I was thinking about the pronunciation of the English verb "ask" and how it's similar to the French expression "est-ce que", used to start questions in some cases. I searched for the origin of "ask" in the Oxford Dictionary of English (which comes with every Mac) and it states the following:

Old English āscian, āhsian, āxian, of West Germanic origin.

So, no relation with French, apparently.

In any way, I'm still curious if they have the same etymological source. There is any relation between them?

  • 4
    No. Why would you think that. The French expression is composed of three words that are not even related to one another, let alone related to ask as a whole.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 11, 2019 at 18:50
  • 3
    It's easy to make that mistake. Est-ce que sounds like ask. Mar 11, 2019 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


This is what the Oxford English Dictionary (OED.com) has to say about the etymology of ask:

Cognate with Old Frisian āskiaāschia to demand, to claim (East Frisian easkje), Middle Dutch eisceneesceneischeneeschen (also (rare) in forms with initial h-) to ask, request, desire (Dutch eischen), Old Saxon ēskonēscan to ask, demand, to search for, investigate (also ēscian (rare) to claim) (Middle Low German ēschen , eischen , also (rare) hēschenheischen), Old High German eiscōneiskōn to demand, ask, to search for, look for (Middle High German eischen , heischen, German heischen) < the same Indo-European base as Sanskrit iccháti seeks, wishes, éṣati seeks, Avestan isaiti longs for, Old Church Slavonic iskati to seek, search, Lithuanian ieškóti to search for, and perhaps further with classical Latin aeruscāre to go begging, to ask

Ultimately the Proto Indo European base ask comes from is *h2eys- through Germanic while "est-ce que" is three words: être from PIE /*h1es-, ce from PIE *ḱe (through Latin ecce), and que from PIE *kʷih2 also through Latin. These are not the same roots.

  • Correction: est (and être) is from the PIE root *h1es- (sorry, can’t be arsed to do subscript numbers on my phone), not *bʰeu̯H-. The two were often conflated into a suppletive paradigm, but they were originally separate, and the forms in question here are from the former. (English be(en) is from the latter, while am/are/is are from the former.) Mar 11, 2019 at 21:26
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yeah I read Wiktionary wrong. The root I had listed is for a different form of être.
    – Laurel
    Mar 11, 2019 at 22:23
  • Thanks for the explanation, @Laurel. I'm just a linguistic enthusiast, not a specialist. Neither even a student in the field. Now my assumption about the similarities seems nonsense but I had to ask to know, right? :D Mar 12, 2019 at 14:15

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