Was the English language derived from Hebrew in antiquity?

The earliest Hebrew text yet discovered Dated to early tenth century BC









The issue here discussed concerns the origin of the English language, the possibility of the usual predominantly Germanic origin being over-stated, and instead, a parallel development of multiple languages influenced by Hebrew.

Firstly, look at the origin of Place-names. The predominance of Hebrew/ Eber/ Abar place-names in the Mediterranean area extends northward to the Iberian Peninsula, for example, the Ebro river. Hibernia was the name by which the classicists called Ireland, and in Irish mythology, Eber, the brother of Don, was one of the founders of the nation.

The Hebrides would appear to be related, and possibly even Brittania, in Greek, Ebrittania.  Two other ancient territories; Iberia was also the name given to the area now embraced by the Republic of Georgia,  and Hibrasil, the earliest recorded form of Brazil, in ancient Irish mythology. (John Cohane,  The Key ). The generic meaning of  ‘Aber’ is a crossing(over), particularly of a river, this is the same in Welsh as in Hebrew, and such German forms as Ober, Uber, and the English ‘Over’ are found in hundreds of place-names.

All our modern unabridged dictionaries are inadequate with regard to the origin or etymology of old English words not derived from Greek or Latin. As much of Greek and Latin and other European languages can be derived from Hebrew, so the question becomes, “Did even those English words that are said to be derived from Greek and Latin, really derive from their predecessor Hebrew? These European languages are young compared with Hebrew.

One of the most provocative words in the English language is that of ‘brother’ or ‘brethren’. It derives from the Hebrew ‘ebrooru’, and probably accounts for the ‘bar’ element in place-names,  such as Berkshire, Berkley, Bristol, Birmingham and Bournemouth, and word origins of bar (multiple senses), barley, bara (bread), bier, harbour, burn (stream), barrow, beorn (young man) and neighbour.

Professor Graves in 1855, speaking about an island at the mouth of the Kenmare River in Ireland, said that “The obvious and certain derivation of this name is Durs-ey, i.e. the ‘Island of Dur,’ Dur meaning water (Dwr in Welsh) The suffix “ey” meaning “island” in Hebrew is found in many names of British Islands such as Dalkey, Ireland’s Eye, Lambay on the Irish coast, Anglesey, Orkney, Eday, Sanday, Bressay, Housay, Neay, Oxney (Isle of Oxen), Stokesay, Sheppey, Colonsay, Oronsay, Bardsey, Lundy, Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Menai and Thorney.  Strong’s Concordance gives “ee” as the Hebrew sound for “island.” Interestingly the usual explanation of the suffix  “-ey” as Viking in origin, merely highlights a common origin.

Speaking before the British Association in 1847, James C. Pritchard, M.D., F.R.S. declared that Phoenician or Hebrew writing, being contemporaneous, was “the prototype of all the alphabets of ancient and modern Europe, and probably representing the form of letters in which the sacred Scriptures were originally written.” He went on to say that languages constantly borrow words from other languages, but they seldom, if ever, borrow idioms. Consequently, idiomatic relationship is strong presumptive evidence of ethnological identity. J. W. Donaldson said in 1851 to the British Association: “Now modern philology leads us to the conclusion that the Semitic languages were originally built upon the same system of monosyllabic roots as the Sanskrit and Greek.” (“British Association Reports,” vol. 20, 1851, p.138 et seq.)

