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In my eBook titled Where is the Love? How Language Can Reorient Us Back to Love’s Purpose (2013b), I sought to define love from an African and historical comparative linguistic standpoint. I came to the conclusion that love, ultimately, derives from a root that means “to extend one’s hand, to help, to aid”; thus making love a “verb.” There was another aspect of the overall conversation that centered on how indigenous African people conceptualized the human being, their attitude towards the person and how one’s significant other was to be viewed within the grand cosmological scheme of things. It is on the latter aspect of that discussion that I would like to elaborate on briefly here given the big upcoming “holiday” of Valentine’s Day, which is a good time for reflecting on intimate human relationships.


As mentioned in Imhotep (2013b) (see also Doumbia & Doumbia 2004, Sambu 2007), the person was seen as an extension of one’s self;so much so that one’s wife or husband was considered one’s sister or brother respectively. The person who you end up with is considered “your second person.”This philosophical framework extends into the conceptualization of one’s neighbor and one’s spiritual double. A few linguistic terms will help us to understand this a little better.


One name for the spiritual double among the Yoruba is called ikeji “a second.” The Yoruba people speak of “my companion” as “my second.” In the Yoruba Bible, the word ẹnìkejì (ẹnììkejì “second person”) is used to translate “neighbor.” In other words, my neighbor is my second self; an extension of myself; we are one and the same. The late Jordon Ngubane, in his seminal work Conflict of Minds (1979), articulates this paradigm as such from the Amazulu perspective:


http://asarimhotep.com/templates/rt_momentum/images/typography/light/quote-l.png); background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat;">When persons knew the Law, they did not fall into error; they did not hurt their neighbors; they developed a dimension of consanguinity which enabled the person to regard his neighbor as the reverse side of a phenomenon to which he, the person, was the obverse. His neighbor was all mankind. Each living person had experiences which made him a unique book of discovered knowledge. He fulfilled himself and his neighbor when he shared what he knew with his neighbor and when the latter shared with him what he, the neighbor, knew. For the neighbor was the first precondition of fulfillment for the person. The person and his neighbor were fulfilled when their personalities were improved by what they shared. In this regard, the person and his neighbor were mutually fulfilling complements. (Ngubane, 1979: 79-80) (emphasis mine)


Here is articulated the grander framework for human relations. The neighbor is seen as an aspect of one’s self; in fact, as one’s spiritual double. As was noted in Imhotep (2013b), loveis also rooted in “friendship,” and we will see how this is connected in many African cultures, including the ancient ciKam (Egyptian).


As noted earlier, love is rooted in this concept of “giving a helping hand.” The person(s) who come to your aid when in need is truly a friend indeed (rhyme not intended). In the grander context of African languages, the word for love is also the word for friend. In ciKam we have the word mrj, which means “love, want, wish, desire, prefer, covet, cherish.” We also havemrj “friend” (WbII 98). In a few other African languages we have, for comparison:


http://asarimhotep.com/templates/rt_momentum/images/typography/light/quote-l.png); background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat;">ciKam: mr, “to love” to desire”; mrw.t “love”
Coptic:mere, meri, melli, me, mei, maie, mi
Acoli(Nilotic): maaro, “to love”, maar, “love”
Luo(Nilotic): mer “to agree, to be in accord with”, “kindness”
Nuer(Nilotic): mar,“friend”
Mangbetu:o-muomu “to love”; mu “friend”
Wolof: mar “to love madly” [1]


As demonstrated in Imhotep (2013b), Bilolo (2011), the root of Egyptian mrj is -r-. The m- morpheme is a prefix. The root is reflected in ciLuba-Bantu as eela “to exit from the self (sound, idea, word,object, etc.), make, express, speak.” This notion of “giving” derives from this notion of “extending from the self”; in this case an object of some sort. To love is to give of yourself (extend your hand); to aid in the sustaining and growth of another person. As your brother or sister is an extension of you, so is your neighbor and your spirit double in the African context.

We see this notion reflected in Hebrew with the word reʿa “companion, friend,” which is cognate with Yoruba ore “friend” and *èrè“playmates in the world of spirits.”  The word *èrèoccurs in the word elérèé (el-èrè “the possessor of *èrè”). Another variant of *èrè is emèrè; Hebrew mereʿ “friend, playmate,companion”); Acoli omera “brother, son of mother’s sister”; Yoruba omore “relations”; Ngas mwol  “brother.”


