AskDefine | Define cognate

Dictionary Definition

cognate adj
1 related in nature; "connate qualities" [syn: connate]
2 having the same ancestral language; "cognate languages"
3 related by blood [syn: akin(p), blood-related, consanguine, consanguineous, kin(p)]


1 one related by blood or origin; especially on sharing an ancestor with another [syn: blood relation, blood relative, sib]
2 a word is cognate with another if both derive from the same word in an ancestral language [syn: cognate word]

User Contributed Dictionary



From cognatus, past participle of cognascor, cog- + nascor


  • a UK /ˈkɒg.neɪt/ /"kQg.neIt/


  1. Derived from the same roots.
    In English, “ward” is cognate to “guard”, and both are cognate to French garder.
    English “ward”, English “guard”, Icelandic “vörður” and French “garder”, and German “Wärter” are all cognate.''
  2. Similar in nature


derived from the same roots

Derived terms


  1. A word derived from the same roots as a given word.
    English “ward” is a cognate of “guard”, and of French “garder”.
    ''English “ward”, English “guard”, and French “garder” are all cognates.


A word derived from the same roots as a given word

Derived terms



  1. Plural of lang=Italian|cognata

Extensive Definition

Cognates in linguistics are words that have a common origin. They may occur within a language, such as shirt and skirt as two English words descended from the Proto-Indo-European word *sker-, meaning "to cut". They may also occur across languages, e.g. night and German Nacht as descendants of Proto-Indo-European *nokt-, "night".
The word cognate derives from Latin cognatus, from co (with) +gnatus, natus, past participle of nasci "to be born". Literally it means "related by blood, having a common ancestor, or related by an analogous nature, character, or function".
The term cognate is not normally used with loanwords. For example, linguists would not say that the English word sushi is cognate to the Japanese word sushi, because the word was borrowed from Japanese into English.

Characteristics of cognate words

Cognates need not have the same meaning: dish (English) and Tisch ("table", German), or starve (English) and sterben ("die", German), or head (English) and chef ("chief, head", French), serve as examples as to how cognate terms may diverge in meaning as languages develop separately, eventually becoming false friends.
In addition to having separate meanings, cognates through processes of linguistic change may no longer resemble each other phonetically: cow and beef both derive from the same Indo-European root *gou-, cow having developed through the Germanic language family while beef has arrived in English from the Italo-Romance family descent. (ModE cow Latin bov- (stem; dictionary form is bos) > OFr boef > ME beef)

Cognates across languages

Examples of cognates in Indo-European languages are the words night (English), nuit (French), Nacht (German), nacht (Dutch), nicht (Scots), natt (Swedish, Norwegian), nat (Danish), noc (Czech, Polish), ночь, noch (Russian), нощ, nosht (Bulgarian), ніч, nich (Ukrainian), ноч, noch/noč (Belarusian) noć (Croatian, Serbian), νύξ, nyx (Greek), nox (Latin), nakt- (Sanskrit), natë (Albanian), noche (Spanish), nos (Welsh), noite (Portuguese and Galician), notte (Italian), nit (Catalan), noapte (Romanian), nótt (Icelandic), and naktis (Lithuanian), all meaning "night" and derived from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *nokt-, "night."
Another Indo-European example is star (English), str- (Sanskrit), astre or étoile (French), αστήρ (astēr) (Greek), stella (Latin, Italian), stea (Romanian and Venetian), stairno (Gothic), astl (Armenian), Stern (German), ster (Dutch and Afrikaans), starn (Scots), stjerne (Norwegian and Danish), stjarna (Icelandic), stjärna (Swedish), setare (Persian), seren (Welsh), steren (Cornish), estel (Catalan), estrella (Spanish), estrela (Portuguese and Galician) and estêre (Kurdish), from the PIE *stēr-, "star".
The Hebrew shalom, the Arabic salaam and the Amharic selam ("peace") are also cognates, derived from a common Semitic root, having the triliteral slm.
Cognates may often be less easily recognised than the above examples and authorities sometimes differ in their interpretations of the evidence. The English word milk is clearly a cognate of German Milch and of Russian moloko (<PIE *melg-, "to milk"). On the other hand, French lait and Spanish leche (both meaning "milk") are less obviously cognates of Greek galaktos (genitive form of gala, milk) (<*g(a)lag-, galakt-), as is the English word lactic.

