The sources I've read usually say that 'ad' (i.e., in 'ad infinitum') is derived from Proto-Indo-European *ád ‎("near, at"). However, they don't refer any Semitic origins.

But here's an excerpt from Philip Baldi's Semitic Influence in the History of Latin Syntax:

However, the Latin preposition ad here may correspond to the Semitic preposition l, which would constitute merely an isolated calque, rather than a true example of syntactic interference

(Semitic Influence in the History of Latin Syntax, 1.1, footnote 3)

So here's my question: Does 'ad' originate from the Hebrew 'ad' (to/towards) or a similar Semitic origin?

  • 9
    Elementary prepositions are rarely borrowed from another language.
    – chirlu
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:44
  • 3
    That quotation does not say that latin ad originates from Semetic I. In fact, it implies that it does not. It says it might "correspond" to it in this one expression. A calque is when an expression is translated "literally" from one language to another, resulting in a parallel formation. For example, French "gratte-ciel" literally "scrape-sky" is a calque of English "skyscraper."
    – Asteroides
    Feb 25, 2016 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


No, the similarity is almost certainly accidental. This kind of coincidental similarity is pretty common, especially in short words like ad.

Latin ad "to, near, at" has cognates in several other branches of Indo-European, including Celtic (Old Irish ad-), Phrygian (αδ-), and Germanic -- English at is among the latter. It appears to go back to a Proto-Indo-European form such as *h₂ed.

Hebrew ʕad "toward" appears to have originally had a temporal meaning, "until"; it's homonymous with a noun meaning "perpetuity". It's very unlikely that this word would have been borrowed as a preposition into Proto-Indo-European, both because languages rarely borrow prepositions and because there is not much evidence for contact between these two language families in the first place.


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