Why do some words in different languages have the same multiple meanings?

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Take the English word “right”. It can mean “true, correct”, but it can also be used in something like “human rights”.

Now take the Arabic word حق. Again, it can mean “true, correct” and the “rights” in “human rights”.

It makes sense for a word to have the same single meaning across different languages. But what is the likeliness that two languages have a word that share the same multiple meanings?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Language speakers interact with one another, translate concepts and all that. That’s why in Arabic and European languages fresh water is called sweet water (with English being an odd exception), because when people interact they tend to exchange ideas and metaphors. But sometimes it might just be coincidence, they are all human speakers so it’s not hard to imagine if one group comes with a term that another won’t come up with the same. Maybe both cultures came with the idea that something true is also something just, while the Arabs didn’t decide to tie correctness with the direct of your right hand.

So the answer is, because those languages are drawing from a common cultural and historical vocabulary basis, but it can just be pure coincidence. Sometimes one influences the other so a group adopts a native word as synonym for a concept when a foreign group also does the same. Without a word per word etymological study, it’s hard to explain the phenomenon.

As for why some stick and some don’t, it’s a more speculative thing. 

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