Semitic word root √mlk

🏷  Semitic word root · etymology   —   by Gerry · Sep 2018 · 545 words

The best known meaning of the Semitic root √mlk is “king”. The original basic meaning seems to be “council”, or more generally, information and requests traveling from one place to another. Kings have thus likely always been mere counsellors & advisors to higher powers.


Hebrew mlk = counsel, advice

מלך malak : to consult, counsel, advise — Old Hebrew (Strong)

Akkadian mlk = counsel, advice

𒃌 milku : (government) advice, counsel; intelligence, resolution; council (bīt milki = council hall); plan, decision — Akkadian (AAF)

𒃌 malāku : (government) to discuss; to advise so. on sth.; to look after, mind; to discuss, confer; to consider, ponder; to advise, exhort; to be advised; to consider; to discuss — Akkadian (AAF)

𒇽𒃌 ; 𒇽𒀜𒄄𒄄 māliku : counsellor, adviser / advisor, councilman (?) — Akkadian (AAF)

miliktum : (a piece of) advice — Akkadian (AAF)

mitluktu : advice, deliberation — Akkadian (AAF)

Sumerian galga = planning, advice

The Sumerian character used in Akkadian is GALGA, which was apparently already sometimes read and spelled malga in Sumerian, as an Akkadian loanword.

𒃌 ; 𒈠𒀠𒂵 ĝalga; ma-al-ga : (fore)thought, plan(ning); understanding; instruction, advice — Sumerian (ePSD)


Another meaning of similar words is “messenger” and “road”. It is unclear if that stems from the √mlk root as “advice” sent as a message, or from an M-prefixed √hlk root for “going”, or if both are related here.

Hebrew mlk = messenger, ambassador

In Hebrew, the meaning of √mlk as “messenger” is most famously found with the Biblical messengers of God, usually translated as angels. A related meaning is that of a “work”. Of the many terms for work, this one emphasizes that the work is commissioned.

מלך malak : ambassador, angel, envoy, messenger — Old Hebrew (Strong)

מלאכות malakuth : commission, message — Old Hebrew (Strong)

מלאכה melakah : (commissioned) occupation, work — Old Hebrew (Strong)

Akkadian mlk = messenger, route, way

mālakum : messenger — Akkadian (Black)

mālaku(m) : walk, way; course; access road, walkway; march, route; stage (of march); river-bed — Akkadian (Black)

māluku : walk; walking distance; a walkway — Akkadian (AAF)


This is the most well-known meaning, though it is unclear what such a “king” really was. A common translation is that of an appointed local “governor”, e.g. of a city. If this meaning is derived from messenger, that local governor would be something like a “messenger” to a higher ruler, perhaps titled šar.

Hebrew mlk = king

מלך melek : king — Old Hebrew (Strong)

מלכה malkah : queen — Old Hebrew (Strong)

מלכות malkut : royalty, royal power, reign, kingdom — Old Hebrew (Strong)

Akkadian mlk = king of inferior rank

In Akkadian, the term is less often used or translated as “king”, and sometimes explained as a ruler of inferior rank. Apparently, the word was not used as a title itself. This points again to the term being derived from messenger, and regional governors being seen as “counselors” or “messengers” to higher rulers. The Norris dictionaries have some commentary on this.

𒂷𒆪 ; 𒂷𒆠 ; 𒂷𒋻 malku; malki; malkut : king; Heb. מֶלֶךְ; Malik represents a king of inferior rank; generally those subordinate to the sar. — Akkadian (Norris)

𒈠𒌨 ; 𒂷𒆪 malik; malku : monarch, king, ruler; Heb. מֶלֶך; Sar invariably follows the king’s name as the royal title. Malik often appears upon other occasions, with the same meaning apparently, but I usually put “monarch” or “ruler” when the two words occur in the same sentence. — Akkadian (Norris)

malku(m); maliku(m) : prince, king — Akkadian (Black)

🏷  Semitic word root · etymology