About the history and origins of words.

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What are the origins of Qayin?

This article is expressing that "Qayin" derived from the 1st millenium BC South Arabic word Qyn, and that Cain is not a name old enough in Bible times of the 2nd millenium. Is it plausible that this ...
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52 views

Why is it called “Eden”?

God planted a garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8). Why is it called Eden? I don't see that any of the commentaries in my mikraos g'dolos discuss this.
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First use of the term “Taharat HaMischpacha ”

When and by whom (and why) was the phrase "טהרת המשפחה" ("family purity") first used to describe the halachot relating to niddah?
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The word 'Halakhah'

When and under what circumstances did the word "halakhah" (also spelled "halacha", "halachah" or, in Hebrew, הלכה) come to mean Jewish law?
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etymology of the word “Kittel”

What is the etymology of the word "Kittel"? (Kittel is a white garment worn by many at the Pesach Seder and on Yom Kippur by Davening)
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61 views

What is the meaning of the phrase לצאת ולבוא?

What is the meaning of the oft-repeated phrase לצאת ולבוא as in Deuteronomy 31:2 ? I realize it means "to conduct business" or "to lead", but I was hoping for more of a deep dive (does it come from a ...
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377 views

Etymology of the word “trope”

The word Trope seems to me to be a Yiddish word. What is the source of this word? How do you say this word in Hebrew? Taamei Hanegina?
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Is there a reference that explains the literal meaning and etymology of the names of the Hebrew months?

Is there a reference that explains the literal meaning and etymology of the names of the Hebrew months? I am looking for something that explains both the common Babylonian names as well as the Tana"ch ...
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121 views

When, and why did the term “am ha'aretz” come to mean “ignoramus”?

In Tana'ch, the term "am ha'aretz" meant either "the tribal counsel" as we see when Abraham wanted to purchase the Cave of Machpela, he bowed down to the "am ha'aretz". It also meant "the nation" or ...
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Pronunciation of Yerushalayim

In the Tanach, the word Yerushalayim is almost always written without a yud between the lamed and mem, but pronounced as if there is a patach under the lamed and a yud following it. We find though ...
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The difference between Chazal and Razal

I have heard it said before that Chazal (חז"ל = חכמינו זכרונם לברכה; "our sages of blessed memory") refers to sages of the Mishna and Gemara, while Razal (רז"ל = רבנים/נו זכרונם לברכה; "our/the ...
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First Use of the Phrase “Cheit HaMeraglim”

The negative report given by the people who are sent to scout the land of Cana'an before Bnei Yisrael go in, resulting in the punishment that they have to wander for another 38 years in the desert, is ...
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106 views

Etymology of מחילה

I am looking for a possible etymological root for the word מחילה as meaning forgiveness. The word מחל does not appear in Tanach1, and neither does מחילה, nor does מוחל, and I was unable to find any ...
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Grammatical origins of names in Tanach

Almost all nouns in Hebrew fit into one of several standard "templates". For example, מִבְחָן comes from the root בחנ combined with the pattern מִפְעָל (already used by many other words). There would ...
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Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר?

Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר, or do they both pretty much mean "to say" or "to speak"? Do any sages see the choice of one ...
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118 views

Niqqud of the name of the מהר"ץ חיות

What is the correct niqqud to put on the name of the מהר"ץ חיות? Wikipedia claims that his last name is spelled Chajes in English, and that Chayes or Hayot may also be seen. This seems to imply that ...
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60 views

Etymology of “yochevetzville”? [closed]

I've heard several Ashkenazic Jews (particularly those from the Midwest), both religious and secular, who use the word "yochevetzville" as synonymous with "nowhere". (e.g. "Of course he can't find ...
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How did it happen that the m'chaber came to be called that?

The author of Shulchan Aruch, in his capacity as the author of Shulchan Aruch, is often called "the m'chaber", or "ham'chaber", literally "the composer" or "the author". (Obviously, many authors are ...
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243 views

Why is Shmoneh Esreh referred to as 18 blessings when there are actually 19?

Originally Shmoneh Esreh only had 18 blessings, thus the name "Shemoneh Esreh." However, subsequently a 19th blessing was added of Velamalshinim regarding the heretics. If there are 19 blessings now, ...
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Origin of Yisha'yahu (Isaiah/יְשַׁעְיָהוּ)'s name

Does Jewish tradition teach us anything that might explain the origin of the name Yisha'yahu/Isaiah/יְשַׁעְיָהוּ? I am referring to the prophet who bore the name. If his name means, as it seems to, ...
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Root of word צְלוֹתְהוֹן?

Looking at the Kaddish Shalem focusing on the words תִּתְקַבֵּל צְלוֹתְהוֹן, what is the etymology of the word tzelot-hon? Is this construct even hebrew? I found the root צְלָא meaning "pray" with ...
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171 views

What is the Shekhina?

To what are people referring when they talk about the Shekhina? Is it a form of God? A part of God? An attribute of God? Perhaps it is something else entirely? Also, what is the etymology of the ...
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Why do we call the Festival of Matzos “Passover”?

Today we observe what we call "Passover" or "Pesach" beginning on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, and then for seven days in Israel and eight days elsewhere. But the Torah, at Lev. 23:5 and Exodus ...
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125 views

Why is hell termed Gehinnom?