Notice the English “Rabbit” comes from the Hebrew “Arnb-It” (hare), the r and the a reversed, the “Adder” from “At-Ar” (to encircle), the “Kitten” from “Qui-Ton” (a little one), “Camel” from “Ge-MeL” (camel) and “Elephant” and “Antelope” from “Ele-Ph” (ox). “Steer” from “Shoor” (ox). “Giraffe” from “Ga-Ra-Ph” (the neck), “Pig” from “Pi-Ggul” (abomination), “Snipe” from “Insop” (water-fowl), the letters shuffled, “Dove” from “Do-Ob” (to murmur). “Sparrow” from “Za-Ppor” (sparrow). “Pelican” from “Pe-Leg” (a stream). “Raven” and “Robin” come from “O-Reb” (raven), “Crow” or “Rook” from “Q-Raw” (to call), “Egret” from “Eg-Ort” (a crane), “Crane” from “Ga-Ran” (a throat), “Gull” from “Gul” (to move in a circuit), “Swallow” from “Sa-Lo” (quail), “Osprey” from “Pe-Ros” (eagle), the s put in front, “Eagle” from “A-Kul” (a devourer,also “Kill” from “Kul”). “Fish” from “Ne-Phe-sh” (living creature), “Crab” from “A-Q-Rab” (Scorpion), “Whelk” and “Leech,” if we shuffle the letters, from “Elq” (to adhere), “Haddock” from Ha-ddo-Q” (a thorn), “Crayfish” from “Ec-vis” (spider), “Wasp” from “A-Zb” (pain), “Moth” from “Mot” (little), “Worm” from “Orm” (naked). “Locust” from “Lo-Que-Sh” (to consume), “Gnat” from “Na-D” (to fly), “Buzz” from “Ze-Bub” (fly), “Shrub” from “Zh-Rub” (to limit), “Berry” from “Pe-Ri” (fruit in general), “Fruit” from “Fru-Ch” (to bud or blossom), “Branch” from “BR-Ach” (to reach across), “Bark” from “Book” (to roll round), “Gum” from “Gam” (to join together), “Ash” from “Azh” (tree), “Elm” from “Alon” (an oak), “Cypress” from “Go-Pher” (wood of Noah’s ark), “Holly” from “Ho-Llel”(pierces”), “Juniper” from “Ju-Per” (sharp points), “Brush” from “Br-Ush” (Fir), “Cedar” and “Citrus” and “Nectar” from Que-Tar” (perfume), “Mistletoe” from “Masl-Toh” (Lord of misrule). “Crocus” from “Cro-Cum” (Saffron herb), “Nettle” from “Ne-Tto” (plant), “Squash” from “Qua-Sha” (Cucumber), “Onion” from “O-In” (eye), “Cabbage” from “Qa-Ba-Zh” (to gather together), “Turnip”and “Parsnip” from “Nib” (a plant), “Barley”from “Bar” (corn) plus “Laehl” (weary), “Lemon” and “Melon” from Rimmon (Pomegranate),”Peach” from “Ne-Pe-Ch” (citron) and “Raspberry” from “Ra-Sp” (a red-hot coal). (For many more similarities, see  English Derived from Hebrew by R. Govett and ‘Our British Ancestors’ by Canon Lyson, as well as Word: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Source of English by Prof. Isaac E. Mozeson.)

The Hebrew word for Festival is “Moed.” The annual Scottish Gaelic musical festival is known as the “Mod.” Another Hebrew word for Festival is “Chag.” The Scotch and Gaelic dance is called a “Jig.” “Hooray” or “Hoorah” comes from the Hebrew word for “shout” “Rooah.” Cairn is the Irish pronunciation of the Hebrew QRN, meaning a “horn” which a cairn resembles in appearance. From this root the name of the Irish and Scottish hand-mill, the Quern is derived; so called because the bottom stone is, at the top, in form of a horn on which the upper stone revolves.

Why is Hebrew read from right to left?

Direction of writing Hebrew is from right to left while English is from left to right. Therefore critics argue that English cannot be derived from Hebrew. But the Anglo-Saxon tongue was largely unwritten prior to their settlement in Britain. Speaking of the “Alphabet and its Origin” at a meeting of the British Association in 1872, John Evans, F.R.S., F.S.A. says, “If the date which has been assigned to the famous ‘Moabite stone,’ of about 900 B.C., be correct, the correspondence in form between the archaic Greek letters and those on the stone raises a strong presumption in favor of letters having been imported into Greece at the time when the Phoenician alphabet was in that stage of development in which it occurs on the stone. Even the word ‘alphabet’ preserves the memory of its Phoenician origin, for Alpha and Beta, the names of the two letters from which the word is derived, are not Greek, but merely the Hellenized form of the Phoenician (i.e. Hebrew) Aleph and Beth. The same is the case with the names of all the other Greek letters down to Tau…. It must, however, be remembered, that the letters (of the Moabite Stone) are written from right to left, or in the same manner as Hebrew, and not as is the case with us, from left to right. In the early Greek inscriptions it appears to have been a matter of indifference in which direction the letters were placed. In some the lines are alternately in either direction; and this form of writing was known as Boustrophedon, or that which turned back and forth like an ox in ploughing…. The language of the Hebrew Scriptures may practically be regarded as the same as the Phoenician.” (“British Association Reports,” 1872, Transactions, p.181 et seq.).
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th edition, vol.3, p.972, article “Boustrophedon,” says: “A term descriptive of a peculiar form of writing common among the early Greeks. The direction of writing was alternately right to left and left to right in horizontal lines. It was a transition between the earlier right to left writing and the later left to right style. The term was derived from two Greek words meaning “ox” and “to turn,” from the resemblance of the writing to the winding course taken by oxen in ploughing.” It is well known that Egyptian Hieroglyphics can also be read in different directions.

Sir Charles Marston in ‘The Bible Comes Alive’ says, “It will be seen, from the archaeological evidence cited, that the Israelites had, from the time of Moses onward, at least three alphabetical scripts. First, what is known as the Sinai Hebrew; next, what is known as Phoenician Hebrew; and lastly, after the captivity in Babylon, what is known as the Assyrian Hebrew.” (p.8). “So far as is known at present, it would seem as though the Sinai Hebrew script usually reads from left to right, like our own writing, while the Phoenician Hebrew reads from right to left, like modern Hebrew.”
Dr Stephen Langdon, Professor of Assyriology at Oxford, wrote, in a letter to the “Times” on 5th October, 1935, with reference to the Sinai Hebrew inscription on the Lachish Red Bowl which had been published in that journal on 24th June, under the title “Antiquities from Lachish” by J.L. Starkey: “The inscription as published in the ‘Times’ should be inverted and read from left to right; for this was the original direction of writing the Sinaiatic script.”
The Lacedemonians wrote Greek from left to right; yet they were of Israelite origin (1 Maccabees 12:6-23).

