Semitic word root √špr

tags:  Semitic word root · etymology   —   by Gerry · Oct 2018 · 624 words

The Semitic word root špr, or spr and even ṣpr in some derivations, covers a wide range of vastly different meanings. The most basic one seems to be “emitting” something, with a connotation of direct ray-like vision and travel. The most well-known meanings are “beauty” & “flattery”. Another very important derived meaning meaning is “sending out” commands, which I have placed under √spr.

Sight, beauty, fairness, flattery

This is the most well-known meaning in Biblical Hebrew. It seems derived from the basic “emitter” meaning by signifying that someone is in a way “shiny” & “beaming”.

Hebrew špr = beauty, clearness

שפר shephar : to be fair or seemly — Old Hebrew (Strong)

שפר shepher : beauty, goodliness — Old Hebrew (Strong)

שפרה shiprah : fairness, clearness (of sky) — Old Hebrew (Strong)

שופר shaphar : beautiful, fair, comely — Old Hebrew (Strong)

Aramaic špr = sight, beauty, flattery

שפר špr : beauty; best part — Aramaic (CAL)

שפר špr : sight; choice; reward — Aramaic (CAL)

שפר špr : flatterer — Aramaic (CAL)

שפורי špwry : flattery, adulation — Aramaic (CAL)

שופרני šwprny : obsequious — Aramaic (CAL)

אשפר ˀšpr : tailor, weaver — Aramaic (CAL)

Aramaic špr, ṣpr = morning

שפר špr : dawn, early morning — Aramaic (CAL)

צפר ṣpr : morning — Aramaic (CAL)

Arabic sfr = glow, beam, lead

Arabic best shows the derivation from “beaming”, and the relation to “leading”.

أَسْفَرَ ˀasfara : to glow, to beam; to disclose, to reveal; to lead to, to result in — Arabic (Wikt)

Bronze works

This seems to be a Sumerian loanword, yet it may loosely be related to the “shininess” meaning. For the Semitic languages, it is only found in Akkadian.

Sumerian zabar = bright, bronze

𒌓𒅗𒁇 ; 𒆉𒁇 zabar; zabar3 : (to be) bright, pure; arrowhead; weapon; metal mirror; (to be) shiny; measuring vessel made of bronze; a metal bowl; bronze; Akkadian sappu, siparru — Sumerian (ePSD)

Akkadian spr = bronze works

𒌓𒅗𒁇 ; 𒍝𒁇 siparru : bronze, bronze items, shackles — Akkadian (AAF)

𒄑𒆕𒇺 ; 𒄑𒆕𒋡 saparru : a cart, a wagon, a wain — Akkadian (AAF)


The sparrow, written & pronounced almost the same in English and the Semitic languages, may be named after the tweeting sound it “emits”.

Hebrew ṣpr = sparrow, little bird

צפור ṣpwr : bird, fowl, sparrow — Old Hebrew (Strong)

צפור ṣpwr : bird, fowl; bubble; Related to Aramaic צִפַּר, Syriac צֶפַּר, Ugaritic ‘ṣr, Arabic ‘uṣfur, Akkadian iṣṣūru (= bird). These nouns derive from צפר, meaning ‘the chirping or twittering animal’. — Hebrew (Klein)

צפר ṣpr : chirp, twitter, peep, whistle — Hebrew (Klein)

צפר ṣpr : bird; ostrich; titmouse; starling — Aramaic (CAL)

צופרין ṣwpryn : little bird — Aramaic (CAL)

Ram, goats and ram’s horns

This seems to be a Sumerian word which was adopted into the Semitic languages. It is traditionally grouped into this root, but doesn’t seem to be etymologically related. If there is any relation, it is most likely the ram’s & goat’s ray-like horns.

Sumerian šeg-bar = mountain goat

In Sumerian, 𒊾 ŠEG9 and 𒊾𒁇 ŠEG9.BAR denote a deer or mountain goat.

𒊾 šeg9 : a deer or mountain goat; Akk. atūdu — Sumerian (ePSD)

𒊾𒁇 šeg9-bar : a deer or mountain goat; Akk. šapparu — Sumerian (ePSD)

Akkadian spr = wild ram, horn, sheep

That Sumerian word apparently became used in Akkadian as a loanword, found in terms connected to sheep and animal farming.

sappāru; šappāru : (a wild animal phps.) wild ram — Akkadian (Black)

sappartu; šappartu : point, tip (of horn)? — Akkadian (Black)

sappāru; šappāru : a wild mountain ram — Akkadian (AAF)

supūru : sheepfold — Akkadian (AAF)

𒁦 supūru : fold for cattle — Akkadian (AAF)

Hebrew špr = ram’s horn

The word is used in Hebrew for the shofar a musical instrument fashioned from a ram’s horn.

שופר shophar : horn, ram’s horn, trumpet — Old Hebrew (Strong)

Aramaic špr = ram; ṣpr = goat

שופר šwpr : shofar — Aramaic (CAL)

שופרז šwprz : drinking horn (?) — Aramaic (CAL)

צפיר ṣpyr : he-goat — Aramaic (CAL)

צפירה ṣpyrh : she-goat — Aramaic (CAL)

צפרי ṣpry : young goat — Aramaic (CAL)

tags:  Semitic word root · etymology