The -l- or -r- root is reflected in ciLuba as:


http://asarimhotep.com/templates/rt_momentum/images/typography/light/quote-l.png); background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat;">Lela “birth, give birth, produce”; “cause, source, generate”; “a family, a home”; “adopt, educate, raise”; “subject, submit.” : baledi “parents” :  buledi  “to engender, maternity, paternity” :  bulelà “relationship”; “relationship characterizing those who cannot marry one another”; “charity, kindness, generosity” : ciledi “cause, origin, source” : cileledi “matrix” :  cilelelu“Time of Birth, date of birth” :  cilelelu  “placenta”(Syn.:ndanga, nkìshyabendè) :  dilediibwa “birth, Christmas (birth of Jesus)” :  dilela “birth, childbirth, labor, complicated thing, to be tricky” :   Lelela [n + l> n, l + i> di] ⇒-badila >lelesha-“facilitate childbirth, attend a woman in childbirth” :  Lelulula “be born again, to revive”:  lulelu “childbirth, fertility,generation” : mulelu >  muledi  “parent, mother, father”:  mulelà “member of the extended family, parent” :  mulelu “human fertility, fertility” :  ndedi “cause” (syn.: ciLedi): ndela “prolific person, with many children” : ndelàngànyì “offspring, descendants, generations” :  ndelelu   “descendants,generation”;  ndelelu Mulenga “family planning” :   ndelu“generations, offspring,progeny” :   Tanda “ bring into the world, give birth, born/rise☛ App.: Lela->a-TEETA:  lela- “be abundant, abound,overflow” [☛ Syn.: Tèngeka->Akan, akanangan [n + l> n, l + i> di] ⇒-SELA ] : Tèngeka-≋ Tenka-“be abundant, abound” :  Lèlakana-≋ -lèlakanangana “be found in large quantities, abound on all sides”[2]


This notion of “exiting” from the self (eela) gives rise to notions of “birth, generations, parents and family.” As we can see from the above, keeping with our m-r root, we havemulelà “member of the extended family, parent”; bulelà “relationship”; “relationship characterizing those who cannot marry one another”; “charity, kindness, generosity”; malela,mulunda, mulanda/malanda, mulondi "friend, acquaintance, disciple, fraternity"; bulunda"friendship, fellowship, companionship, federation"; alukisha bulunda"to reconcile";kuatangana bulunda "to form a friendship."

What we see here is that the same root for love is the same root for friendship/relationship. What I gather from this information (and more as expressed in Imhotep 2013b) is that our mates, our neighbor, is an extension of ourselves and that they are (should be) considered our spiritual double. A great relationship is one in which the two involved have a great friendship. To form an intimate relationship is to form a friendship. A relationship is an alliance, a federation (bulanda) of family members (brother and sister). This sense of family, of course, is long distant, but still kept intimate in the sense that we all share the same heavenly parent. African-Americans (the Nkala) still refer to each other as “brothers and sisters.” This is a carryover of African cultural traits existing before the enslavement period.


We are here to love (support, care and provide for) one another; in other words, to help each other(eela), to serve and to be a constant source of bulelà “charity,kindness, and generosity.” Use this Valentine’s Day to remind your significant other of the strong friendship you two have. More than chocolates or flowers, your friendship (mrj) is more important. That’s where the love (mrj) grows from.






P.S.:In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I have coined the term “Fromance” to describe “Black on Black Love.” You can thank me later. . . And also, Egyptian mr(j) is cognate with Frenchamour, Spanish amor, Latin amor "love." 


 Fromance Pic 1

Fromance Pic 1

Fromance Pic 3

Fromance Pic 3


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Canaanite Dictionary


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CiLuba Dictionary



[1] Theophile Obenga.(1992:122). Ancient Egypt & Black Africa: A Student’s Handbook for the Study of Ancient Egypt in Philosophy,Linguistics & Gender Relations. Karnak House. London.

[2] Dictionnaire ciLubahttp://www.ciyem.ugent.be/