While it feels like atmen (Proto-Indo-European origin) and Atmosphäre (Greek origin) should be etymologically related - I couldn't find any proof for this. Are they?...

  • DWDS says they aren't: atmen Atmosphäre Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 17:28
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    Doesn't Greek also count to have a Proto-Indo-European origin? Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 17:32
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    If Greek also has Proto-Indo-European origin so the both roots can theoretically be traced back to a common ancestor, can't they? Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 17:36
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    Well, DWDS says: "griech. atmós (ἀτμός) ‘Dunst, Dampf’" (moist, mist, haze, steam), while atmen stems from "aind. ātmā́ ‘Hauch, Seele, Selbst’ (Stamm ātmán-)" (breath, breeze, soul, self). In a less direct way these may have a common root, yes. But IMO hard to get a proof. Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 17:44
  • Does someone has access to an etymological dictionary of ancient greek, for instance dictionaries.brillonline.com/… ? This might bring some light into the question whether ἀτμός stems from the same indoeuropean root.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


The modern Verb »atmen« was Middle High German (MHG) »atemen« and Old High German (OHG) (10th century) »atamon«. It is derived from the noun »Atem« (MHG »atem«, OHG »atum«). Etymologist believe, that the closest form in other old languages is Old Indian »atma« or »atman« which means breath, breeze, mind, soul, the self.

The word »Atmosphäre« was brought into German language as a foreign word used by scientists in the 17th century as a composition of the greek words

  • ἀτμός (atmós) = steam, vapor, mist, haze, breath, breeze
  • σφαῖρα (sphaira) = ball, sphere

The first of the two words is closely related to the verb ἄημι (áēmi) which means "to breath, to blow" and both are derived from Proto Indo European »áwēmi«. This again is also the root of English and German noun »Wind« and from latin »ventus« (which means wind and can be found in German »Ventilator« but also »Ventil«)

In my researches I did not find a clear statement that says, that Old Indian »atma« is related to greek »atmós« (both can mean breath, breeze) or to Proto Indo European »áwēmi«. But since the meaning of these words is so similar, and also the words themselves sound so similar, I believe, that there is a connection. But, as just said: I didn't find any clear statements about such a relationship.

  • What are the modern and ancient Greek words for "breath"? I mean with major meaning... Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 7:14
  • I don't have a dictionary at hand, but I think that would be pneuma. Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 8:46
  • @user1876484: Google translator says: "breath" = αναπνοή (anapnoi) (modern greek). There also is an English wikipedia article about Breathing and the title of the greek version is Αναπνοή (Anapnoi). Wiktionary says, that ancient greek πνεῦμα (pneuma) means air, wind, breath, life, spirit, soul and the equivalent verb is πνέω (pnéō, “I blow”). Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 10:47

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