Semitic word root √nks

tags:  Egyptian Semitic Sumerian word root · etymology   —   by Gerry · May 2019 · 1424 words

The Semitic word root √nks is derived from “cutting up meat”, and by derivation also means “property units” & “accounting”, i.e. apportioning wealth into sizeable units for management & trade. The root is very old and found in all languages of the ancient Fertile Crescent, including Sumerian, where it may have originated. It is likely the 2nd component in the word Phoenician, Greek Phoin-nikes, and may thus be the 2nd part in today’s word fin-nance.

Hebrew & Aramaic nks as “cutting up”, “property”, “wealth”

The root √nks is well attested for Hebrew & Aramaic, with the original meaning of “cutting” in the sense of “slaughtering”, but also with derived financial meanings such as “unit of property” and “wealth” in general.

Hebrew nks = slaughter, property, wealth

נכס nekes : riches, treasures, wealth; compare Assyrian nikâsu, property, wealth, gain — Old Hebrew (Strong)

נכס nekas : riches, property, goods, treasury; (Aramaic) corresponding to nekes — Aramaic (Strong)

נכס nks : he slaughtered; from Aram.-Syr. נכס, which is related to Akka. nakasu (= to slay, kill, slaughter) — Hebrew (Klein)

נכס nks : richness, wealth, property; prob. an Aramaic loan word cp. Akka. nikasu (= property, wealth, gain), and Aram. נכסיא, Syr. נכסא (= wealth, riches, goods) — Hebrew (Klein)

נכס nks : to acquire property — Hebrew (Klein)

Aramaic nks = cut pieces, property, wealth

נכסין nksyn niḵsīn : property, wealth; especially flocks and herds; Akkadian nikkassu (from Sumerian); The meaning is like English “property” in that it can be both moveable and real property. — Aramaic (CAL)

נכס nks : possessions — Aramaic (CAL)

נקס nqs : to cut into pieces — Aramaic (CAL)

נקוס nqws : segment; chunk; piece (of bread); mass (of metal) — Aramaic (CAL)

נקס nqs : slice, meat, mass — Aramaic (CAL)

ניסק nysq : piece — Aramaic (CAL)

נקץ nqṣ : slice, piece of meat, splinter — Aramaic (CAL)

נכס nks : to slaughter, to be slaughtered — Aramaic (CAL)

אנכיס ˀnkys : sacrifice — Aramaic (CAL)

נכוס nkws : one who slaughters — Aramaic (CAL)

נכיסה nkysh : sacrifice of a slaughtered animal — Aramaic (CAL)

בר נכיסה br nkysh : an animal born after its mother has been slaughtered — Aramaic (CAL)

Akkadian nikkassu as “cutting up things”, “accounting”

In Akkadian, the meaning of “property” can be traced back to “accounting”. Accounting may thus have preceeded the legal notion of property. Also in Akkadian, a possible original meaning of “cutting” can be observed, which is present in Egyptian, but not in Sumerian, where the root is said to have originated. It may have been present though, but lost to us.

Akkadian nks = cut off, property, wealth, accounts

𒃻𒅗 nikkassu : account, property, possessions, wealth, funds, assets, statement of account; nikkassu šasā ˀum: to claim settlement of accounts; nikkassu epē/āšu: to balance accounts, to break even; nikkassu ṣabātu: to balance accounts, to break even; ina nikkassu šakānu: to submit to accounting, to make something available for accounting; ina nikkassu: at the time of accounting; rab nikkassu: chief accountant, comptroller, administrator of property; bīt nikkassu: counting house (Elam); result of calculation — Akkadian (AAF)

𒋻 nakāsu : to cut, fell; Arabic nakasa نَكَسَ “to invert”; Hebrew nakas נָכַס — Akkadian (AAF)

nākisu : a butcher, a quartering butcher (?) / a slaughterhouse worker (?); a woodcutter, a logger, a lumberjack, a lumberman, a tree feller, a lumberer — Akkadian (AAF)

