanese sentence soudesune can mean "I agree/you are right/yes, it is", consists of sou "thus", desu "be" in a polite form, ne interjection.
    While the T'ientsin dialect of Mandarin: 说的是呢, with same meaning and almost the same pronunciation, but formed from:说-say/speak, V的-that/what is Ved, 是-judging verb and can mean "is right" here, 呢-interjection. (Sorry but not very clear about T'ientsin pronunciation)


    Senior Member
    Frisian, Dutch and Low Saxon
    I used to think that West Frisian faam (pronounciation /fa:m/, Dutch/Frisian names derived from it: Famke/Femke/Fimke, meaning (cute) little girl) was a French loanword (we have many French loanwords) from femme (pronounciation /fam/). In North Frisian, however, they have the form foom and it appears they're both from Old Frisian fāmne.

    http://taaldacht.nl/2010/09/07/faam/ said:
    Eerst vraag ik uw geduld voor enkele woorden over de herkomst van faam. Want waarom is het in mijn ogen een bijzonder Fries woord? Wel, in de tijd dat er nog Oudgermaans werd gesproken was dit een wijdverbreid woord, maar tegenwoordig is het alleen nog in het Fries te vinden. Het is een kostbaar overblijfsel. Faam komt van Oudfries fāmne ‘jonge vrouw, maagd’. In de zustertalen bestonden Oudsaksisch fêmia ‘jonge vrouw’, Oudengels fǽmne ‘jonge vrouw’ en Oudnoords feima ‘verlegen meisje’. Ze gaan allemaal terug op Oudgermaans *faimnjō ‘herderin’, een vrouwelijke vorm bij een verder niet overgeleverd *faiman ‘herder’. Het woord heeft niets met Latijn fēmina te maken, al is de gelijkenis groot.

    Overigens, hoewel Oudnoords feima is uitgestorven heeft het nog wel geleid tot hedendaags IJslands feiminn ‘verlegen’ (eigenlijk ‘zoals een meisje’) en van daaruit feimni ‘verlegenheid’.

    Translation said:
    First I'd like to ask for your patience for some words about the origins of faam; because why do I think it's such a special Frisian word? Well, this was a widely used word when Old Germanic was still spoken, but nowadays it can only be found back in Frisian; it is a valuable remnant. Faam is derived from Old Frisian fāmne ‘young woman, virgin’. In its sister languages there were the forms fêmia (Old Saxon) ‘young woman’, fǽmne (Old English) ‘young woman’ and feima (Old Norse) ‘shy girl’. They're all derived from Old Germanic *faimnjō ‘herdess’, a female form of otherwise not survived *faiman ‘herder’. Even though they look very similar the word is not related to Latin fēmina at all.

    Even though Old Norse feima has gone extinct, it still lives on in present Icelandic feiminn ‘shy’ (actually ‘like a girl’) and from that to feimni ‘shyness’.

    Maybe I should put this on Wiktionary.


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

    Ciao! Confrontando il tema del perfetto latino dell'attuale verbo andare italiano con il corrispondente verbo giapponese 行く , ma dà di che pensare!

    Comunque, consiglio vivamente la lettura di L'Unità d'origine del linguaggio di Alfredo Trombetti. Se non altro per saperne di più.