Words Defining the Notion of ‘WATER’ in Various Language Families of the World

By. Emanuel Florin Ganciu

Motto: “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the fieldan every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof”. (Genesis, 2,19)[1]

Abreviations list

adj.- adjective                                              IEW -Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch

anat. -anatomic                                            obs. – obsolete

arh. – archaism                                   nr.   – number

  1. – confer                               PIE – Proto-Indo-European

comp.- compare                                           reg. – regionalism

conf.  – conform                                            semant. – semantism

isl.  – island

This article (the first from a number of articles which will be, hopefully, published in the following issues of this journal) is the result of a vast work of gathering information from various reliable sources. However, the data presented here may arise astonishment and doubt to many. The article is written by a non-specialist who after a long time of arduous research found out that there are strange similarities between words belonging to families of languages considered to be totally unrelated. Such an endeaviour can not be found to professional linguists.

The research for this article of genetic and comparative linguistics  was done after gathering of huge amont of data (from a few tens of words in Eschimo language to a few thousands in Chinese, Quechua, Maori and so on, (an average of 200 words) in each of 1200 languages studied.

The article compares a number of terms for ‘water’ or something similar from various languages. Besides books, I used as sources of information scientific and academic online sites.

I have to mention that there are  amazing similarities that are not studied by contemporary comaparative linguistics. Therefore, I considered that there is no place in science, including linguistics for any preconceived ideas or dogmas.

Unfortunately, many (if not the majority) of today’s scientific theories and research methods hamper or turn in a wrong direction or put serious limits to the scientific research blocking the road to the truth.

Thus, by following those who classify the almost 7000 languages of the world in about 13-15 (according to others even 17) language families, I would have missed a large number of words that are similar to others in languages belonging to linguistic families which are considered to be unrelated to each other. By saying this, I do not deny the great progresses done in linguistics and therefore, I use the established linguistic teminology, ideas and methodology.

I removed all the loanwords, even when certain terms were not indicated as such, but my gut feelings told me they are. For example in the Malayasian language Tetun Terik, the word tempu of the expression ‘tempu udan’ means ‘rainy season’, I had the suspicion that tempu seems to be loanword from Spanish tiempo and I did not use it.

I started comparing Romanian words, with Indo-European cognates or similar lexical itmes found in languages belonging to other language families. Some of these words from Polinesian, Amerindian, African or other languages  are very similar or almost identical to the Romanian ones.

Before, I will discuss the list of words, it would be necessary to present the way the linguistic data were organized. First of all, some quesrtions should be answered:

  • The discovery of a large number of identical or very similar terms with very close or identical meaning, it may be proof of the existance of an unique original language spoken by all people long time ago?
  • Did this language took shape first from onomatopeas and aleatory sounds (as some theories maintain) or the words have had a specific meaning from the very beginning being created according to the specific features of the object defined?
  • May the discovery of a large number of similar lexical items (with similar or identical meaning) in over one thousand languages all over the world that are found in Romanian language as well, be an argument that Romanian one of the oldest language of the world, since all these forms (8) are found in Romanian as well?


In various world’s languages there are at least a few hundreds words that seem to come from a single source. For this article I have selected those words which are defining the notion of ‘water’ or something similar (river, lake, rain and so on) and I grouped them around  8 (eight) roots. In what follows, I will present a number of lexical items selected from languages all over the world. The most frequent seems to be AP-A, IP-A. The variants AK-A, WAKA are a little less frequent. We are taught in school the Romanian apă ‘water, river’ is coming from Latin aqua, but as we will see forms with /p/ are found in many languages of the world, regardless which family they belong, while forms with q/k which are less frequent are found in other languages, not only in Indo-European family, but outside it as well.

It is worth mentioning that in the Indo-European languages are found words deriving from both radicals, namely PIE *ab– ‘water, river’ (IEW, 1), with variant ap-. Such river-names are found in Thraco-Illyrian, Celtic and Baltic areas. The other Proto-Indo-European root is *akʷa– ‘water, river’ (IEW, 23). In what follows I will present the list of these words which is far of being complete.

*AP-A, *IP-A

Indo-European Family

Romanian apă – water, river

Geto-Dacian Zaldapa – an ancient place-name in today’s Dobroudgea, in south-eastern     Romania.

