Herbst – harvest

Harvest is a superb word to talk about language roots. Quite obviously, the German and English words of the headline share the same word root, one that is backed by shared cultural and climatic geography: Herbst is harvest time. Autumn, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the English language, one of the hundreds and thousands of words borrowed (and never given back, to quote a bonmot well known amongst English language historians) from Latin and/or French. What fascinates me about plucking out linguistic roots is that it’s like opening a window into the history of a speech community, and ultimately of all of mankind. Language roots are ultimately shared by all humanity, even if language should have developed independently in different places. Over time, we kept on mixing – genetically as well as culturally. So, especially for those who believe in cultural purity, or the existence of ‘pure’ nations and races – let me propose this challenging piece of language history: German Herbst (‘autumn’) and English harvest apparently have Semitic roots!

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