I am new to German. I came across these two words. I am curious to know if these two share same roots.

  • Your question implicitly contains a methodological problem: How do you define the term root of a certain word? There is no such thing as one single root, only a continuous history of ancestors. So, you should better ask: How far can we date back the history of those two words and does the etymological research know common ancestors? I don't want to be picky here, I just want to point on this methodological issue for anyone reading this thread and not being aware of it. – jonathan.scholbach Nov 12 '18 at 13:53
  • @jonathan.scholbach. “Root” (Würzel) is an established technical term in linguistics. – fdb Nov 12 '18 at 17:18
  • @fdb I know the term root (Wurzel) in linguistics with a very different meaning, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_(linguistics) . Besides that, even if the term Wurzel is an established term in etymology, I fail to recognize how this solves the methodological problem I described above. – jonathan.scholbach Nov 12 '18 at 21:05


die Schlacht (engl: battle) (noun)

New High German (NHG) »Schlacht« was before (Middle High German = MHG) »slaht« and even before (Old High German = OHG) »slahta«. This OHG noun was derived from the OHG verb »slahan« which later became MHG »slahen« and now (NHG) is »schlagen« (to strike, knock, punch, beat, hit, ...)

But OHG »slahta« has an even older protogermanic root, and when both, English and German grew from this common root, this verb became »to slay« in modern English. So the German noun »die Schlacht« and the English verb »to slay« are relatives.

schlecht (engl: bad) (adjective)

The NHG adjective »schlecht« was both, MHG and OHG »sleht« and is a sibling of the Old English word »sliht«, from which the modern English word »slight« derived. But it had a very different meaning in those days. It meant »flat, smooth«. The German verb »schleichen« (engl: to creep, sidle, skulk, weasle, sneek, ...) also derives from this root, also the German adjective »schlicht« (simple, plain).

Over many centuries this word changed its meaning:

flat & smooth → plain & simple → worthless → bad.

DUDEN Das Herkunftswörterbuch (Duden Band 7) 3. Auflage, 2001, ISBN 3-411-04073-4

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    Somebody gave this a downvote. Why? There could hardly be a more precise answer. – Christian Geiselmann Nov 11 '18 at 12:14
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    According to etymonline.com Old English sliht became slight, and slick has a different origin. – RHa Nov 11 '18 at 20:54
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    Aber Downvote heißt "The answer is not useful". Ein (kleiner) Fehler in der Herleitung, der noch nicht einmal am Kern etwas änder, macht eine ansonsten sehr gute Antwort doch nicht gleich nutzlos! Ein Kommentar mit dem Hinweis hätte als erster Schritt doch auch genügt. – IQV Nov 12 '18 at 8:02
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    I think, it is good practice to provide the sources of one's answer, especially when it is about etymology. Can you do so, Hubert? Anyway: Nice answer, especially the links to modern english words are very interesting! – jonathan.scholbach Nov 12 '18 at 9:56
  • Probably, the English slaughter and onslaught are related as well. – Philipp Nov 12 '18 at 10:09

No. Those were separate on their vowel in Old High German already.

And there's also schlicht and die Schlucht, should you wonder. Also not related.

  • Right. So just to be on same page, they don't share same root. – hungryroark Nov 11 '18 at 6:56
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    Well, the adjectives schlecht and schlicht are in fact closely related. (See my answer) – Hubert Schölnast Nov 11 '18 at 9:10
  • This leaves room for Schlocht, Schlächt, Schlöcht, Schlücht, Schliecht and Schleucht - all things that yet are to be discovered or invented. We have a bright future! Mind, however, that schleicht and schlaucht are already given. – Christian Geiselmann Nov 11 '18 at 12:16
  • Some sources: [1] Wolfgang Pfeifer: schlagen. In. ders.: Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen. Berlin Akademie Verlag 1989, dwds.de/wb/schlagen#et-1 [2] Pfeiffer: Schlacht. In: ebd., dwds.de/wb/Schlacht#et-1 [3] Pfeiffer: schlecht. In: ebd., dwds.de/wb/schlecht#et-1 [4] Pfeiffer: schleichen. In: ebd., dwds.de/wb/schleichen#et-1 – jonathan.scholbach Nov 12 '18 at 13:55

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