Cognates within the same language

Cognates can exist within the same language. For example, English ward and guard (<PIE *wer-, "to perceive, watch out for") are cognate as are shirt and skirt (<PIE *sker-, "to cut"). In some cases, such as "shirt" and "skirt", one of the cognate pairs has an ultimate source in another language related to English, while the other one is native, as happened with many loanwords from Old Norse (which was mutually intelligible with Old English) borrowed when the Vikings conquered part of England. Sometimes, both cognates come from other languages, often the same one but at different times. For example, the word chief comes from the Middle French chef, and its modern pronunciation preserves the Middle French consonant sound. The word chef was borrowed from the same source centuries later, by which time the consonant had changed to a "sh"-sound in French. Such words are said to be etymological twins.

False cognates

False cognates are words that are commonly thought to be related (have a common origin) whereas linguistic examination reveals they are unrelated. Thus, for example, on the basis of superficial similarities one might suppose that the Latin verb habere and German haben, both meaning 'to have', are cognates. However, an understanding of the way words in the two languages evolve from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) roots shows that they cannot be cognate (see for example Grimm's law). German haben (like English have) in fact comes from PIE *kap, 'to grasp', and its real cognate in Latin is capere, 'to seize, grasp, capture'. Latin habere, on the other hand, is from PIE *ghabh, 'to give, to receive', and hence cognate with English give and German geben.
The similarity of words between languages is not enough to demonstrate that the words are related to each other, in much the same way that facial resemblance does not imply a close genetic relationship between people. Over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, words may change their sound completely. Thus, for example, English five and Sanskrit pança are cognates, while English over and Hebrew a'var are not, and neither are English dog and Mbabaram dog.
Contrast this with false friends, which frequently are cognate.

Parliamentary term

In a parliamentary sense, a cognate debate means that two or more bills can be debated together, if the House does not object to the matter. Bills are only debated cognately if they are closely related.

Mechanical systems

In Mechanical Systems, the term "cognate" has been used by Hartenburg and Denavit to describe a linkage, of different geometry, which generates the same coupler curve.

Molecular Biology term

In molecular biology a ligand may have a cognate receptor. This is a receptor that specifically binds to that ligand.
cognate in Afrikaans: Kognaat
cognate in Bulgarian: Когнат
cognate in Spanish: Cognado
cognate in French: Mots apparentés
cognate in Galician: Cognado
cognate in Korean: 동계어
cognate in Indonesian: Kata kerabat
cognate in Dutch: Cognaat (taalkunde)
cognate in Japanese: 同根語
cognate in Norwegian: Kognat (lingvistikk)
cognate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kognat i lingvistikken
cognate in Portuguese: Cognato
cognate in Scots: Cognate
cognate in Finnish: Sukulaissana
cognate in Swedish: Kognat (lingvistik)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

affiliated, affinal, affinitive, agnate, akin, allied, ally, alter ego, analogon, analogue, ancestry, associate, avuncular, blood, blood relation, blood relative, brother, clansman, close copy, close match, closely related, collateral, collateral relative, common, companion, complement, congenator, congener, congeneric, congenerous, congenial, connate, connatural, connected, connections, consanguine, consanguinean, consanguineous, conspecific, coordinate, correlate, correlative, correspondent, counterpart, derivation, derivative, distaff side, distant relation, distantly related, doublet, enate, eponym, equivalent, etymon, family, fellow, flesh, flesh and blood, folks, foster, general, generic, genetically related, german, germane, image, incident, kin, kindred, kindred spirit, kinfolk, kinnery, kinsfolk, kinsman, kinsmen, kinswoman, kith and kin, like, likeness, mate, matrilateral, matrilineal, matroclinous, near duplicate, near relation, next of kin, novercal, obverse, of common source, of the blood, parallel, patrilateral, patrilineal, patroclinous, pendant, people, picture, posterity, primitive, reciprocal, related, related by blood, relations, relatives, root, second self, sib, sibling, similitude, simulacrum, sister, soul mate, spear kin, spear side, spindle kin, spindle side, such, suchlike, sword side, tally, the like of, the likes of, tribesman, twin, universal, uterine, uterine kin
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