Preface: Please pardon me for writing in English; I do not speak German (yet!). This question was motivated by my noticing of the Germanic root *krīg‑ in III.c. during my reading of the PIE root gwerə-1.

[Etymonline:] [...] from Krieg "war,"
from Middle High German kriec, "combat," mostly "exertion, effort; opposition, enmity, resistance,"
[2.] from Old High German chreg "stubbornness, defiance, obstinacy,"
[1.] perhaps from PIE *gwere- (2) "heavy" (see grave (adj.)) [...]

[The etymology of Krieg quotes Wiktionary on Proto-Germanic *krīgaz:]
Perhaps from *krīganą ‎(“to strive, acquire”), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷréh₂us, *gʷer- ‎(“heavy”).

What underlying semantic notions connect 1 and 2?

  • 1
    I do not know who voted that this is off-topic, but this question is about Old High German.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    @Carsten S: Not really about Old High German, but I agree this is on topic. It’s just not answerable, except by wild guesses. I’ve therefore voted to close as “primarily opinion-based”.
    – chirlu
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 15:08
  • @chirlu, I under stand the question as: How do you explain the suggested origin of the Old High German word chreg in PIE *gwere- from a semantic point of view.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 16:19
  • @CarstenS +1. Thanks for your support. Your understanding is correct; please feel free to refine my question.
    – user18164
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 2:49

1 Answer 1


When I read (or hear) “heavy”, I think of weightfulness rather than difficulty. In German, its cognate schwer means both “heavy” and “difficult”.

An adjective, “grave” derives from Latin gravis for “heavy”, also meaning “serious”, which itself originated from Proto-Indo-European *swēr- (DWDS/Wiktionary), which is also the etymology of schwer. However, gravis seems to have derived from *gʷréh₂us, which in turn sounds a bit like *gwere-.

All of those seem to share some origin, probably owing their semantic similarity. Your question was what semantic link there was. I think in German it would be a bit easier to feel the (linguistic) closeness of war effort, its gloom (German: Schwermut) and the participant’s heavy burden:

Für das Land ist Krieg üblicherweise eine schwere Last.

To the land, war is usually a heavy burden.

That’s my guess. Also, both “obstinacy” and “stubbornness” may translate to Hartnäckigkeit or Starrsinn, and I can feel how “heavy” and its various meanings may play a role in its meaning. It’s hard to explain.

Note that this is merely speculation, due to the nature of the question. I’m afraid you won’t find a definitive answer. We will probably never know why *krīganą ‎(“to strive, acquire”) derived from *gʷréh₂us, gʷer- ‎(“heavy”).