Perusing a recent Biergarten menu, I started musing on one of the beer options: Weizen. I know that Weizen = “wheat” in English. (You've heard of wheat beer, right?) I also know another way to order the same thing is to ask for a Weissbier. Weiss, or weiß, means “white” in English.
So, do “white” and “wheat” share the same root? Seems like they should, if you think about it.
Here’s what my OED reveals (I’ve truncated the entries, which in full reveal interesting Indo-European cognates, but you can click on the words to go straight to the full OED entries):
Wheat: O.E. hwæte "wheat," from P.Gmc. *khwaitijaz, lit. "that which is white," from *khwitaz-, the source of O.E. hwit, whence English “white”.
White: O.E. hwit, from P.Gmc. *khwitaz, from PIE *kwintos/*kwindos "bright".
What do we learn from this? The next time the Denny’s waitress asks if you want “white or wheat”, you can answer “yes”.
You’ll still be a smart-ass, but you’ll be a smarter one knowing the close linguistic kinship of these two words.
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PS. Reminder: Etymological abbreviations here.