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We find a number of terms referring to when morning starts and then perhaps a similar term used to refer to the time of shachris.

Alos HaShachar (עלות השחר) Ayeles HaShachar (אילת השחר) and Shacharis (שחרית)

What do these terms mean literally? I'm not asking for what they refer to or what we take them to mean (or which time they are referring to) but rather the literally definition. What is "shachar (שחר)"? This seems to be the underlying word here.

As always please provide a source.

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Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/20312 –  Fred Dec 8 '13 at 2:28

3 Answers 3

As far as I know, "Shachar" - is a name of a star. When it get placed somewhere in the sky - halachikaly the day begins.

I've just found out here that Venus is named Shachar.

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Yes, Venus is "the Morning Star". Its rise coincides with dawn. This is literally what "alos" (rise [of]) "hashachar" (the Morning Star) means. –  WAF Dec 8 '13 at 1:39

For שחר Hebrew Wiktionary has הזמן הסמוך לזריחת השמש. - The time close to the sun shining and quotes a possuk in Yeshaya 58 (8)

. אָז יִבָּקַע כַּשַּׁחַר אוֹרֶךָ וַאֲרֻכָתְךָ מְהֵרָה תִצְמָח וְהָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ צִדְקֶךָ כְּבוֹד יְהֹוָה יַאַסְפֶךָ

Then your light shall break forth as the dawn, and your healing shall quickly sprout, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall gather you in.

[Hebrew Wikipedia] (http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/שחר) defines עלות השחר as

the beginning of the day for halachic purposes. It is determined by the appearance of sun in the sky, while the sun itself is invisible and remains below the horizon. Rabbinic literature also uses the expression איילת השחר (morning star) and referring to the fact that the planet Venus appears often before sunrise.

עלות השחר הוא זמן תחילת היום בהלכה. זמן עלות השחר נקבע לפי הופעת אור השמש על פני השמים, בעוד שהשמש עצמה איננה נראית ועודנה מתחת לאופק. בספרות חז"ל מצוי גם הביטוי איילת השחר, ויש שרצו לייחס לו את ראיית כוכב הלכת נוגה המופיע לעתים לפני זריחת השמש.

In these sources שחרית is only referenced in connection with other terms such as תפילת שחרית, the morning prayer service and פת שחרית, breakfast.

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Although perhaps this is not the most "traditional" answer, I saw the following on Wikipedia under the entry "Shahar"

Shahar is the god of dawn in the pantheon of Ugarit. He is the twin brother and counterpart of Shalim, son of El, and the god of dusk. Both are gods of the planet Venus, and were considered by some to be a twinned avatar of the god Attar (Athtar). As the markers of dawn and dusk, Shahar and Shalim also represented the temporal structure of the day

It also says there under the title of "Etymology":

The name is a cognate of the Hebrew word Shahar (שחר) meaning dawn

I believe this could all be understood in a number of ways

  1. The Hebrew word "Shachar" is indeed derived from the name of this god of dawn. Which would perhaps leave us with a big question why is the name of a foreign god found in the Torah

  2. The word "Shachar" literally means dawn and is a Hebrew word in it's origin. It was then borrowed by this other religion to be used as the name of their god of dawn.

  3. The word is in fact from a different language that doesn't refer to the god itself but rather simply means dawn and is used to refer to the god and somehow found it's way into the Torah and Hebrew language.

We find a similar thing by the word "שמש" (Shemesh) Hebrew for Sun. See the wikipedia entry "Shamash"

All of this does lead me to another question which I plan on asking however if anyone has any supporting material on this (articles, etc) then please leave it in the comments or edit the answer.

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