Was Runic Derived From Hebrew?

The early Saxon alphabet contained letters before its contact with Greece or Rome. The old Runes are letters. The Saxons had terms of their own, not borrowed from Latin, for alphabetical letters. Writing is expressed in Saxon by a verb not of Roman origin. Saxons did not derive their word for “book” from “liber.” However there are numerous points of resemblance between the ancient British (or Runic) alphabet and those of the ancient Hebrews and Phoenicians (Haigh’s  The Conquest of Britain by the Saxons , p33 ono.). The Futhoric, or Runic alphabet, originated, “clearly in times of primitive antiquity. The nomenclature of the Phoenician-Hebrew alphabet is admitted to indicate its having originated in a primitive state of society, and that of the Futhoric has precisely the same character. Indeed it is remarkable how many of the objects named are common to both, how identical was the feeling which dictated in each case the choice of the symbol…. the remarkable coincidence in both systems, commencing with the names of domestic cattle.” One of the earliest of these futhorics consisted of sixteen runes; so also did the early Phoenician. As in Phoenician and Hebrew, so on Runic monuments in Norway and Sweden, writing is found from was right to left. In the symbols employed there are several parallels. “Aleph, the first character of the Hebrew and Phoenician alphabet, was the head of an Ox with its horns; Feoh, the first letter of the Runic, with the same meaning, is but a variant of the same symbol, and corresponds very nearly with the Samaritan character…. Thorn, the third rune, is certainly allied to Daleth, and as the latter is a “door,” so we may regard the former (of which Thur is one of the variants) as thurn or durn, with the same signification. The Phoenician-Hebrew letters Koph and Resch symbolize and signify the “Head”; the Greek Rho is identical with the primitive Resch; the Latin R and the Runic Raed differ from it only in the addition of a beard; whilst the Runic Waen, again, has the primitive form…. The Phoenician Cheth or Heth has sometimes exactly the form of the Anglo-Saxon Haegel; it means and represents an “enclosure” or “park” and it is very probable that Haegel means the same, for Haege is a “hedge” and Haegian to “hedge” would admit of a derivative noun Haegel…. The Phoenician-Hebrew Lamed is a “whip,” “rod” or “goad”; the Runic Lagu has the form of a whip or a flail, the symbol of authority in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Its meaning is “law.” ‘Calc’ has the form of a thunderbolt which characterizes Nin in the Assyrian sculptures, and when his title “Khalk-halla, “brother of the lightning” and the name of his father’s sacred city Kalk-ha are considered, we must conclude that the word signified what the form of the character denotes. Stan has the form in which the Phoenicians cast their pigs of tin, and is stamped as a symbol on one so formed, found in Cornwall, and now in Truro Museum; it is therefore extremely probable that the word, like the Latin Stannum, means “Tin.” Lastly, the Runic copulative sign has precisely the ancient form of Vau, which means a “hook,” and as such became in Hebrew the copulative conjunction.

Thus we see that the Phoenician alphabet and the Anglo-Saxon Futhoric are derived from a common source; that the same feeling dictated the choice of the symbols, which were to be used as letters in each case; and that each letter represents the initial sound of the name of the corresponding symbol. It must be remembered that the regular square Hebrew type was a comparatively late invention, and that the early Phoenician-Hebrew forms were those familiar to the Israelites during the captivity in Babylon. Comparing Phoenician-Hebrew with Runic suggests that Runic consisted of old Hebrew letters. There are many cases where the identical form is used for two different letters in Hebrew and Runic.

Isaac Taylor, in his work on the Runic characters accounts for the spread of Runic characters from the Black Sea to the Baltic by saying that the Goths were formerly Getae. The Runic came to the North from Asgard, a place which Taylor identifies with the Gerrhos of Herodotus. The Viking Rus later followed a similar route from the Baltic to the Middle East. This theory supports the statement of Snorri Sturleson that Odin introduced written characters into the North. Odin produced a “Futhoric” alphabet whose Runic characters bear a strange likeness to the characters used by the Greek colonists of the Black Sea littoral — characters which can be traced back as far as that coin of King Geta of the Edoni by the River Strymon in Thrace, the identical coin that found its way into the bed of the River Euphrates near Babylon. “Goth” is undoubtedly derived from Guta-theod. Theod being old English for “a people.” Goth therefore means the “people of Guta.” We met a “people of Gutium” on the inscriptions of Cyrus. The Getae of Trajan’s columns have an appearance and dress that is identical to the frescoes of the captive Goths from the Constantinople column even though centuries apart.

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