The similarity between the word “true” and “tree” is extremely obvious.
Is this just a coincidence or are these words actually related? Is this unique to the English language or can we find this occurrence in other languages? Let‘s dive into the history of the English language to find out!
But before we continue, which other adjectives would you attribute to trees?
One of my favourite words, related to Tree and True, must be Triewe, from Old English.
Triewe conveys the meaning of loyal, honest, reliable, friend, etc.
In German, we can also find a similar word with a similiar meaning, Treu – loyal, someone you can trust.
Getrouw, in Dutch; Tryg, in Danish; Tryggr, in Old Norse; Tryggws, in Gothic. All of these words share the same meaning with the German word Treu.
These are all obviously related and,, if you look closely, you will notice, they all belong to the Germanic languages.
In most of these languages, we can find a word for “tree” that closely resembles the words we just mentioned.
For example, we have Tre, in Old Norse; Triu, in Gothic; and Treo, in Old English. All these words mean tree.
So far we’ve only seen Germanic words, but what about other Indo-European languages?
Well, to that I say it’s not difficult to find similar words with similar meanings. Let me show you some examples:
From Slavic languages:
- Drevo, in Russian: wood, tree
- Drva, in Czech: wood
- Drwa, in Polish: wood
From Celtic languages:
- Daur, in Irish: oak
- Derwen, in Welsh: oak
- Darach, in Gaelic: oak
And let’s not forget Greek:
- Drys: oak
- Drymos: bush
After all these words, we can safely conclude that all of them come from a common Indo-European ancestor.
But what about the relation between “tree” and “true” in non-Germanic languages?
To be honest, before writing this blog entry, I always thought this was exclusive to some Germanic languages but, after some research, it turns out that is not the case.
Here are the non-Germanic words I managed to find with similarities to the words Tree and True:
- Dron, in Old Irish: strong
- Derb, also in Old Irish: safe
- Derw, in Welsh: true
- Drud, another one in Welsh: strong
- Drutas, in Lithuanian: firm
While all these words don’t really mean true, except one, I can clearly see these words as adjectives one could potentially attribute to trees somehow.
Coming to an end here, it is safe to say that the English words True and Tree are indeed related.
But the true reason I shared this with you today is because I find it fascinating, how we can find so many words, not only in Germanic languages, but also in other Indo-European languages, some of them so far apart, geographically speaking, that also make or made use of words related to the word tree to convey a meaning of something firm, strong, loyal, safe – something true.