Word Family - Letter


There are two words from Sumerian whose descendants are still used all over the world today: gi: "reed"—what they wrote with—and dub: "tablet"—what they wrote on.

Just in case you wonder how important Sumerian writing was in world history.

The word tablet (Latin tabula) is probably not related, despite the phonological and semantic match. On the other hand, there's disagreement about exactly where tabula does come from, so…


divan, diphtheria, letter

Full Text

  • Sumerian 𒁾 dub tablet
    • Sumerian 𒂍𒁾𒁀𒀀 e₂-dub-ba-a school, storehouse "house of tablets"
    • Sumerian 𒄀𒁾𒁀 gi-dub-ba stylus "tablet reed", with gi
    • Sumerian 𒁾𒊬 dub-sar scribe
    • Akkadian 𒁾 ṭuppu(m) tablet, document, letter
      • Aramaic 𐡈𐡁𐡏 ṭbʿ to stamp, to seal
        • Classical Syriac ܛܒܥܐ ṭavʿa text, signature, authority, style, seal
        • Arabic طبع ṭabaʿa to print, to stamp, to type, to coin
          • Arabic مطبوعات maṭbūʿāt printed material, the press
            • Persian مطبوعات matbu'ât
            • Turkish matbuat the press
      • Elamite
        • Old Persian 𐎮𐎡𐎱𐎡 di-i-p-i document
          • Middle Persian dp
            • Persian دف daf frame drum, daf
              • English daf
            • Persian دب dab
              • Arabic أدب ʾadab literature, learning, culture, courtesy
                • Arabic مؤدب muʾaddib teacher
                  • English Muad'dib
          • Prakrit 𑀤𑀺𑀧𑀺 dipi
            • Prakrit 𑀮𑀺𑀧𑀺 lipi
              • Sanskrit 𑀮𑀺𑀧𑀺 lipi writing, inscription, document, painting
                • Hindi लिपि lipi writing, script, letter, character
          • Old Persian *dipī-var-
            • Middle Persian 𐭣𐭯𐭩𐭥𐭥 dpywr scribe
              • Persian دبیر dabir scribe, secretary
              • Armenian դպիր dpir scholar, scribe
                • Armenian դպրոց dprocʿ school
          • Old Persian *dipī-vahanam document-house
            • Middle Persian 𐭣𐭯𐭩𐭥𐭠𐭭 dpywʾn' collection of writings, archive
              • Persian دیوان divân collection of poems, court, council, register list of soldiers, sofa, couch
                • Arabic ديوان dīwān register, registration book, collection of poetry, council, court, gathering place, couch
                  • Andalusi Arabic *duwān
                    • Medieval Latin dogana customs, customs house, tariff
                      • Albanian doganë customs
                      • French douane customs, customs office
                        • Algerian Arabic الديوانة al-dīwāna
                        • Dutch douane customs, customs officer
                        • English douane
                      • Italian dogana customs, customs house, tariff
                    • Spanish aduana customs
                      • Tagalog adwana customs, customs house, tariff
                • Georgian დივანი divani divan, sofa
                • Hindi दीवान dīvān royal court, tribunal, collection of poems
                  • English dewan
                • Malay dewan council, court, hall
                • Ottoman Turkish دیوان dîvân
                  • Turkish divan
                    • French divan
                      • English divan
                      • German Diwan
      • Hebrew דף dáf page, sheet of paper
      • Unknown transmission
        • Hellenic *dipʰtʰérā
          • Mycenaean Greek 𐀇𐁇𐀨 di-pte-ra
          • Classical Greek διφθέρᾱ diphthérā
            • Greek διφθέρα difthéra
            • French diphtérie
              • English diphtheria
            • Aramaic 𐡃𐡐𐡕𐡓𐡀 dptrʾ parchment, hide, accounting book
              • Middle Persian 𐭣𐭯𐭲𐭫 dptl
                • Persian دفتر daftar register, account book, notebook, office
                • Arabic دفتر daftar register, roster, notebook
                  • Malay daftar list, register
                  • Ottoman Turkish
                    • Turkish defter notebook, inventory, register, tax roll
                    • Greek τεφτέρι teftéri ledger, accounts book
                    • Serbo-Croatian де̏фтер dȅfter notebook, accounting records
            • Etruscan
              • Latin littera letter, handwriting, literature, learning, books [1]
                • Central Romance
                  • Dalmatian latera letter
                  • Italian lettera letter, literature
                    • Albanian letër paper, letter, document, literature, playing card
                • Western Romance
                  • Old French letre
                    • French lettre letter
                    • Dutch letter
                      • Malay leter letter
                      • Japanese レッテル retteru label
                    • English letter
                  • Spanish letra letter, handwriting, lyrics
                • German Letter
                • Old Irish liter
                  • Irish litir
                • Russian литера lítera
                • Welsh llythyr
                • Latin litteratura lettering, learning, grammar, philology
                  • French littérature
                    • English literature
                • Latin litteralis
                  • Old French literal
                    • French littéral
                    • English literal
                • Latin litterarius
                  • Old French
                    • French littéraire
                    • English literary
                • New Latin alliteratio
                  • English alliteration


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Collected English words

daf, Muad'dib, douane, dewan, divan, diphtheria, letter, literature, literal, literary, alliteration


  1. ^

    For Greek /d/ -> Etruscan -> Latin /l/, compare Odysseus -> Ulysses. And the general pattern of unexplained /l/s in Old Latin, many but not all originally /d/.