Two words which mean the same thing in two different languages are not always derived from the same fundamental root or meaning. When they are, it can be a wonderful reminder that humans, regardless of time or place, share so much in common and have very similar ways of looking at things, in spite of all the apparent differences between us.
Two types of words which illustrate this are Korean words based on 그리- and English ones based on "-graphy." Both words and their derivatives are based on a connection between "scratching, engraving" and "writing, drawing."
In Korean, words such as 글, 그림, 긁다, 긋다 and 그리다 are all based on the common element of "그리-." This refers to the action of "scratching, scraping (긁다)" and encompasses the meanings "drawing, inscribing (그림, 그리다, 긋다)" and "writing, text (글)."
In English, words with "-graph(y)" in them come from the Greek verb "grapho (γράφω)," which also means "to inscribe, scratch, write or draw." The following examples illustrate a handful of the numerous applications of this meaning: "calligraphy, graffiti, graphite, graph, diagram, bibliography, photograph, stenography, phonograph." Note also how the root words in both languages start with "g + r/l (ㄱ + ㄹ)," an onomatopoeic scraping or scratching sound.
Some additional examples of this are the Hindi word "khurachnaa (खुरचना 'to scrape, scratch')", with the aspirated 'kh' depicting this even more strongly, and the Japanese words "書く(to write)" and "掻く(to scratch)," both pronounced "kaku," although lacking the final "r" due to the phonological structure of Japanese syllables. Similar examples can also be found in German and French among other languages.
I hope that today's post has stirred an interest in searching for common roots in words of radically different languages, which I personally find is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of studying etymology. Happy word hunting!
Source for the information on the Korean words:
백문식. 우리말 어원 사전. 1st ed. 서울: 도서출판 박이정, 2014. Print.
For more information on English etymology: