Jewish Journal

Tag: Hebrew Word Of The Week

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  • Hebrew word of the week: Nasi’/President

    By Yona Sabar

    August 24, 2016 | 1:43 pm

    The English word president and the verb preside are from the French-Latin presider(e), “sit in front (of everybody else)”; similar to the Hebrew yoshev rosh “sits ahead, chair.” Nasi’ is from the root nas'a’, whose basic meaning is “to raise”; hence, nasi’ is “one raised (above all...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Ototo/very, very soon

    By Yona Sabar

    August 17, 2016 | 2:47 pm

    Modern spoken Hebrew has many words borrowed from other languages, especially from Arabic (aHla okhel “great food”), English (oTo “car, auto”) and Yiddish (shpritz “spray, sprinkle”). The word oToTo is an adverb borrowed from Yiddish oToT, similar to chiq-chaq, meaning “right away,...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Hammah (sun, hot)

    By Yona Sabar

    August 3, 2016 | 4:08 pm

    Words in any language may become obsolete or change in pronunciation and meaning. Moreover, certain names for things or concepts may have one meaning at one time, and another later, such as the English word “groovy” (in the 1970s) and now “cool”; or even assume the opposite...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Vegetarians / TsimHonim

    By Yona Sabar

    July 27, 2016 | 1:25 pm

    Fast-growing trends in America and Europe, such as becoming tsimHonim “vegetarians” or Tiv’ıonim “vegans” (“naturalists”), are adopted very quickly in Israel, and some seem to have a basis in Judaism.* Many Israelis (about 10 percent of  Jews and 17 percent of Arab-Israelis, with...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Payis (lot/lottery)

    By Yona Sabar

    July 20, 2016 | 1:22 pm

    Lotteries and gambling are so universal that they are often managed by state agencies. Mif’al ha-Payis, the national lottery of Israel, was established in 1951 and generates huge profits that are used to support projects in education, art, hospitals and more, similar to the...

  • Hebrew word of the week: PatsHan = Hacker

    By Yona Sabar

    July 13, 2016 | 2:49 pm

    The advent of the computer has contributed many new words to modern languages, or new meanings to old words. In Hebrew: maHshev “computer”; dafdefan “browser” (from daf “page,” difdef “turn pages, flip through”); metakhnet “programmer”; do’al  (or do’ar eleqTroni) for “email;”...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Compliment/MaH(a)ma’ah

    By Yona Sabar

    June 22, 2016 | 2:44 pm

    I have been asked whether there is any connection between maHma’ah “compliment” and Hem’ah “butter.” Indeed, there is. It is based on the one occurrence of maHama’ot in Psalms 55:22, which seems to be a misreading of me-Hem’ah. Compare to the JPS translation: “his talk was smoother...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Lo’ tirtsah/Thou shall not kill

    By Yona Sabar

    June 15, 2016 | 3:53 pm

    The original sense of r-ts-H* was “to smash, shatter” as in retsaH be-’atsmotay “crushing my bones” (Psalms 42:11); Arabic and Aramaic cognates “to crush.” The English kill meant “strike, beat”; and murder, related to mortal, in older English meant “secret or unlawful killing”; the...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Mt. Sinai/Har Sinay

    By Yona Sabar

    June 9, 2016 | 12:13 pm

    It is amazing how a certain geographic name, whose identity remains unknown or doubtful to this day, turns into an important symbol of Judaism: The place where the Torah — the Ten Commandments — was given to the Children of Israel by God (traditionally on Shavuot).*

    The name...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Salt/Melah

    May 25, 2016 | 2:34 pm

    A very old word, quite common in the Bible and in other Semitic languages, including brit melaH “fellowship over a meal”* (Numbers 18:19); a sacred offering to God (Leviticus 2:13); and the custom of adding salt after the ha-Motsi’ grace over bread. However, the most famous...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Yom ’Atsma’ut

    May 11, 2016 | 2:34 pm

    What is the connection between ’etsem, “bone,” and ’atsma’ut, “independence”? The root ’-S-m basically means “to be strong, mighty, numerous” (mentioned many times in reference to the children of Israel in Exodus and in the haggadah); hence the meaning “bone,” which is strong,...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Miqbul (parallel dating)

    May 4, 2016 | 1:40 pm

    In traditional dating, one person dates another, often leading to a more stable long-term relationship. Now there is a new trend: One person, usually in his or her 20s,* can date two, three or more persons be-maqbil, “in parallel,” at the same time (in contrast to “serial,” or...

  • Letters to the editor: Nancy Kricorian, Hannah Arendt, minimum wage and more

    May 4, 2016 | 9:12 am

    School Chums Discuss Middle East Problems

    Rob Eshman and his old school friend who is working with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement tried to find common ground on Israel-Palestine and raised the question: Do you have a better idea or a better strategy to get...

  • Hebrew word of the week: “Mimouna”

    April 27, 2016 | 2:52 pm

    The end of Passover was celebrated in various Jewish communities with local customs, often synthesizing old Jewish and non-Jewish traditions that are universally associated with spring. Passover itself is also known as Hag ha-Aviv, “Holiday of Spring,” and it falls in the middle of...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Red Sea/Yam Suf

    April 20, 2016 | 2:30 pm

    A central element in the story of the Exodus from Egypt is the miracle of the Israelites crossing of a split-open yam suf the “Sea of Reeds”* (or “weeds, water plants,” as in Jonah 2:6). Its location is not certain, but some see a clue in I Kings 9:26: “ … near Elat on the shore of...