Hittite happa – water

Hittite hapaa – river, rivulet

Hittite hapa – river

Palaic ha-a-ap-na-as – river

Sanskrit āpas – water, river

Old Prussian ape – river, brook

lituaniană ipe – river, body of water

Tocharian B ap – water, river, brook

gaulish Abona  – river name

Old Irish  aba – river

Welsh afon – river

Cornish/Breton auon – river

Sardinian abba – water

Persian (Farsi) drayaap – river

Afrasian Family

Egyptean hpi – to seduce, to travel, to navigate, toflow, to fly


Sumerian aa – water


Ainu apta – rain

Dravidian Family

Kannada appu – water

Austronesian Family

Lundayehian abpa – water

Modern Tahitian pape – apă

Modern Tahitian anapa – sea înspumată

Dehu (Loyalty island) husapa – lake

Enga apu – rain

Bima, lamalera apu – fog

Mekeo apuapu – cloud

Kuri abu – fog

Tahitian (1773) avi – river

Maori awa – river

Algonkian Family (North America)

Ojibwe : Mississippi (<misi ziibi) (river name, North America) – The Great River

Other Algonkian nipiy, nipi, nebi, nepihi – water

Uto-Aztecan Family

Huichol (and other 10 Uto-Aztecan languages)  paa – river

Hopi paayu – river

Shoshonian piapaa – lake, pond

Yakui baawe – sea, ocean

Qechua (Quechuan) Family (South America)

Quechua chirapa – rain and sun

Quechua api – soup, spălătură

Tupi Family

Guarani isapy – dew

Guarani  hapy – to sprinkle

Body of water names[2] (rivers) grouped by countries or geografical regions

Japon – Abashiri

Nicaragua – Catapicha; Tepenaguasapa; Ojocuapa; Acoyapa; Tipitapa; Sinecapa; Sapoa; Tecomapa; Tecolapa;

Mexico –   Amapa; Jamapa; Papaloapan; Teacapan; Acaponeta; Zahuapan; Tlapaneco; Uspanapa; Chilapa; Teapa; Apaseo; Suchiapa; Mátape; Malapa;

Brazil –  Apa; Apuaē; Apuau; Apucarama; Apucaraninha; Apiai-Mirim; Apiau; Apoda; Apoqitaua; Aporé; Aporema; Apiacá;

Venezuela –  Siapa; Sipapo; Giuayapo; Atabapo; Guarapiche; Guapo; Apón; Apure; Carapo; Aponguao;

Uruguay – Arapey Grande and Chico; Apa; Carapa;

French Guyana – Approuvaqué; Orapu; Wanapi;

Canada-Alberta – Sunwapta; Wapiti;

Florida (USA) – Alapaha; Alapahoochee; Apalachicola;

Hawaii – Kapehu; Kapia;

Russia – Agrapa;

Ecuatorial Guinea – Apú;


Indo-European Family

Latin aqua – water

Venete (ancient Italic language) Aquileia – ancient name of a river of the north-eastern corner  of the Italic peninsula

Old Irish oiche – water

Welsh aig – sea

Gothic ahwa – river

Old High Germen affa – river


Ainu waka – water


Tidore Bantik ake – water

Mouk (New Guinea) aki – water

Santali (Austro-Asian) dak – water

Rukay (Taiwan) acilay/acile – water

Maori (New Zeeland) hauqu – to wet

Uto-Aztecan (North America)

Tepehuan aki – water

O’odham akimel – river

Yaqui jakia – river

Tongua akwaakin – rain

Yaqui yuku – rain

Quechua (or  Qechuan) Family (North America)

Quechua aqu – man’s sweat

Quechua aqa – maize fermented drink

Quechua yaku – water, river

Quechua Yaku-Mama – river’s goddess

River names[3] grouped by countries or by geographical regions

Etiopia –  Walaqa;

Brazil- Apiacá;

Venezuela – Giuayapo;

Nigeria – Akwayafe;

South Africa – Sak;

Zimbabwe – Sebkwe; Mwewe;


Indo-Eropean Family

Romanian lac – lake

Latin lacus – lake

Ancinet Greek lakkos – hole, lake

Old Irish loch – lake

Breton lagen – lake, sea

Welsh lwch (pron. looh) – lake

Albanian lagë – water, sea


South Efate luk  –  lake

Gesen louk          – lake

Hawaiian loko    – lake

Imugon/Murut luogon – lake

River-names[4] grouped by countries or by geographic regions

Camerun – Lokundje;

Democratic Republic of Congo – Lukaya; Lukunga; Lukenie; Lokoro; Loange; Lokolo; Lugulu; Lukuga; Lukushi;

Republic of Congo – Likouala; Lengoué; Sangha;

Gabon – Lekoni; Lekey; Lekabi; Lekedi;

Kenya – Lak Bor; Lagh Kutulo; Lagh Bogal;

Malawi – Lugenda;

Tanzania – Lukigura; Lukosi;

Zambia – Lukulu; Lukasashi;


Indo-European Family

Romanian Dunăre < PIE *danu – the Danube river

Russian (and Ucrainian) Don < PIE *danu– – Don river

Ossetian don – body of water, river

Sanskrit dhanvati – to run, to flow (about water)