𒋻 niksu : cutting (off) meat, wood, cloth…; slaughter / putting to death / putting to sleep an animal; niksu immeri: the corpse of a dead sheep; nikis patri: a dagger-cut; an incision; a piece meat, wood, cloth… ; niksu qaqqadi: severed heads / heads cut off; a plot of land / a piece of land, a sector; a reduction; niksu karî: (the fee for) cutting open a grain pile; a breach / a gap in a wall — Akkadian (AAF)

nukkusu : torn, cut in pieces — Akkadian (AAF)

Sumerian niĝ-kas as “account”, “counting things”

According to many sources, the word root originally comes from the Sumerian language.

Sum. nig.kaz (níg.kaz7) “accounting”; Akk. nikkassu, nikassu “account” (from OA, OB on), “property, assets, wealth” (NA, NB, LB); Imp. Aram. nksyn, nksn, BA נִכְסִין, Syr. neksîn, JA nksyn; MH נֶכֶס, all “property.”

נְכָסִים (only plural) is a certain loan from Akkadian nikkassu, itself a loan from Sumerian nig.kaz. The meaning “property” or “estate” is a late development in Akkadian, and it is this meaning preserved in the Aramaic and BH borrowings.

Mankowski, Paul: Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew

Yet especially in Hebrew etymologies, that information is missing. Worse, the transcription of the Sumerian cuneiform seems to have gradually moved from a recognizable ni<sub>2</sub>-kas<sub>7</sub> to an unrecocnizable niĝ-ŠID, which does not show the etymology to Semitic nks. Here’s one instance where the citing author corrected the cited author:

In any case, the mathematical operations described there — Sumerian ğa2-ğa2, ‘addition’, zi-zi ‘subtraction’, šid ‘counting’, and niğ2-šid [better, niğ2-kas7] ‘accounting’ — cannot unproblematically be ‘presumed to have been the [only] standard terms… in the Ur III school’, as Høyrup maintains.

Robson, Eleanor: Mathematics in Ancient Iraq: A Social History. p 60

In any case, the Sumerian attestations are proof that the association of √nks with financial accounting is very old indeed. It tells us much about our world and its forging that it is financial terms which have spread so much.

Sumerian ni-kas, niĝ-ŠID = account of possessions, count things

𒃻𒋃 niĝ2-kas7 : account — Sumerian (ETCSL)

𒃻𒋃 nig2-kas7 : to make an account — Sumerian (Sjöberg)

𒃻𒋃 ; 𒃻𒋃𒈠 niĝ2-ŠID; niĝ2-ŠID-ma : account; Akkadian nikkassu; see ETCSL: niĝ2-kas7 = account, niĝ2-šid = calculation — Sumerian (ePSD)

nì-kas7-a5 : to make an accounting — Sumerian (Foxvog)

nì-kas7-a5; nì-ka9-a5 : (balanced) account, accounting — Sumerian (Foxvog)

𒃻 ; 𒉘 niĝ2 : thing, possesion; something — Sumerian (ePSD)

𒋃 šid : count(ing); number; half (shares); to count — Sumerian (ePSD)

The confusion isn’t made any better by the many different names & values assigned to any one cuneiform sign. The first cuneiform sign 𒃻 is the Unicode sign GAR , Borger value NIG<sub>2</sub>, sound values ĝar, ni3, niĝ2, ninda, nindan, ša2. The second cuneiform sign 𒋃 is the Unicode sign SHID , with sound values of _kas7, kiri8, lag, nesaĝ2, pisaĝ2, saĝ5, saĝĝa, silaĝ, šid, šub6, šudum _.

Egyptian nkt as “cut pieces”, “products”, “property”

There is also a possible match for this word root in Egyptian: nkt or nḳt in Egyptian means both “cut up pieces”, as well as “products” & “property”, just as Semitic nks and Sumerian niĝŠID. There are even attestations for Demotic & Coptic. That may be a coincidence, or evidence for a common archaic root.

