I see the English auxiliary verb have is very similar to Romance counterparts like Portuguese haver, Spanish haber or Italian avere and it appears to me that they have some historical relationship. It also adds to that guess that English has a predominant portion of Old French (avoir).

On the other hand, taking the Germanic origin of English and my belief that such a basic verb can't have a foreign origin, I also think that have has Germanic history, as seen by its old conjugation table closer to German (thou hast / du hast etc., but German uses werden more instead).

So my question is, which one is closer to English have? Germanic origin or Romance (Latin) origin?


1 Answer 1


According to Online Etymology Dictionary the Old English origin of "have" was "habban" and that it originated from Proto-Germanic:

have (v.)
Old English habban "to own, possess; be subject to, experience," from Proto-Germanic *habejanan (source also of Old Norse hafa, Old Saxon hebbjan, Old Frisian habba, German haben, Gothic haban "to have"), from PIE root *kap- "to grasp." Not related to Latin habere, despite similarity in form and sense; the Latin cognate is capere "seize.

Note the sentence that starts "Not related to Latin habere", and its continuation.

So English "have" came from Old English "habban", which in turn came from the Proto-Germanic *habejanan, which came from Proto-Indo-European root *kap- "to grab". The PIE root *kap- being the origin of Old English "habban" is also attested in Wikipedia's
Indo-European vocabulary article in the chart.

So English "have" doesn't at all come from a Romance language from what I've seen, as you rightly suspected. The Italian "avere" and Spanish "haber" do.
Italian avere
Spanish haber

Latin "habere" from the two sources I checked originated from a different PIE root *gʰabʰ- or *ghabh-, though how it came to be "habere", I have no idea.

The following explains the shifts of sounds from a PIE to Proto-Germanic some time in the first millennium BC, so you can see how it got from *kap to *habejanan.
Proto-Germanic Wikipedia article

So to answer your question, "have" is closer to German "haben" because there is no relation with "habere" or "avoir"; "habere" has a different PIE origin. Proto-Germanic *habejanan is the source of both German "haben" and English "have".

  • The Latin cognate of English have is capere 'seize, capture'. An English /h/ from PIE *k makes you look for a Latin root with a /k/, like heart ~ cardium, hound ~ canis, head ~ caput, etc. Dec 2, 2018 at 18:52

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