In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin.[1] Cognates are often inherited from a shared parent language, but they may also involve borrowings from some other language. For example, the English words dish and desk and the German word Tisch ("table") are cognates because they all come from Latin discus, which relates to their flat surfaces. Cognates may have evolved similar, different or even opposite meanings, but in most cases there are some similar sounds or letters in the words, in some cases appearing to be dissimilar. Some words sound similar, but don't come from the same root; these are called false cognates.

The word cognate derives from the Latin noun cognatus, which means "blood relative".[2]

Etymological Relationships Tree
Diagram showing relationships between etymologically-related words


Cognates do not need to have the same meaning, which may have changed as the languages developed separately. For example English starve and Dutch sterven or German sterben ("to die") all derive from the same Proto-Germanic root, *sterbaną ("die"). Discus is from Greek δίσκος (from the verb δικεῖν "to throw"). A later and separate English reflex of discus, probably through medieval Latin desca, is desk (see OED s.v. desk).

Cognates also do not need to have similar forms: English father, French père, and Armenian հայր (hayr) all descend directly from Proto-Indo-European *ph₂tḗr. An extreme case is Armenian երկու (erku) and English two, which descend from Proto-Indo-European *dwóh₁ (note that the sound change *dw > erk in Armenian is regular).

Across languages

Examples of cognates in Indo-European languages are the words night (English), nuit (French), noche (Spanish), Nacht (German), nacht (Dutch), nag (Afrikaans), nicht (Scots), natt (Swedish, Norwegian), nat (Danish), nátt (Faroese), nótt (Icelandic), noc (Czech, Slovak, Polish), ночь, noch (Russian), ноќ, noć (Macedonian), нощ, nosht (Bulgarian), ніч, nich (Ukrainian), ноч, noch/noč (Belarusian), noč (Slovene), noć (Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian), νύξ, nyx (Ancient Greek, νύχτα/nychta in Modern Greek), nox/nocte (Latin), nakt- (Sanskrit), natë (Albanian), nos (Welsh), nueche (Asturian), noite (Portuguese and Galician), notte (Italian), nit (Catalan), nuèch/nuèit (Occitan), noapte (Romanian), nakts (Latvian), naktis (Lithuanian) and Naach (Colognian), all meaning "night" and being derived from the Proto-Indo-European *nókʷts "night".

Another Indo-European example is star (English), str- (Sanskrit), tara (Hindustani and Bengali), tora (Assamese), astre/étoile (French), ἀστήρ (astēr) (Greek or ἀστέρι/ἄστρο, asteri/astro in Modern Greek), astro/stella (Italian), aster (Latin) stea (Romanian and Venetian), stairno (Gothic), astgh (Armenian), Stern (German), ster (Dutch and Afrikaans), Schtähn (Colognian), starn (Scots), stjerne (Norwegian and Danish), stjarna (Icelandic), stjärna (Swedish), stjørna (Faroese), setāre (Persian), stoorei (Pashto), seren (Welsh), steren (Cornish), estel (Catalan), estela (Occitan) estrella and astro Spanish, estrella Asturian and Leonese, estrela and astro (Portuguese and Galician) and estêre or stêrk (Kurdish), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂stḗr "star".

The Arabic سلام salām, the Hebrew שלום shalom, the Assyrian Neo-Aramaic shlama and the Amharic selam ("peace") are also cognates, derived from the Proto-Semitic *šalām- "peace".

Cognates may often be less easily recognised than the above examples, and authorities sometimes differ in their interpretations of the evidence. The English word milk is clearly a cognate of German Milch, Dutch melk, Russian молоко (moloko) and Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian mleko, also Montenegrin mlijeko.[3] On the other hand, French lait, Catalan llet, Italian latte, Romanian lapte, Spanish leche and leite (Portuguese and Galician) (all meaning "milk") are less-obvious cognates of Ancient Greek γάλακτος gálaktos (genitive singular of γάλα gála, "milk"), a relationship that is more evidently seen through the intermediate Latin lac "milk" as well as the English word lactic and other terms borrowed from Latin. All of them come from Proto-Indo-European h₂melǵ- "milk".

Some cognates are semantic opposites. For instance, while the Hebrew word חוצפה chutzpah means "impudence," its Classical Arabic cognate حصافة ḥaṣāfah means "sound judgment."[4]

Within the same language

Cognates within a single language, or doublets, may have meanings that are slightly or even totally different. For example, English ward and guard (<PIE *wer-, "to perceive, watch out for") are cognates, as are shirt (garment on top) and skirt (garment on bottom) (<PIE *sker-, "to cut"). In some cases, including this one, one cognate ("skirt") has an ultimate source in another language related to English,[5] but the other one ("shirt") is native.[6] That happened with many loanwords, such as skirt in this example, which was borrowed from Old Norse during the Danelaw.

