Comparing howl and owl

Wondering why I am asked to ‘compare’ certain words, like ‘owl’ under the entry ‘howl’ if they’re not etymologically related. Or if they are, it’s unclear. And does ‘compare’ not mean ‘contrast’ at least in some cases?

Hello, that’s a great question, thank you. If an entry says “from X,” that will be an etymological relationship. If it says “see X” that should lead you to more etymology (I was too lazy to duplicate the entire history of un- in every entry of a word that has it).

“Compare” means “this isn’t necessarily in the main line of the word’s etymology, but it might shed light on it.” Or “this is also curiously connected.”

The “howl” entry reads, “probably ultimately of imitative origin; similar formations are found in other Germanic languages. Also compare owl.”

And when you go to “owl,” you meet “Old English ule “owl,” from Proto-Germanic *uwwalon-,” with a list of similar-sounding words as promised under “howl,” and connection to a proposed PIE root “which is imitative of a wail or an owl’s hoot.” And it goes on to still more “sees” and “compares” and that’s how rabbit holes are made.

I wouldn’t say “howl” and “owl” are one from the other, or even certainly that they’re from one single ancient lost PIE word. They sound like the thing they describe, which is probably why we have them both still, and so do most of the neighbors. They stick in the common head. That Hensleigh Wedgwood stuff doesn’t fit into the strict mathematical train of “froms.” But it’s there. It’s the human part. It’s worth seeing.

thanks for that elaborate explanation.

I’m looking into the possible connection of ‘how’ (and ‘who’ – being from ‘were-’ and ‘kwa-’
Since added L conjugates ‘meow’
I thought that ‘how’ possibly becomes a verb when adding an L.
And since ‘how’ came from ‘hwo’ which came from ‘kwo’ (a question word—compare
‘who’ which comes from ‘were-’ meaning wolf / person, I see a possible parallel with the reversal of ‘dog’ and ‘god’. (hound / man)

Furthermore, ‘what’ in French, “quoi” (from PIE ‘kwo-’)—French will use “comment” (how) when asking for clarification.
Latin ‘quis’ and ‘quid’ comes from ‘kwi-’ to mean “in what respect”, and “to what extent”, respectively.