Why is the place that that wicked are punished for their sins after death termed Gehinnom? Is there is an association with Gei ben Hinnom where idolatry was performed? If so why was this place singled ...
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What is the origin and meaning of mabrouk?

Instead of mazal tov, some sefardim use the term mabrouk(sp?). What does that term mean and what is its origin?
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Origin of the term Yoshke?

I have often heard Jews refer to Jesus as "Yoshke". Is the origin of that appellation based on halachic issues regarding mentioning names of foreign deities, or some other Jewish law or custom? When ...
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Understanding the usage of וגומר and וכולו

Why are the terms וגומר and וכולו used instead of just writing out the rest of the sentence? When were these terms first instituted?
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105 views

Where was it first said that “The generation is diminishing and diminishing”? (הדור הולך ופוחת)

in Hebrew we have an adage that says “הדור הולך ופוחת” ("Hador holekh wepocheth"), meaning “the generation is getting more and more diminished", which may have meant that there are fewer and fewer new ...
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471 views

What is the origin for Reform to call their synagogues a “Temple”?

Why does Reform typically call it a Temple, vs a Beit Knesset, a Beit Sefer, or a shul? I imagine the Hebrew would have been the obvious go to, if they chose to ignore the yiddush. Not that I know ...
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What does the word לאַטקעס (latkes) mean?

לאַטקעס is the Yiddish word used for the potato pancakes commonly eaten on Chanukah. Where does the word לאַטקעס come from originally? What exactly does it mean?
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Origin/meaning of common surname Naiman (or similar)

What is the origin and/or meaning of the common Jewish surname Naiman (or Neiman, Najman, etc.)? According to this site the common Jewish name is of Germanic origin, meaning "Newcomer". However, ...
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149 views

The (female) name Freeda amongst Sefardim

I am under the impression that the name Freeda is a female Yiddish name. For some reason it seems to be very popular amongst the Sephardim. How did this happen?
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What is the etymology of סמאל?

I've heard that סמאל (Samael, a "bad" angel) is related to the word שמאל (left). Is there any basis for this, and are there any other explanations for his name? The Hebrew Wikipedia claims that it is ...
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241 views

Does 'Levi-' as half of a surname indicate a family of Levites?

I've come across a number of surnames of the form Levi-[Something]: Tullio Levi-Civita was from an Italian Jewish family. Claude Lévi-Strauss was from an Alsatian Jewish family. Rita Levi-Montalcini ...
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Clothing and shame, etymologically speaking

I have been unable to find an etymological connection between the root for shame בשש (especially as it turns into the forms of בושה בושת) and the word for "clothe" לבש. Shame was introduced in ...
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132 views

Root of the name Aharon

What is the etymology of the name Aharon? The only serious site I've found that proposes an etymology is this, but I'm hoping for a more classical source, i.e. Chazal or Rishonim.
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191 views

What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
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Is Hebrew the mother of all languages spoken today in the world?

I often wonder what language Adam, Seth, Noah and Abraham (may peace and blessings be upon them) used to speak. What was their native tongue? Was it classical Hebrew? If yes, then would it be right to ...
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125 views

Extra yud in Yerushalaim

Why and by whom was there a yud added to make "ירושלים" instead of the original "ירושלם"?
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How does a door hit against a lintel (משקוף)?

Rashi in several places (Gen. 41:6; Ex. 12:7, 21:25; Lev. 26:36) writes that משקוף ("lintel") is related to the Aramaic root שקף ("beat"), "because the door beats against it." How so? Doesn't the ...
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444 views

Etymology of the word “Kvater”

What is the etymology of the word "Kvater"? Kvater is what we call the person that carries the baby boy into a Bris.
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481 views

Etymology of the word “Vasikin”

What is the etymology of the word "Vasikin", used for the Minyan that starts Shemona Esrei at sunrise? Also, is "Vasikin" Hebrew or Aramaic?
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When did Ben Teshuva become Baal Teshuva?

Rabbeinu Yonah in Bava Basra 39a talks about someone who does Teshuva and calls him a Ben Teshuva. What is the earliest reference in history to the words Baal Teshuva? And why did it change from Ben ...
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80 views

Zmirot vs Pizmoniim

How is it that Ashkenaz and Sfardiim have different names for the same exact thing. Do both Zmira and Pizmon mean the same thing? What are the origination of people calling them either one? I know ...
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648 views

What do the names Pesil, Pesa, and Pesha mean?

What is the meaning and source of the name Pesil or Pesa or Pesha?
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222 views

Why do we call praying, Davening?

Why do we call praying Davening? What is the source of this word? Where did this originate?
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233 views

Why is the Machzor called a Machzor?

The Siddur we use for Yom Tov is known as a Machzor. What does it mean and where did this originate?
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729 views

חס ושלום! (whatever that means)

What on earth does חס ושלום mean literally, or what is its etymology? Why do people use that phrase in particular to "ward off" bad things? (That last part of the question is not asking whether saying ...
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125 views

How and when did the word “Kollel” come to mean “an institution for paying scholars to study Torah”?

How and when did the word "Kollel" come to mean "an institution for paying scholars to study Torah"? If I'm not mistaken, the Hebrew word "kollel" means "includes." But today we've all heard of the ...
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“Boich sevarah”

There is a common Yiddish phrase used to describe an arbitrary reasoning that is not based on the sources: "Boich sevarah" -- literally, "stomach reasoning." What is the exact meaning of this phrase, ...