Sanskrit dana – river

Old Persian  dan- – to run, to flow (about water)

Avestan danu – river

Kartvelian  (South Caucasian) Family

Georgian den-/din– – to flow

Mingrelian dǝn-/din– – to flow

Austronesian Family

Puyama/Pitam  danaw – water

Katingan danau – water

Tomini dano – water

Vietnamese danau – water

River-names[5] grouped by countries or geographical regions

Japonia – Tone

Australia – Thone, Don

Tasmania – Don

Noua Zeelandă – Donne, Doon

Taiwan – Da’an

Bangladesh – Dhansiri, Dhanu

India – Thane, Dhansiri

Brazilia – Duna

Camerun – Donga

Democratic Republic of Congo – Dungu

Ghana – Tano       

Guinea – Dion

Ivory Coast – Tano

Kenia – Tana

Lesotho – Dinakeng

Nigeria – Donga

Tanzania – Tani

Portugal – Dinha;

*NOR-, *NOL-, *NUR

Indo-European Family

Romanian nor – cloud

         Illyrian  Nareta – river name in ancient Illyria

Old Irish nel – cloud, fog

Cornish niulcloud, fog

Old Norse njol – night

Austronesian/Malayo-Polinesian Family

Mbilua (or Bilua) (Solomon Islands) ñoro – rain


Japonese  nureta – wet

Altaic Family

Mongol noor       – lake

Mongol noron   – wet


Indo-European Family

Romanian jilav – wet

Romanian jilț (reg., obs.) – brook

Romanian Jiu, Jieț – river-names (also Gilort (river-name), all in Oltenia), Gilpil (Dacian river-name, at Iordanes)

Sanskrit jrayas – river

Pashtun  julobay – water fall

Altaic Family

Salar (China)  jili – wet

Tatar  jilman – wet

Dravidian family

Kannada jala – water

Quechua (or Quechuan) Family

Quechua  ju-chumayu – brook

Tupi Family (South America)

Guarani jey – drink

Guarani jeyurâ – drink

Sino-Tibetan Family

Chinese jiulei – drink

Chinese pútáo-jiu – wine (chinese putao – grape)

Chinese jiao – to water

Austronesian/Malayo-Polinesian Family

Javanese (Wetan dialect Timor) jera – water

River names [6] grouped buy countries or geographical regions

Japonia – Uji

Australia – Jeir Creek, Jerra Jerra Creek, Jerrabattgulla Creek, Jerrara Creek, Jerrawa Creek

Honduras – Jalan

Uruguay – Jejuẏ

Southern Sudan  – Jikawu, Jur


Indo-European Family

Romanian zer – whey

Romanian zară – butterwhey

Romanian zeamă – juice, soup

Romanian Siret -river name in eastern Romania

Geto-Dacian Sargetia (today Strei) – river running by Sarmisegetusa, the capital city of Dacian kingdom

          Thracian Strumon (today Struma) – river in the Balkan region

Sino-Tibetan Family

Chinese zhῑrjuice


Vangunu, Mbareke (Austronesian) zera – sea, ocean

Ubir sareo – water

River names grouped by countries or geographical regions

Japan – Shira-Kawa;

Mongolia – Sharga

Australia – Sara

Turkmenistan – Sari-su

Pakistan – Suru,  Sarasvati

India – Shiriva

Columbia – Sarare

Mexico – Sarabia, Sirupa

Russia – Sura

Germany – Saale, Saar, Sauer

France – Sȗre

Algeria – Isser

Tunisia – Oued Zouara

Eritrea – Zara

Burkina Faso – Sourou, Sirba

Mozambic – Shire

*UD-, *WAT-

Indo-European Family

Romanian ud, a uda – wet, to wet, to water

Geto-Dacian Salmor-ude  – The Geto-dacian name of today’s Razelm lake, situated by the Black Sea

Hittite wa-a-tar – water

Cuneiform Hittite vadar – water

Luwian u-i-ti – water

Sanskrit udan – water

Sanskrit vatar – water

Hindi/Urdu utar – shalow water

Albanian ujë < *udja – water

Umbrian utur – water

Latin udus – wet

Gothic watō – water

Danish vad – wet

Old English watar  – water

Ancient Greek ύδωρ – water

Old Slavic voda – water

Afrasian Family

Ugaritic Udum – the well-watered (city)

Berberă ued – river bed in the desert

Arabic wadi – valley

Uralic Family

Finnish vete-i – water

Mordvin ved – water

Mari wat – water

Hungarian vize-l – water

Altaic Family

Mongolian Uda – the name of the river which runs through the capital city of Buriat Autonoumos Republic, in Russia.

