I know that this word is used to describe a variation of an emerald, although many dictionaries do not include this word. One that does is Merriam-Webster:

Middle English smaragde, from Latin smaragdus, from Greek smaragdos, of Semitic origin; akin to Akkadian barraqtu gemstone

What is the etymology of this word smaragd? Is the word emerald directly related to it? There is a superficial resemblance between the two words.

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    The only time I ever heard the word is in my mother tongue, which is Hungarian. When you directly translate 'emerald' in English to Hungarian, you get the word 'smaragd'.
    – Alex Mm
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 0:42
  • What is up with it? What do you mean? Here is a dictionary entry that describes the origin: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smaragd
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 0:55
  • And what is up with closing the question? It's a fascinating word that we can trace back to the Greek and understand the relationship to the modern word emerald (including the sound change from gd to ld). But the CPVPV got there first.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 6:08
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    @deadrat I edited the question and voted to reopen it. But some could still think this question lacks the research.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 6:45
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    Did you look at all??? Middle English smaragde, from Latin smaragdus, from Greek smaragdos, of Semitic origin; (Why did a question closed for no research get reopened, if Opie still has done no research???)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


The definition posted hints at a semitic origin, which sounds likely - one (relatively archaic) Hebrew word for emerald is izmargad (אזמרגד), a close similarity.

However, Hebrew Wikitionary claims that the word has only been in use in Hebrew since the fifth century AD, placing it after the Greek usages, and likely to have been influenced by the Greek, rather than influencing it.

The same source claims that the ultimate root for the word resides in Sanskrit marakata, or "green", which seems to be corroborated by some online Sanskrit dictionaries whose veracity I cannot evaluate:

marakata n. an emerald [ confer, compare Greek ; Latin smaragdus.]

As to how smaragdos* evolved into emerald, Etymonline gives a good overview:

Greek smaragdos -> Latin smaragdus -> Medieval Latin esmeraldus -> Old French esmeraude -> French emeraude -> English emerald.

The same source also claims that the road from Sanskrit marakata to Greek smaragdos passed through the Semitic root baraq (shine), which can be found in the other Hebrew word for emerald, bareqet, but I'm not familiar enough with the phonetic shifts between Sanskrit and Semitic languages to say if that's likely.

  • Thank you for an excellent answer. My own contribution is really just an extended comment. If you feel, the information might be useful in your answer, you may import it, and I will delete mine.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 4:36

Latin introduces words into English in two ways -- directly and circuitously via Old French. Thus the Latin word smaragdus remains in Biblical translations from the Vulgate, like Wycliffe's. In Wycliffe's Revelation, the green foundation stone of heaven is smaragdus, not emerald. Likewise, in scientific contexts, we have the Smaragdine Table (a translation of Tabula Smaragdina), a medieval-era book on alchemy. In mineralogy, smaragdite is a bright green silicate mineral.

According to the OED, the two forms entered the language at about the same time. Smaragdus (as smaragd) in 1272; emerald (as emeraundis) in 1300. One can only speculate on why the latter became popular and the former became obsolete.

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