  • Hebrew word of the week: ShTuyyot (nonsense)

    April 14, 2016 | 11:39 am

    This is a word very common in Israeli conversation and it can have a few distinct nuances: As an exclamation, “Nonsense!” or when characterizing others’ opinions as “nonsense” or “stupid.” But, paradoxically, it is also used for encouragement, as when someone tells you about their...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Yehudi

    April 6, 2016 | 3:02 pm

    How did we get from Yehudi to Jew? Originally, the word referred to a member of the tribe of Judah; later, someone from the kingdom of Judah, but in the late books of the Bible, the word takes on the meaning of Jew as we use it today (in Esther 2:5: Mordecai is called ish

  • Hebrew word of the week: Creationism/bri’atanut

    March 30, 2016 | 3:07 pm

    Despite Darwin’s theory of evolution, there are still many people in the world, including Jews and non-Jews, who believe in the creation narrative in Genesis, and there are also some who compromise between the two, believing in “evolutionary creationism,” “scientific creationism,”...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Ozne Haman

    March 16, 2016 | 4:13 pm

    Originally this pastry, now associated with Purim and mishloah manot, had nothing to do with Haman, Purim or ears.

    The original German spelling was Mohntaschen, or “pockets (filled with) poppyseed,” * which in Yiddish became Homen-tashen, or “pockets of Haman,” and thus it became...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Kasher/kosher

    March 9, 2016 | 3:33 pm

    When one hears or sees the word “kosher,” one immediately thinks of Jewish food. However, the original meaning of the root k-sh-r is “to be fit (in general),” as when Esther asks Ahashverosh if it is kashér, meaning “agreeable,” with him to annul Haman’s plan (Esther 8:5).

  • Hebrew word of the week: Pras/Prize

    March 4, 2016 | 12:41 pm

    The Hebrew and English words sound similar, but they are not related at all. The English “prize” is a variant of price, related to praise, appraise. The Hebrew pras had a very humble beginning, originally meaning “half” of anything, particularly the half mina coin given to a slave...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Miriam

    February 25, 2016 | 10:54 am

    Thanks to Miriam, Moses’ sister, the prophetess and singer-dancer, as well as Mary, the mother of Jesus in the New Testament, this name (with its varieties) is one of the most common in the world. The name’s origin seems to be Egyptian, meaning “wished-for child,” derived from myr...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Hahpatsah

    February 17, 2016 | 11:55 am

    The feminist movement has contributed many words to the modern, global vocabulary and has made our society especially sensitive to not treating each other as a thing, an object. The Hebrew Hefetz (from H-f-ts) has the perfect semantically desired senses: “a thing, an object;...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Shoshannah (Lily or Rose)

    February 11, 2016 | 9:19 am

    The lovely girl in Song of Songs is compared to a lily of the valleys, a lily among thorns (2:1-2). Shoshana is also a given name for girls, which translates to Lily or Rose. The name was once very common in Israel, but not so much now. In Israeli Hebrew, like many other names, it...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Tahtonim

    January 28, 2016 | 2:39 pm

    Our forefathers (and foremothers) likely did not wear any underwear, or, as Adam and Eve, wore only underwear (“fig leaves”). Until relatively recent times (and still in many traditional parts of the world), people did not wear special clothes next to the skin under other...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Pistachios

    January 21, 2016 | 2:16 pm

    The spelling with the initial “f” sound suggests a borrowing from Arabic.* However, the original name is preserved better in the English pistachio, from the Italian pistacchio, from the Latin pistacium, from the Greek pistakion, from the original Persian pestah — the original...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Procrastination

    January 13, 2016 | 12:20 pm

    In English, to procrastinate is related to the Latin cras, “tomorrow.” Hence, the psychological syndrome that enables one to put off something until “tomorrow” rather than do it today is informally known by Spanish mañana, “tomorrow, in the indefinite future.”

    The Hebrew...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Citizen

    December 30, 2015 | 11:59 am

    The English word “citizen” is derived from Latin civitas “city” (compare to Spanish ciudad). However, the Hebrew ezraH does not have any connection to ‘ir “city” or medinah “city-state,” but rather to the root z-r-H “shine, scatter rays,”* closely related to z-r-‘ “sow, scatter...

  • Hebrew word of the week: Yeshu/Jesus

    December 16, 2015 | 1:12 pm

    The Hebrew name יהושע yehoshuaʿ,* was pronounced yeshu in Galilee; becoming Iesus or Jesus in Greek-Latin. The form Yeshu was probably common among the Jews at that time, but was discontinued afterward. Among Christians today, the name is common only among Latin Americans,...

  • Hebrew word(s) of the week: Hashmona’im/makabbim,  Hasmoneans/Maccabees

    December 9, 2015 | 4:33 pm

    The Hasmoneans and Maccabees are almost synonymous names for the family that liberated the Holy Temple and all Judea from the Hellenistic (Greek) pagan influence. There are several explanations for both names. Hasmoneans may be derived from a forefather of the family named...

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