Sometimes both doublets come from other languages, often the same one but at different times. For example, the word chief (meaning the leader of any group) comes from the Middle French chef ("head"), and its modern pronunciation preserves the Middle French consonant sound; the word chef (the leader of the cooks) was borrowed from the same source centuries later, but by then, the consonant had changed to a "sh" sound in French. Such word sets can also be called etymological twins, and they may come in groups of higher numbers, as with, for example, the words wain (native), waggon/wagon (Dutch), and vehicle (Latin) in English.

A word may also enter another language, develop a new form or meaning there, and be re-borrowed into the original language; that is called reborrowing. For example, the Greek word κίνημα (kinima, "movement") became French cinéma (compare American English movie) and then later returned to Greece as σινεμά (sinema, "the art of film", "movie theater"). In Greek, κίνημα (kinima, "movement") and σινεμά (sinema, "filmmaking, cinema") are now doublets.[7]

A less obvious English-language doublet pair is grammar and glamour.

False cognates

False cognates are words that people commonly believe are related (have a common origin), but that linguistic examination reveals are unrelated. For example, on the basis of superficial similarities, the Latin verb habēre and German haben, both meaning 'to have', appear to be cognates. However, because the words evolved from different roots, in this case, different Proto-Indo-European (PIE) roots, they cannot be cognate (see for example Grimm's law). German haben, like English have, comes from PIE *kh₂pyé- 'to grasp', and its real cognate in Latin is capere, 'to seize, grasp, capture'. Latin habēre, on the other hand, is from PIE *gʰabʰ, 'to give, to receive', and hence cognate with English give and German geben.[8]

Likewise, English much and Spanish mucho look similar and have a similar meaning but are not cognates, as they evolved from different roots: much from Proto-Germanic *mikilaz < PIE *meǵ- and mucho from Latin multum < PIE *mel-.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Crystal, David, ed. (2011). "cognate". A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (6th ed.). Blackwell Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4443-5675-5. OCLC 899159900. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  2. ^ "cognate", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.: "Latin cognātus: co-, co- + gnātus, born, past participle of nāscī, to be born." Other definitions of the English word include "[r]elated by blood; having a common ancestor" and "[r]elated or analogous in nature, character, or function".
  3. ^ Compare also Greek ἀμέλγω amelgō "to milk".
  4. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994) [1979]. J. Milton Cowan (ed.). Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Urbana, Illinois: Spoken Language Services, Inc. ISBN 0-87950-003-4.
  5. ^ Harper, Douglas. "skirt (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 16 June 2017. early 14c., "lower part of a woman's dress," from Old Norse skyrta "shirt, a kind of kirtle"
  6. ^ Harper, Douglas. "shirt (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 16 June 2017. Old English scyrte "skirt, tunic," from Proto-Germanic *skurtjon "a short garment"
  7. ^ In fact, σινεμά stands beside a Greek neologism based on the original form of the same root, κινηματογράφος (kinimatoγráfos), with the same two meanings as cinéma/σινεμά. (The film or movie itself is the unrelated ταινία (tainia).)
  8. ^ Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben
  9. ^ Ringe, Don. "A quick introduction to language change" (PDF). Univ. of Pennsylvania: Linguistics 001 (Fall 2011). ¶ 29. pp. 11–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2014.

Further reading

  • Rubén Morán (2011), 'Cognate Linguistics', Kindle Edition, Amazon.

External links


BANZSL, or British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language, is the language of which British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) may be considered dialects. These three languages may technically be considered dialects of a single language (BANZSL) due to their use of the same grammar, manual alphabet, and the high degree of lexical overlap. The term BANZSL was coined by Trevor Johnston and Adam Schembri.

BSL, Auslan and NZSL all have their roots in a deaf sign language used in Britain during the 19th century.

American Sign Language and BANZSL are unrelated sign languages. However there is still significant overlap in vocabulary, probably due largely to relatively recent borrowing of lexicon by signers of all three dialects of BANZSL, with many younger signers unaware which signs are recent imports.

Between Auslan, BSL and NZSL, 82% of signs are identical (per Swadesh lists). When considering identical as well as similar or related signs there are 98% cognate signs between the languages. By comparison, ASL and BANZSL have only 31% signs identical, or 44% cognate.

According to Henri Wittmann (1991), Swedish Sign Language also descends from BSL. From Swedish SL arose Portuguese Sign Language and Finnish Sign Language, the latter with local admixture; Danish Sign Language is largely mutually intelligible with Swedish SL, though Wittmann places it in the French Sign Language family.

Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (CAJS or "the Katz Center") at the University of Pennsylvania is the world's first and only institution exclusively dedicated to post-doctoral research on Jewish Civilization. It is located at 420 Walnut Street between S. 4th and S. 5th Streets in the Old City, Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. The center is directed by Professor Steven Weitzman.

