I’ve been interested in word origins since I was very little. And I used to think the word “woman” meant, or was short for, “whoa, man!” (Seemed appropriate for public restroom doors.) Even as a child, I could see the “man” in the word.

If we go back to the original concepts behind the idea, we find little has changed. In the Hebrew tongue, Adam’s word for a man was ish and for woman was ishshah, “drawn out of man”.

I became more curious when I realized what “woman” really means.


I about fell out of my chair when I read that one. A woman is merely a man with a womb. And “womb” is from the Greek for “belly”.

I’m beginning to grasp a lot, here. I’m a man with a belly. Yep.

At least a wombat is something else, not related. I was starting to worry . . .

Then I remembered from learning Spanish, that their word for “mother is madre which also means “womb” in Spanish.

It just kills me that every person who speaks Spanish refers to his mother as his “womb”.

“Happy Womb’s Day,” anyone? I think I’ll pass.

“Hello, I’d like to introduce you to my womb?” Hmm.

“That man-with-a-belly over there is my womb?” I don’t think so.

So I got the nerve to look up “mother”.

I did not like what I found.

I checked other dictionaries. Ditto. From Webster to Wagnalls, all the guys were in agreement.

“Mother” means “mud”. From the bottom of a river, to the muddy stuff in the bottom of the vinegar, we are IT!

The only way I can hope to explain this is to quote dear old Webster, who actually knew most every language and did all the research:

We observe that in some other languages, as well as in English, the same word signifies a female parent, and the thick slime formed in vinegar; and in all the languages of Europe here cited, the orthography is nearly the same as that of mud and matter. The question then occurs whether the name of a female parent originated in a word expressing matter, mold; either the soil of the earth, as the producer, or the like substance, when shaped and fitted as a mold for castings, or whether the name is connected with the opinion that the earth is the mother of all productions; whence the word “mother-earth”. We are informed by a fragment of Sanchoniathon, that the ancient Phenicians considered mud […] to be the substance from which all things were formed. In the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, the same word madre signifies mother, and a mold for castings; and the northern languages, particularly the German and Danish, seem to establish the fact that the proper sense of mother is matrix.

He then notes a lot of overlap in words such as “matter” and “material”.

I am so glad he takes exception to the other meaning for “matter”—pus. Not the same, says Webster. That one comes to us from the Arabic and seems to be unrelated. Whew. That matters a lot to me!

Webster also lists the following languages for which “mother” seems to be a cognate: Swiss, Danish, Saxon, Irish, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Sanskrit, Russian, French, and Welsh. And they all cast us as molds, as the matrix for everything, like mud is used as a mold for casting.

Yes, ladies, we are the stuff of life.

This gets really amazing when you realize Adam was made from dust.

“Muddah, Faddah, kindly disregard dis lettah!”

This blog comes to us through our sister Katharine Trauger, we thank God for the tie that binds us.

Whoa, Man!

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