Child and Adopted Roots of Hebrew Words
By Jeff A. Benner

Child Roots

Of the twenty-two letters of the Semitic alphabet, four originally doubled as a consonant and a vowel and are called "weak" consonants. These four are the (A), (H, E), (W, O, and U) and (Y, I). The remaining eighteen consonants are called "strong consonants".

A Child Root is formed by adding one of the consonant/vowels to the front, middle or end of the Parent Root. All the Child Roots formed from one Parent Root are directly related in meaning to the Parent Root.

From the parent root (el), meaning strength and authority, comes the child root (ayil), meaning a buck, the strong one of the flock. From the parent root (ben), meaning son, comes the child root (banah), meaning to build, through the idea that the sons build a house, literally and figuratively. From the parent root (lakh), meaning walk, comes the child root (halakh), meaning a journey.

Below are the Child Roots formed from the Parent Root (BaL) meaning, "flow";

ABaLwilt: a flowing away of life
HaBaLempty: flowing out of contents
BaHaLpanic: a flowing of the insides
BaLaHaged: a flowing away of youth
BULflood: a heavy flowing of water
YaBaLstream: a flowing of water

Adopted Roots

An adopted root is a three consonant root consisting of three strong consonants. These roots are not part of the original parent/child root system of the Semitic language but were evolved out of it over time or were introduced from a non-Semitic language.

The following adopted roots were formed by adding another strong consonant to the parent root (PaR) meaning, break.

PaRaChbreak forth
PaRaKbreak apart
PaRaSbreak in pieces
PaRaQbreak off
PaRaTsbreak open

Reconstruction of Roots

By comparing the various aspects of a parent root, the original meaning of the parent can be determined. For example, the two child roots (MQQ) meaning "to rot" and (MQ) meaning "to stink" are formed out of the parent root . These two ideas are connected in that something that rots begins to stink. When we examine the letters which form the parent root, and , we find the original meaning. The is a picture of water and the is a picture of the sun at the horizon representing the gathering or condensing of light. When we combine the meaning of these two letters we have "water condensed". When the water of a pond condenses, such as dries up, the vegetation and fish that lived in that water die and begin to rot and stink. We know have a picture which will help us better understand the meaning of these words. One additional piece to the puzzle is the adopted root (TsMQ), an adopted root meaning "dry".

Many times the adopted roots alone can help to reconstruct the meaning of a Parent root. The original meaning of the parent root (BHh) is very difficult to determine as the only word derived from it is the word (av'hhah) from the child root (ABHh) meaning "sharp point". The adopted roots below clearly show the original meaning of the parent root as "slaughter" and the "point" is in reference to the knife that is used to slaughter.

BaHhaRChoose (through the idea of choosing a sacrifice)
BaHhaNTest (through the idea of testing for the choicest)
BaKaRFirstborn (the firstborn of the flock is chosen for sacrifice) [Note: The letter has been exchanged for the similar sounding ]

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