Cognatic kinship

Cognatic kinship is a mode of descent calculated from an ancestor or ancestress counted through any combination of male and female links, or a system of bilateral kinship where relations are traced through both a father and mother. Such relatives may be known as cognates.

Eastern Daly languages

The Eastern Daly languages are an extinct family of Australian aboriginal languages that are fairly closely related, at 50% cognate. They were:


KamuThese languages had elements of verbal structure that suggest they may be related to the Macro-Gunwinyguan languages. All are now extinct.

False cognate

False cognates are pairs of words that seem to be cognates because of similar sounds and meaning, but have different etymologies; they can be within the same language or from different languages. For example, the English word dog and the Mbabaram word dog have exactly the same meaning, but by complete coincidence. Likewise, English much and Spanish mucho which came by their similar meanings via completely different origins. This is different from false friends, which are similar-sounding words with different meanings, but which may in fact be etymologically related. (For example: Spanish dependiente looks like dependent, but means sales assistant or clerk as well.)

Even though false cognates lack a common root, there may still be an indirect connection between them (for example by phono-semantic matching or folk etymology).


"Frazione" (Italian pronunciation: [fratˈtsjoːne]; pl. frazioni [fratˈtsjoːni]) is the Italian name given in administrative law to a type of territorial subdivision of a comune; for other administrative divisions, see municipio, circoscrizione, quartiere. It is cognate to the English word fraction, but in practice is roughly equivalent to "parishes" or "wards" in other countries.

Gná and Hófvarpnir

In Norse mythology, Gná is a goddess who runs errands in other worlds for the goddess Frigg and rides the flying, sea-treading horse Hófvarpnir (Old Norse "he who throws his hoofs about", "hoof-thrower" or "hoof kicker"). Gná and Hófvarpnir are attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Scholarly theories have been proposed about Gná as a "goddess of fullness" and as potentially cognate to Fama from Roman mythology. Hófvarpnir and the eight-legged steed Sleipnir have been cited examples of transcendent horses in Norse mythology.


Heat shock 70 kDa protein 8 also known as heat shock cognate 71 kDa protein or Hsc70 or Hsp73 is a heat shock protein that in humans is encoded by the HSPA8 gene on chromosome 11. As a member of the heat shock protein 70 family and a chaperone protein, it facilitates the proper folding of newly translated and misfolded proteins, as well as stabilize or degrade mutant proteins. Its functions contribute to biological processes including signal transduction, apoptosis, autophagy, protein homeostasis, and cell growth and differentiation. It has been associated with an extensive number of cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, cell senescence, and aging.

Haiphong Sign Language

Haiphong Sign Language is the deaf-community sign language of the city of Haiphong in Vietnam. It is about 50% cognate with the other sign languages of Vietnam, and has been less influence than them by the French Sign Language once taught in Vietnamese schools for the deaf. It is each cognate with the languages of the Old Chiangmai–Bangkok Sign Language family of Thailand; the deaf-community sign langes of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos may be genealogically related, or there may be a history of population movement that has cause them to have words in common.


Indo-Iranian peoples, also known as Indo-Iranic peoples by scholars, and sometimes as Arya or Aryans from their self-designation, were an ethno-linguistic group who brought the Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, to major parts of Eurasia.

List of Galician words of Celtic origin

This is a list of Galician words of Celtic origin, many of them being also shared with Portuguese since both languages have a common origin in the medieval language of Galician-Portuguese. A few of these words existed in Latin as loanwords from a Celtic source, usually Gaulish, while other have been later received from other languages, mainly French, Occitan, and Spanish. Finally, some were directly acquired from Gallaecian, the local pre-Latin Celtic language. Any form with an asterisk (*) is unattested and therefore hypothetical.

A systematic investigation of the Celtic words in Galician is still lacking.

Ndut language

Ndut (Ndoute) is a Cangin language of Senegal. Ethnologue reports that it is 84% cognate (and 55% intelligible) with Palor, essentially a divergent dialect, and 68% cognate with the other Cangin languages.


An oblast (UK: , US: ) is a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union and Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Official terms in successor states of the Soviet Union differ, but some still use a cognate of the Russian term, e.g., voblast (voblasts, voblasts', [ˈvobɫasʲtsʲ]) is used for regions of Belarus, and oblys (plural: oblystar) for regions of Kazakhstan.

The word "oblast" is a loanword in English, but it is, nevertheless, often translated as "area", "zone", "province", or "region". The last translation may lead to confusion, because "raion" may be used for other kinds of administrative subdivision, which may be translated as "region", "district", or "county" depending on the context.

