Guide to the Semitic Roots Appendix
The layout of Appendix II follows essentially that of Appendix I. An entry is headed by a reconstructed Semitic root in boldface followed by its meaning. The meaning, like the reconstructed root itself, is hypothetical and often difficult to pinpoint exactly; hence meanings are sometimes stated vaguely, and occasionally no meaning at all can be given:šry To loosen, remove, begin.
bdl To change, divide, separate.
If the root is possibly but not assuredly of Common Semitic ancestry, the subbranch of Semitic for which it is reconstructible is given first:ʿqb West Semitic, to follow, guard, protect.
śrp2 Arabic root, to be noble, highborn.
When the meaning given for a reconstructed form is uncertain in some aspect, the meaning is followed by a question mark in parentheses (?):smk … from Phoenician *samk‑, support (?), fifteenth letter of the Phoenician alphabet.
In general, only roots and not actual words are reconstructible for Semitic. If a reconstructed word can be given, it may take the place of a definition of the root if the root is only known from the word in question:ʿmm Common Semitic noun *ʿamm‑, paternal kinsman, kin, clan, people.
Following this information is a list of English words, in small capitals, whose histories can be traced back to the root. Only those English words that are entries in the dictionary are given. If both uncompounded and compounded words or phrases occur, the uncompounded words are given first and separated from the compounds by a semicolon. The Semitic word from which the English words are derived is given next in italics:śyḫ … sheikh, from Arabic śayḫ, old man, chief …
šlm … shalom; shalom aleichem, from Hebrew šālōm, well-being, peace …
If the exact Semitic source is not known, the oldest attested form to which the English word(s) can be traced is given first:qnw … canasta, cane, canistel, canister … from Greek kanna, reed, from a Semitic source akin to Akkadian qanû …
If intermediate reconstructed forms are given, as is sometimes necessary, they are preceded by an asterisk (*) to indicate that they are hypothetical, but assumed to have existed. Such a reconstructed form, if ancient enough, is given at the outset of a section before the list of English derivatives:lmd … 2. Northwest Semitic noun *lamd‑, ox-goad (?). a.lambda, …
Intermediate stages that are attested (such as the stages coming between Arabic šarba and English sherbet) are given in the etymologies in the main vocabulary of the dictionary, and not in the appendix, as a general rule.
Entries are broken up into sections if the English derivatives come from different reconstructed or attested Semitic forms:bn Common Semitic noun *b(i)n‑, son, and feminine derivative *bint‑, daughter. I. Common Semitic *b(i)n- … II. Common Semitic *bint- …
brr … 1.barrio, from Arabic barrī, open (of land) … 2.birr2, from Amharic bərr, coin, silver …
Sections of an entry are themselves divided into subsections if all members of the section ultimately come from the same word. This word is then given after the various subsections:ntn … 1a.Matthew … from mattan, bound form of mattān (< *mantan), gift … b.(i)Nathan, from nātān, he (God) gave; (ii)Jonathan, … from nātān, he gave … Both a and b from Hebrew nātan, to give …
English derivatives of the same Semitic word may be listed separately from each other if expository clarity is thereby gained. Thus, in the following excerpt, schlemiel in fact ultimately goes back to the same Hebrew word šālōm given in 1a as the source of shalom and shalom aleichem, but is kept separate from it in order to give a gloss to the personal name šəlūmîʾēl:šlm … 1a.shalom; shalom aleichem, from Hebrew šālōm, well-being, peace … 2.schlemiel, perhaps from the Hebrew personal name šəlūmîʾēl, my well-being is God …
Numerous proper nouns in English have been borrowed from Semitic languages, like the geographical name Bethlehem and the personal name Joshua. These are treated in one of two ways. A few, such as the names of selected major biblical figures (especially those after whom books of the Bible are named), are given etymologies in the main vocabulary of the dictionary, with references to the appendix as necessary. Others are only given etymologies in the appendix, and have been put in it as a special feature of this work. They are treated about the same as other words but are given fuller etymological information (since none is given in the main vocabulary of the dictionary). When necessary, cross-references to other roots are given in boldface.ḥdṯ … Carthage, from Phoenician (Punic) *qart-ḥadašt, new town, from *ḥadašt, feminine singular of *ḥadaš, new (*qart, town; see qr).
In this example, the subentry for Carthage shows that the word comes from a Phoenician compound; the element *-ḥadašt is fully etymologized here, but the reader is referred to the entry qr for fuller information on the other compound member, *qart-.
The following alphabetical order is observed in this appendix:ʾ, ʿ, b, d, ḏ, g, ġ, h, ḥ, ḫ, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, ś, š, ṣ, ṣ́, t, ṯ, ṭ, ṯ̣, w, x̣, y, z.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus