About the history and origins of words.

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16
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
11
votes
5answers
257 views

Males named מיכל?

Where does the male name מיכל (as in יחיאל מיכל) come from? Is it a diminutive/corruption/translation/elision of מיכאל, derived therefrom in some other way, or simply a false cognate?
11
votes
4answers
3k views

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 ...
11
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
6k views

Etymology/connection between Ari, Aryeh, Yehudah, Leib, and Leibel

What is the relationship between the following names that often go together is some combination? Ari/Aryeh Yehudah Leib/Leibel I've encountered many men, young and old, with the following first ...
10
votes
3answers
375 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?
10
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2answers
248 views

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 ...
10
votes
2answers
234 views

What exactly does “Lord of Hosts” (צְבָאוֹת) mean?

When I think of the Judaism, I don't think of Angelic armies attacking the armies of evil directly. G-d usually works in far more subtle ways than this, e.g. appearing as a burning bush to motivate ...
9
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2answers
4k views

Etymology of the Name Feivel

Where does the Jewish name Feivel (or Feivish) come from? What does it actually mean?
9
votes
3answers
389 views

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 ...
8
votes
3answers
436 views

Are the names Akiva and Ya'akov related?

Are the names Akiva and Ya'akov related?
8
votes
1answer
150 views

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 ...
7
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2answers
205 views

What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
7
votes
2answers
130 views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
103 views

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?
7
votes
4answers
589 views

Etymology of the surname “Katz”

Are there sources for the etymology of the surname Katz being an acronym for Kohen Tzedek? Is that simply a backronym?
7
votes
1answer
208 views

“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, ...
7
votes
1answer
108 views

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 ...
6
votes
5answers
521 views

Etymology of the word sanhedrin

what is the root and source of the term "sanhedrin," the name of the Jewish high court and of a tractate in the Talmud? As far as I know, it is not from scripture.
6
votes
4answers
156 views

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 ...
6
votes
3answers
700 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
386 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, ...
6
votes
1answer
251 views

דילמא == Dilemma?

Is there documentation to prove that the Aramaic word "דילמא" is a transliteration or derivation of the Greek word "dilemma"? If so, this fact is informative to G'mara-learning in understanding the ...
6
votes
2answers
104 views

Source that “Teiku” References Eliyahu?

What is the earliest source that indicates that "teiku" (תיקו) references Eliyahu? Any source earlier than the Tosafos Yom Tov who provides an alternative explanation?
6
votes
1answer
191 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
152 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.
6
votes
1answer
192 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
94 views

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)
6
votes
1answer
105 views

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 ...
6
votes
2answers
135 views

Source of Term “Shiur”

What is the source for referring to a rabbinic lecture as a "shiur" which literally means 'measurement'? When did this usage begin? What is its significance?
5
votes
2answers
335 views

What does Yarmulka mean?

What does the word Yarmulka mean?
5
votes
3answers
275 views

What are some examples of Jewish names? [closed]

What are Jewish sounding names that come from various occupations and locations? Please give the "rough" translation and background too.
5
votes
1answer
175 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?
5
votes
4answers
368 views

What's the origin of the name “Jew”?

Why are we called "the Jews"? Did Hashem pick out this name for us? What does the word "Jew" mean?
5
votes
3answers
162 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
431 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?
5
votes
1answer
549 views

Why is it called Bas Kol

Why is it called Bas Kol versus Ben Kol?
5
votes
3answers
156 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
472 views

What is the origin of “shul”?

What is the origin of the word "shul", meaning "synagogue"? It seems derived from the German "Schule", meaning "school". Moreover, Italian Jews call synagogues "scuola", which also means "school" ...
5
votes
2answers
79 views

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?
5
votes
1answer
112 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
93 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
283 views

Are the Aramaic root ק.ב.ל and the Hebrew root ק.ב.ל related?

When the word מקבילות comes up in parashas T'ruma, Rash"i defines it based on the Aramaic root ק.ב.ל, commonly found in the preposition לקבל (against or opposite) to mean physically across ...
4
votes
2answers
614 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.
4
votes
4answers
260 views

Why do we call praying, Davening?

Why do we call praying Davening? What is the source of this word? Where did this originate?
4
votes
1answer
928 views

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

What is the meaning and source of the name Pesil or Pesa or Pesha?
4
votes
1answer
195 views

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 ...
4
votes
2answers
166 views

When did the word challa start being used to mean our Shabbos bread?

In the Torah we seem to only find this word associated with Temple related breads. In Rabbinic writings the word challa was the word referring to the amount of dough separated to be given to a kohen. ...
4
votes
2answers
144 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
293 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 ...