Egyptian nkt = cut pieces, products, property

𓈖𓎡𓏏𓏲𓏴𓏛𓏪 nkt : products — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓋔𓎡𓏏𓏴𓏛𓏥 nkt : property — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓈖𓎡𓇋𓏴𓏛𓏪 nkỉ nekȧ : things, goods, possessions — Egyptian (Budge)

𓋔𓈎𓏏𓈒𓏥 nḳt neq-t : things, goods, possessions; Coptic ⲛⲕⲁ — Egyptian (Budge)

𓋔𓈎𓇋𓏲𓏛𓈒𓏥 nḳỉ neqȧ : goods, things, stuff — Egyptian (Budge)

𓈖𓎡𓏏𓏴𓏜 nkt nekt : things, property; certain things; Coptic ⲛⲕⲁ, ⲛⲕⲏ — Egyptian (Budge)

𓈖𓎡𓇋𓇋𓏏𓌪𓏥 nekit : pieces cut off, slashings, hackings — Egyptian (Budge)

𓈖𓎡𓏏𓌪 nkt : injury — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓈖𓎡𓈖𓂿 nkn : harm, injury — Egyptian (TLA)

𓈖𓎡𓏏𓏴𓏛 nkt : some, a little, something, piece of wood, profit, advantage — Egyptian (AED)

𓈖𓎡𓏏𓏴𓏛𓏥 nkt : some, a little bit of, matter, things — Egyptian (TLA)

nkt : thing, wealth, riches, amount — Demotic Egyptian (TLA)

Coptic nka = property, belongings

ⲛⲕⲁ nka : thing, object (in general); vessel; property, belongings — Coptic (CDO)

Sanskrit nakha as “portion”

There may even be a possible match in Sanskrit, but that is more sketchy, since the final plosive S is missing. The spelling is identical to that of “clawing”.

Sanskrit nakha = part, portion

नख nakha : part — Sanskrit (SpokenSanskrit)

नख nakha : portion — Sanskrit (SpokenSanskrit)


While nks may not originally be a Semitic word, there are plenty of attestations for its use from all epochs.

And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.

ויאמר אליהם לאמר בנכסים רבים שובו אל אהליכם ובמקנה רב מאד בכסף ובזהב ובנחשת ובברזל ובשלמות הרבה מאד חלקו שלל איביכם עם אחיכם

Joshua 22:8

And Jesus looked upon his disciples, and said to them: How hard for those who possess wealth, to enter into the kingdom of God!

חר דין ישוע בתלמידוהי ואמר להון כמא עטלא לאילין דאית להון נכסא דנעלון למלכותא דאלהא

ܚܳܪ ܕ݁ܶܝܢ ܝܶܫܽܘܥ ܒ݁ܬ݂ܰܠܡܺܝܕ݂ܰܘܗ݈ܝ ܘܶܐܡܰܪ ܠܗܽܘܢ ܟ݁ܡܳܐ ܥܰܛܠܳܐ ܠܰܐܝܠܶܝܢ ܕ݁ܺܐܝܬ݂ ܠܗܽܘܢ ܢܶܟ݂ܣܶܐ ܕ݁ܢܶܥܠܽܘܢ ܠܡܰܠܟ݁ܽܘܬ݂ܳܐ ܕ݁ܰܐܠܳܗܳܐ

Peshitta Mark 10:23

There are also attestations for Egyptian nkt meaning “wealth” from Demotic texts.

They whined before him of Heracleopolis and the general
like this: By the pharaoh!
We did not take property from Pedjest!

ỉr =w šrr ỉ.ỉr-ḥr-n pˤ ḥ,t-nn-nsw pȝ mr-mšˤ
ḏd ˤnḫ pr-ˤȝ
bn-pw =n ṯȝj nkt m-ḏr pȝ-dj-ȝs,t

Rylands 9, administrative and documentary texts

tags:  Egyptian Semitic Sumerian word root · etymology