Dongxiang usu – water

Salar uji – wet

Dravidian Family

Tamil ōtam – 1. humidity, sea, wave; 2. wet                                                   ˟

Kannada odde – humidity

Kannada udu – to water,

Kannada uda – water

Kannada udaya – to spring

Kannada udadhi – sea

Kannada oddeyaada – wet

Austronesian/ Malayo-Polinesian Family

Roti uda – rain

Mokilese wud – rain

Pazeh udaru – rain

Tetun udan – rain

Markesian utau – ud

Vietnamese (familia austro-asiatică) uot – wet

Lakalai veto – fog

Araki wet – wet

Kwaio wasiu – wet

Australian Languages

Kalaw-kawaw-ya woethiwathi – fog

Simeulue language (neclasificată)

Simeulue bolud – wet

Basque  (neclasificată)

Basque edari – drink

Tupi Family (South America)

Guarani ytu – water

Guarani ytororo – waterfall

River names[7] grouped by countries or geographical regions.

Japan – Uji Udyavara

Alaska – Usuktuk, Utukok

Russia – Uda Maya

Chad – Ouadi Kadjia

Algeria – Oued Saoura, Oued Mya

Libia – Wadi Ummal Ara’is

Ghana – Oti

Nigeria – Wase

Portugalia – Vade


From the information shown above, one may conclude that a large number of the world languages share at least 8 (eight) different terms defining the notion of ‘water’ or from the same semantic field. There are, in general, at least several hundred words common to various world languages, besides those discussed in this article. I should stress that of them are found in Romanian as well. This mean that Romanian language seems to be a very old Indo-European language, not just another Romance language. The myth of Tower of Babel is wide spread in many cultures all around the world. I would like to mention here only the one of the Kaska Indians of North America: “before the Flood, there was a single center. All people lived in one country and spoke only one language”. Therefore, the myth of the Flood, as well as the one of the Tower of Babel, refer back to some real events which took place many thousands years ago and some peoples remember them even today.




Biblia (Sfânta  Scripură) – Special Edition of the  Holy Sinod, The Biblical Intitute and and Romanian Orthodox Church Mission, Bucharest, 2001.

Botta, Dan    – Roma-Threicia, O încercare de etimologie a limbii română, Crater Publishing House, Bucharest, 2009.

Bidu-Vrânceanu, Angela & al – Dicționar de științe ale limbii, Nemira Publishing House, Bucharest, 2005.

Bulgăr, Gheorghe; Constantinescu-Dobridor, Gheorghe – Dicționar de arhaisme și regionalisme, Saeculum I. O. Publishing House, Bucharest, 2000.

Cioranescu, Alexandru – Dicționar etimologic al limbii române,  Saeculum I. O. Publishing House,  Bucharest, 2001.

Guțu, Gheorghe – Dicționar latin-român,  Scientific and Encyclopedic Publishing House Bucharest, 1983.

Incze, Dănilă – Dicționar Sanscrit – Român Publishing House of the Buchrest University, 1995.

Levițchi Leon; Bantaș Andrei – English-Romanian Dictionary, Scientific and Encyclopedic Publishing House, Bucharest, 1984.

Neghat, Nasim, Mohammad et al – Dari-Enghish Dictionary, University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Paliga, Sorin – Etymological Lexicon of the Indigenous (Thracian) Elements in Romanian, Experimentul Foundation, Bucharest, 2006.

Pokorny, Julius –  Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Francke Verlag, Bern und München, 1959

Savin, Emilia; Lăzărescu, Ioan; Țânțu Katharina – Dicționar Român – German, German – Român, Scientific and Encyclopedic Publishing House , Bucharest, 1986.

Scriban, Augustin – Dicționarul limbii românești, Ed. Saeculum I. O., Bucharesti, 2013.

Vinereanu, Mihai – Rădăcini nostratice în limba română, Alcor Edimpex, Bucurest, 2010

Vinereanu, Mihai – Dicționar etimologic al limbii române pe baza cercetărilor de indo-europenistică, Alcor Edimpex, Bucharest, 2008.

Yuan, Dong, Dicționar fonetic român-chinez, Editura didactică și pedagogică, R. A., Bucharest 1994.

Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO în colaborare cu Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, Grupul Editorial RAO, Bucharest, 2008

***  Poshtu – English Dictionary, Aryana book agency, no year.





www.freelang .net/online/igbo.php?ig=gb




[1] It is really interesting to find out that in some Austronesian languages the words for ‘person, man’ are similar to Hebrew ‘adam’ such as Leipon ‘damat’, Kemak ‘atamasa’, and Sikian ‘ngamo’.

[2] Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[3] Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[4]Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[5] Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[6]Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[7]Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008

[7] Atlasul Terrei, Enciclopedia RAO in collaboration with Istituto Geografico DeAgostini, The RAO Publishing Group, Bucharest, 2008