like (adj.)
[…] + Germanic base *lik- “body, form; like, same”
(cognates: […]). Analogous, etymologically, to Latin conform. […]

[OED:] […] + *lîko- body, form […]

Although *lik- differs in spelling from *lîko-, only Etymonline broaches the meaning of like, same.

Please expose and explain the hidden, missing semantic drifts and links. What metaphors or key ideas explain and connect the separate meanings (and lexical categories) of (the nouns) body, form and (the prepositions) like, same?

PS: Etymonline’s entry on ‘such’ (adj) induced me to research the foregoing.

  • 1
    You asked the same question on Linguistics.SE before, where it got closed as "unclear what you're asking": linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/13243
    – chirlu
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 3:18
  • 1
    I don't think the question has become clearer by this crossposting. The dictionary entries you cite already explain how the meaning of gleich might have developped from "having a common appearance". Voting to close.
    – chirlu
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 3:24
  • 2
    @LePressentiment: What aspect of that is unclear to you? It seems intuitive enough to me...
    – Hulk
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 5:40
  • 1
    @LePressentiment, quoting the entry: "having the same form," literally "with a corresponding body", a compound of *ga- "with, together" + Germanic base *lik-. Or are you wondering about the second step, from "having a common appearance" to "same" and "similar"? In that case, please say so, but it seems rather self-explanatory to me, too.
    – chirlu
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 6:44
  • 2
    @Jan: Even better (because it also works in connection with bold and regular text) is to escape the asterisk: _\*lik-_ (*lik-, *lik-).
    – chirlu
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 8:48

3 Answers 3


I think your first quotation gives you the answer already.

with a corresponding body

ga: with, together
lik: body, form, like, same

  • together same
  • with (equal) form
  • with (equal) body



ORIGIN Middle English: from Old Norse líkr; related to alike.



Old English gelīc, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gelijk and German gleich, reinforced in Middle English by Old Norse álíkr (adjective) and álíka (adverb).

álíkr = gleich is not the same as líkr

Alike = the same as or a-like (the same compared to)
however for me alike means more similar to than equal to.

like = same as

In German we distinguish between das Gleiche und dasselbe

Das Gleiche = two identical things
Dasselbe = the same identical thing

You can say: This is just like …
But you would not say: This is just alike …

What you would say is they look alike or kind alike.

In relation to body and form.

If you are comparing two things. What are you comparing? Bodies and their forms? What else could you compare? Immaterial things are hard to compare. I’d say.

  • 1
    Your post is a little hard to follow, I had to read a few times and I'm not sure I fully understand. Maybe you could elaborate a little more on why you think the Norse source and the relationship of gleiches/selbes plays a role in this context? Might still be interesting.
    – Sir Jane
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 11:55

Exactly the same connection exists in Modern English:

She has the form and shape of a witch. Even her manner is witchlike. Clearly she embodies a witch. Let’s burn her!

The various ways of accusing her of witchcraft differ only in subtle nuances that nobody really cares about when they are looking forward to a bit of fun.

Suppose we are presented with a few hundred English nouns and told that, by decree of God in his inscrutably capricious wisdom, henceforth we are only allowed to form adjectives from other nouns by appending a noun from the list. Which would we choose to describe witchlike — a word that henceforth nobody can utter without being struck by lightning?

  • She looks witchhouse to me.
  • She looks witchman to me.
  • She looks witchfoot to me.
  • She looks witchchair to me.
  • She looks witchcraft to me.
  • She looks witchbody to me.
  • She looks witchmind to me.
  • She looks witchhead to me.
  • She looks witchday to me.
  • She looks witchhill to me.
  • She looks witchglove to me.
  • She looks witchrose to me.

I think we can all agree that “She looks witchbody to me” is among the best (least bad) choices. And this has very little to do with witch.


I can just speculate, but I would suppose that the meaning of lik as in alike, similar simply arose from physical observation and comparison, thus inheriting the term. (It must be a very old term too, speaking of so basic things.) That would explain why the first literal translation says corresponding body.

It may be likely that the two meanings are just so intertwined that there never was the apparent gap in meaning that confuses you today.

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