I've heard that the words "walk" and "talk" do not have cognates in any other known language. That is, neither of these very common words in English have similar forms in other languages, Germanic, Romance, or Celtic (those that have large overlap in vocabulary etymology with English).

So my question is of two kinds:

  • what are some other (common?) words that -do not- share etymology with words in any other language?

  • what are some ways to such a search automatically? (I feel like oed.com used to allow plain old test search of any entry so that one could have looked for 'unknown' or something similar). Also are there any online English word lists that have some etymological info?

  • 5
    You've heard wrong. "Walk" does not have that meaning in any other language, but the OED gives a host of cognates throughout Germanic, and a probable one from Sanskrit. The OED derives "Talk" from the root of "tale" and "tell", which is Common Germanic.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 16:31
  • Both answers excellent..I can only give one to be correct. Also, I probably should have checked those two beforehand...I'll repost reworded with an example I have checked.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 20:35
  • possible duplicate of English word forms not having cognates in any other language
    – F'x
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 6:35
  • @F'X: re duplicate. This question was the first one in sequence. Because both answers, as useful as they were, didn't address the question (how to find such words), I reposted but with a different title and intro (of course the new example had problems, too, which you pointed out). Anyway, that question should be the 'duplicate' if any. Or better, what would you suggest I do? (Editing out my examples would have rendered all answers absurd, answering things not apparent)
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 20:05
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it's off-topic on 4 counts: partly foreign-language related; asking for list; asking for resources. And no check about the validity of the claims. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 12:35

5 Answers 5


Online Etymological Dictionary is a good starting point for looking up words but if you want detailed information I think you'd have to pay for it, or head to the local library.

The entry for talk has a clue to its common roots with words like the German zählen (to count).

  • 3
    Zählen: to count, erzählen: to tell, narrate. ;-) Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 17:20
  • 2
    And thereby hangs a fascinating tale: tell/tale/tally in English; Zahl,erzählen in German; conte in French; sefer/sippur in Hebrew: all these words or families of related words, have two sets of meanings: one about relating a story and one about numbering.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 9:54
  • 1
    @ColinFine One can also recount a story, or give an account of it. But when confirming an election, a recount just involves tallying. And your checking account holds numbers not stories. Presumably. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 3:30
  • True. Recount the noun has only that meaning.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 17:04

Talk was tackled by z7sg, so let's get onto walk. The New Oxford American Dictionary traces it back to the Old English wealcan, “of Germanic origin”. Etymonline is more specific:

from Proto-Germanic welk- (cf. Old Norse valka "to drag about", Danish valke "to full", Middle Dutch walken "to knead, press, full", Old High German walchan "to knead", German walken "to full")

So, you heard wrong on both counts.


Seeking as talk and walk are related قول in Arabic has walk and talk in its meanings. The Greek talk and walk tradition we hear of the Greek philosophers, and the Phoenician alphabet going to Greek then Attic then Norse runes shows us where it's legs come from.


Talk in Arabic, based upon the English etymology, and as per the demunitive "-k" would be قالك ق is like heavy k in itself. While ك is like k. I recall something about a tribe in Arabia, the tribe of Hadhil, that could not pronounce ح (a frictal glottal h sound) so, Praisinger (محمد), ambassador (رسول) of WodAñ (الله), allowed them to use the pronunciation of the sound ع (a glottal e sound, which E3rab writers use 3 to represent this in their writings). Also I recall that the proto-german g has a voiced h sound. I assumed that perhaps God, Got, huta, kudha, would perhaps have been related to a voiced x or k sounding h, which in Arabic is a خ. So perhaps, as the ع becomes ح , the غ (which is a g sound, but more in the throat) becomes a خ sound. And perhaps, I reason that Odin, is related to God via the غ ع خ ح all getting mixed up and ع sound being used. And in is either related to elohim or WodAñ as in God + An(Sumerian), via runic alphabet originating from Phoenicians. I personally believe that An in Sumerian is a respectful title like king. Whereas I believe inanna, Sumerian, is like the Arabic either انّ انا perhaps meaning "indeed I" or An + انا mean "king I" or "respect me".

If that is the case we could reason that الله is from Hebrew el and Egyptian Ra, as the L sound in الله is heavy. And if an arab wanted to say el Ra, he would say elLa and the h sound at the end of الله would be like the respect in elohim. But in Arabic less speech is known to be better, or rather there is a word in Arabic as الرحيم (arraHeem) which sounds like the Hebrew Elohim if the Arab made it elRahim. Which makes me wonder is the o in God that you find some Jews writing as G-d because they say the name of God is holy or as they say. And perhaps, el-oh-im or el-o-him is el Hebrew O or Oh from PIE and him or im is related Odin or An as in Odin WodAñ, via the notion of inanna.

So in regards to talk having similar meanings to the Arabic word قال، قول Perhaps ق changes to ط (a heavy mouth T sound, as in thaw would taw). Then one might wonder, why s is next to t in the alphabet and if ط ظ are s t, and I assume since in the word Islam, the s sounds like a z. Perhaps this heavy s is related to ظ and in the hind al badawi Egyptian Arabic English dictionary for إظلام, it's written izlam but with a funny shaped z.

Seeing as I am trying to see if there is a link between semitic languages and PIE languages, I believe the word talk is linked to a Semitic language perhaps by the phoenician amber sea route.

  • Welcome to ELU, thank you for the extensive post, please consider adding sources to support your statements (you can edit the answer using the edit button at the bottom of you answer).
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 12:12

One source of etymology is Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Brewer points out that walk is really very curious. Its origin seems to be closer to roll rather than legged-gait. Even more curiously, the word vulva also comes from the same root - why would the female sexual organ be linked to rolling?

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