Babble - the etymology

To babble is basicly to talk in a confused manner, so that you can no longer be understood by those around you.

Since I was sitting around looking at the part of the Bible that details the story of Noah and then moves on to the story of the Tower of Babel I was wondering about the possible links between the words "Babel" and "Babble". Since the tale of Babel is about people not being able to understand each other and to say that someone is babbling implies that they are talking unintelligibly.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the root of Babble is from the Middle Lower German word "babelen", but it does not elaborate on it. Not entirely satisfied by this answer I decided to look up the root of this German word. According to Merriam-Webster's the root of babelen shares a lot of commonalities with three words from different languages; the Late Greek "babazein", the Latin "babulus" and the Sanskrit "balbala".

Repectivly these mean, "to speak inarticulately", "babbler" and "stammering sound". This is especially interesting when you remember that these are all languages that have come from around the mediterranean region, and the fact that, in Hebrew "Babel" translates as "confused". Since Sanskrit is very closely related to Hebrew in terms of its structure and syntax it would be highly likely from the word roots that the words "balbala" and "babel" are related to each other.

There, I proved my theory. You can trace the etymology of "Babble" back to "Babel" with a fairly high degree of certainty.

Of course there is still a theory that says that "Babble" comes from the "ba ba" sounds that babies are apt to make...

Bab"ble, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Babbled ();p. pr. & vb. n. Babbling.] [Cf.LG. babbeln, D. babbelen, G. bappeln, bappern, F. babiller, It. babbolare; prob. orig., to keep saying ba, imitative of a child learning to talk.]


To utter words indistinctly or unintelligibly; to utter inarticulate sounds; as a child babbles.


To talk incoherently; to utter unmeaning words.


To talk much; to chatter; to prate.


To make a continuous murmuring noise, as shallow water running over stones.

In every babbling he finds a friend. Wordsworth.

⇒ Hounds are said to babble, or to be babbling, when they are too noisy after having found a good scent.

Syn. -- To prate; prattle; chatter; gossip.


© Webster 1913.

Bab"ble, v. i.


To utter in an indistinct or incoherent way; to repeat,as words, in a childish way without understanding.

These [words] he used to babble in all companies. Arbuthnot.


To disclose by too free talk, as a secret.


© Webster 1913.

Bab"ble, n.


Idle talk; senseless prattle; gabble; twaddle.

"This is mere moral babble."



Inarticulate speech; constant or confused murmur.

The babble of our young children. Darwin.

The babble of the stream. Tennyson.


© Webster 1913.

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