Diagram showing relationships between etymologically-related words

In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin.[1] Cognates are often inherited from a shared parent language, but they may also involve borrowings from some other language. For example, the English words dish and desk and the German word Tisch ("table") are cognates because they all come from Latin discus, which relates to their flat surfaces. Cognates may have evolved similar, different or even opposite meanings, but in most cases there are some similar sounds or letters in the words, in some cases appearing to be dissimilar. Some words sound similar, but don't come from the same root; these are called false cognates.

The word cognate derives from the Latin noun cognatus, which means "blood relative".[2]


Cognates do not need to have the same meaning, which may have changed as the languages developed separately. For example English starve and Dutch sterven or German sterben ("to die") all derive from the same Proto-Germanic root, *sterbaną ("die"). Discus is from Greek δίσκος (from the verb δικεῖν "to throw"). A later and separate English reflex of discus, probably through medieval Latin desca, is desk (see OED s.v. desk).

Cognates also do not need to have similar forms: English father, French père, and Armenian հայր (hayr) all descend directly from Proto-Indo-European *ph₂tḗr. An extreme case is Armenian երկու (erku) and English two, which descend from Proto-Indo-European *dwóh₁ (note that the sound change *dw > erk in Armenian is regular).

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kognaat
العربية: لفظ قريب
asturianu: Cognáu
български: Когнат
català: Cognat
español: Cognado
Esperanto: Kognato
français: Mot apparenté
galego: Cognado
한국어: 동계어
Bahasa Indonesia: Kata kerabat
Bahasa Melayu: Kata seasal
日本語: 同根語
norsk nynorsk: Kognat i lingvistikken
português: Cognato
Scots: Cognate
Simple English: Cognate
粵語: 同源詞
中文: 同源词