Latvian: Historical Relationships to other Languages

The Latvian language is related to most of the languages of Europe (as well as some languages of India, Pakistan, Iran, etc.).

The language most closely related to Latvian is Lithuanian. However, Latvian is also related to:

When we say that languages are "related", we mean that: they all descend from a common ancestor language.

Proto-Indo-European

All of the above languages are descended from a language which linguists call Proto-Indo-European. This language was never written down, and has long been extinct. Linguists consider that it was spoken (by the Indo-Europeans!) from about 8,000 BC to 4,000 BC (although these dates are debatable).

One way to compare languages which are, presumably, related is to look at "cognate" words.

Cognates are sets of words in different, but related, languages which apparently descended from the same ancestor word.

Table of Cognates

Take a look at the following table. It shows a number of words in Latvian, and their "cognates" in some of the other Indo-European languages (parts of words in red are the related parts of the words. If the whole word is in red, the whole word is related.

LatvianBasic meaningEnglish English English FrenchRussianGerman
(directly from its Germanic ancestor language)(borrowed from Latin)(borrowed from Greek)
sirds"heart"heartcouragecardiaccor serdceHerz
tievs"thin, stretched" thintense, tendontone, hypotenuse ténutonkijdünn
js'"wind"windventilate ventveterWind
sêdêt"to sit" sitsedentary, siegeasseoir, être assissidet' sitzen
ûdens"water"waterinundatehydrantvodkaWasser
acs"eye"eyeoculist, monocleoptic, myopia oeilAuge
brâlis"brother"brotherfraternal frèrebratBruder
stâvêt"to stand" standstatue, stature, station static stojat'stehen
naba"navel"navelumbilicusnombrilNabel
suns"dog"houndcaninecynicchienHund

Links to sites about the Latvian language


Country of Latvia | Travel in Latvia | Latvian Language | History of Latvia | Latvian Cuisine | Latvian Folklore and Folk Costumes | Latvian Music, Songs, and Dances


This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised January 9, 2010