Old Chiangmai–Bangkok Sign Language family

The Old Chiangmai–Bangkok Sign Language family is a language family of two related sign languages: Old Chiangmai Sign Language and Old Bangkok Sign Language. Woodward (2003) found that they were 65% cognate, indicating that the two languages are related, possibly due to migration between Chiangmai and Bangkok. There appear to be connections to sign languages of Vietnam (especially to Hai Phong Sign Language), and possibly Laotian sign languages, but the nature of these connections (whether areal or genetic) has not been determined. Village sign languages of Thailand, such as Ban Khor Sign Language, are unrelated.


Sachem and Sagamore refer to paramount chiefs among the Algonquians or other Native American tribes of the northeast. The two words are anglicizations of cognate terms (c. 1622) from different Eastern Algonquian languages. The Sagamore was a lesser chief than the Sachem. Both of these chiefs are elected by their people. Sagamores are chosen by single bands to represent them, and the Sachem is chosen to represent a tribe or group of bands. Neither title is hereditary but each requires selection by band thus led.

Small GTPase

Small GTPases (EC, also known as small G-proteins, are a family of hydrolase enzymes that can bind and hydrolyze guanosine triphosphate (GTP). They are a type of G-protein found in the cytosol that are homologous to the alpha subunit of heterotrimeric G-proteins, but unlike the alpha subunit of G proteins, a small GTPase can function independently as a hydrolase enzyme to bind to and hydrolyze a guanosine triphosphate (GTP) to form guanosine diphosphate (GDP). The best-known members are the Ras GTPases and hence they are sometimes called Ras subfamily GTPases.

A typical G-protein is active when bound to GTP and inactive when bound to GDP (i.e. when the GTP is hydrolyzed to GDP). The GDP can be then replaced by free GTP. Therefore, a G-protein can be switched on and off. GTP hydrolysis is accelerated by GTPase activating proteins (GAPs), while GTP exchange is catalyzed by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Activation of a GEF typically activates its cognate G-protein, while activation of a GAP results in inactivation of the cognate G-protein.

Guanosine nucleotide dissociation inhibitors (GDI) maintain small GTP-ases in the inactive state.

Small GTPases regulate a wide variety of processes in the cell, including growth, cellular differentiation, cell movement and lipid vesicle transport.

Urban planning

Urban planning is a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks. Urban planning deals with physical layout of human settlements. The primary concern is the public welfare, which includes considerations of efficiency, sanitation, protection and use of the environment, as well as effects on social and economic activities. Urban planning is considered an interdisciplinary field that includes social, engineering and design sciences. It is closely related to the field of urban design and some urban planners provide designs for streets, parks, buildings and other urban areas. Urban planning is also referred to as urban and regional planning, regional planning, town planning, city planning, rural planning, urban development or some combination in various areas worldwide.

Urban planning guides orderly development in urban, suburban and rural areas. Although predominantly concerned with the planning of settlements and communities, urban planning is also responsible for the planning and development of water use and resources, rural and agricultural land, parks and conserving areas of natural environmental significance. Practitioners of urban planning are concerned with research and analysis, strategic thinking, architecture, urban design, public consultation, policy recommendations, implementation and management. Enforcement methodologies include governmental zoning, planning permissions, and building codes, as well as private easements and restrictive covenants.Urban planners work with the cognate fields of architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and public administration to achieve strategic, policy and sustainability goals. Early urban planners were often members of these cognate fields. Today urban planning is a separate, independent professional discipline. The discipline is the broader category that includes different sub-fields such as land-use planning, zoning, economic development, environmental planning, and transportation planning.

Wagaydyic languages

Wagaydyic is a pair of closely related but otherwise unclassified Australian Aboriginal languages, the moribund Wadjiginy (Wagaydy) and the extinct Kandjerramalh (Pungupungu).

Tryon (1987) notes that the two languages are 80% cognate, but there are serious grammatical differences that prevent them from being considered dialects of a single language.The unattested Giyug may have been related. The Wagaydyic languages have previously been classified with Malak-Malak into a Northern Daly family, but similarities appear to be due to lexical and morphological borrowing from Malak-Malak, at least in Wadjiginy.


Über (German pronunciation: [ˈyːbɐ] (listen), sometimes written uber in English-language publications) is a German language word meaning "over", "above" or "across". It is an etymological twin with German ober, and is cognate (through Proto-Germanic) with English over, Dutch over, Swedish över and Icelandic yfir, among other Germanic languages; it is distantly cognate to Sanskrit word upari and Hindi uper (both meaning 'above', 'over' or 'up') probably through Proto-Indo-European. The word is relatively well-known within Anglophone communities due to its occasional use as a hyphenated prefix in informal English, usually for emphasis. The German word is properly spelled with an umlaut, while the spelling of the English loanword varies.

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