“ge-” in English and German

This post discusses cognates which are words that descend from a common source. Sometimes a word will have a different meaning to one of its cognates. Words often change meaning over time

The prefix “ge-” existed in Old English but the “g” was pronounced like Modern English “y”. This would often evolve into “i” (pronounced like Modern English “ee”) or “a” and then sometimes it just disappeared entirely by the time it got to Modern English. German however pronounces “ge-” with a hard “g” like the “g” in “gift”. This can make cognates harder to spot though so I decided to make a list of English and German cognates where the Old English version had a “ge-” in it. This way you can see how the word changed over time.

enough comes from Middle English ynough, Old English ġenōg cognate with German genug

alike comes from Middle English alike, Old English ġelīċ cognate with German gleich

moot comes from Middle English ȝemot, Old English ġemōt which means “society, assembly, court, council”

mind comes from Middle English ȝemunde, Old English ġemynd which means “memory, remembrance, memorial”

mad comes from Middle English madd, Old English ġemǣdd which means enraged

mean comes from Middle English imene, Old English ġemǣne which means “common, public, general, universal” cognate with
German gemein

sheriff comes from “shire reeve” where reeve comes from Old English ġerēfa

aware comes from Middle English aware, from Old English ġewær cognate with German gewahr

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