What's the etymology of the Russian verb "иметь"?

What is its root ("-им-" or "-име-")?

What was the root's meaning originally?

1 Answer 1


It's a PIE root *h₁em- ‎(“to take, distribute”) from which - as you can see from this link - were derived among other words, such as: Lithuanian im̃ti, Old Church Slavonic имѫ ‎(imǫ) and possibly Old Armenian իմանամ ‎(imanam).

The Slavonic form *jьmǫ: jęti among other words produced иметь, взять, снять, изъять.

Actually there's more - a lot of verbs ending with -нять share the same origin.

  • 1
    Just curious: *jьmǫ: jęti are two different words, one older than the other, or they are forms of the same word like "взять, взятый"? I've managed to find transcription rules of Proto-Slavic here. The same article also says that *jęti is the passive participle from *jętъ but does not say what *jętъ means.
    – farfareast
    Feb 21, 2017 at 3:48
  • @farfareast: *jьmǫ is first person singular present (по-йму), *jęti is an infinitive (по-нять), *jętъ is a singular past passive participle (по-нят).
    – Quassnoi
    Feb 21, 2017 at 10:19
  • @Quassnoi: Thank you! But why is "по-" added in your answer to the root. To show the verb in perfective aspect?
    – farfareast
    Feb 22, 2017 at 18:39
  • @farfareast: because the bare imperfective word (имати) in the modern language is replaced with a suppletive иметь (except in set phrases like мёртвые сраму не имут), which conjugates slightly differently. It's иму, яти and ят for that matter, but those would have risen more questions had I used them.
    – Quassnoi
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:24

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