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What is the origin/meaning of the word Purim? I always assumed it meant the multiple lots of Haman, but I just heard a shiur saying the word Purim comes from "pirurin" - little things - of the Megillah which we thank Hashem for.

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  • The holiday is called Yom ha-Pur (Pur Day). The origin of the name "Purim" is people confusing the verse that says "these Pur days" (ימי הפורים) in plural and thinking the holiday name is itself plural instead of its reference to the two different holidays involved.
    – Double AA
    Jan 16 at 14:38

4 Answers 4

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Esther 9 (will edit in the exact verse, later) says explicitly:

"Therefore these days are called 'Purim' because of the 'Pur'".

It was named after the lots that Haman cast.

Anything else you see would be a Midrashic or supplemental interpretation to the above verse.

(Note that the term is in plural "these days". Implying that Purim can occur on one of several days. Gemarah Megillah delves into a lengthy discussion on this.)

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I'm not an expert but my understanding is that Purim comes from the Akkadian "puru" and has to do with the casting of lots, ie decided at random, a rolling of the dice if you will. In the case of Mordecai's decree it likely would have been rolled out upon a clay tablet by a engraved ring, stone or urn and then distributed throughout the 127 provinces of Persia. Thus this "lot" or seal would have been sort of an ancient printing press if you will from which the earlier decree of Haman was effectively annulled. Xerxes signet was taken from Haman and given to Mordecai. (Esther 8:2) The actual practice of the casting of lots would go back I believe also to the Aaronic priesthood and Urim and the Thummim of Exodus 28:30 in communicating with and understanding the will of the Creator.

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1 - See the article Playing the Lottery by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein from his What's in a Word series. Much of the article delves into use of the word פור and its meaning.

2 - I will present some ideas below - some of which possibly overlap with that article:

The fundamental two letters of the word Purim are פר being the flip side of רפ which is a very critical part of the backstory of Purim - the original מלחמת עמלק at רפידים from the end of פרשת בשלח and its associated connotations in Chazal of רפיון ידים - a sense of weakness.

These two letters in their original sequence of פר can also be interpreted as a type of weakness that we must utterly destroy in connection to Haman’s use of "פור הוא הגורל". The following Mishna and Gemara indicate that חלש has a meaning of פור or גורל and when taking מפרשים in Yeshaya into account, a possible additional hint to Amalek.

משנה שבת כג:ב - ומטילין חלשים על הקדשים ביום טוב

גמ' שבת קמט: - מַאי מַשְׁמַע דְּהַאי "חֲלָשִׁים" לִישָּׁנָא דְפוּרָא הוּא? — דִּכְתִיב: (ישעיה יד:יב) "אֵיךְ נָפַלְתָּ מִשָּׁמַיִם הֵילֵל בֶּן שָׁחַר נִגְדַּעְתָּ לָאָרֶץ חוֹלֵשׁ עַל גּוֹיִם" וְגוֹ׳,

ראב"ע ישעיה יד:יב - חולש. כמו (שמות יג:יז) "ויחלש יהושע" , ויש אומר מפיל גורלות כטעם (יחזקאל כא:כו) "קלקל בחצים" וגוֹ׳'

רד"ק שם - חולש. כמו ויחלש יהושע.....ורז"ל פי' כי חולש מפיל גורל, כמו שאמר מטילים חלשים על הקדשים בי"ט

Aside from the several times the word פור is mentioned in the Megilla, related words seem to appear such as here:

(ישעיהו כד:יט) רֹעָה הִתְרֹעֲעָה הָאָרֶץ פּוֹר הִתְפּוֹרְרָה אֶרֶץ מוֹט הִתְמוֹטְטָה אָרֶץ

It seems to be the consensus of the major מפרשים that this is a לשון חלקים \ חלוקה. The word family starting with פר branches into several forms noting division or breaking/spreading afar into many parts.

This is also connected to the wording הפרה which we see in connection with נדרים where it acts as a nullification or ביטול while the opposite action is a קיום. We see this language fleshed out in the first line of the פיוט said after reading the Megilla:

אֲשֶׁר הֵנִיא עֲצַת גּוֹיִם, וַיָּפֶר מַחְשְׁבוֹת עֲרוּמִים

I have wondered whether the connection between פר and a לשון of weakness/breaking apart might be connected to the words עפר and אפר, representing a breakdown of something that was originally large into tiny specs.

Interestingly enough one can sense a very rich multitude of words in the Megilla that have both letters פ,ר such as: פרס, פרתמים, תפארת, כרפס, רצפת, ספר, פור, מפזר, מפרד, אחשדרפנים, אפר, פרשת, פרשנדתא, פורתא, פרמשתא, פרזים, פורים.

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To answer your question "What is the origin/meaning of the word Purim?" is that it means "lots" like lottery.

The origin of the word is Farsi\Persian.

The name of the holiday is called "Purim" after the "Pur" which Haman had made to determine the fate of the Jews.

While the Megillah does translate what the word pur means - הִפִּיל פּוּר הוּא הַגּוֹרָל , in Parshas Beshalach, The Rashbam specifies that the origin of the word is Persian, and the reason the holiday is called Purim and why the megillah itself translates "pur" from persian to the Hebrew "goral" is because the locals understood what "pur" and "purim" meant, and the translation of it into hebrew was for future generations to understand why we call this holiday "purim'.

in summary of your question. the word "pur" means "lots" and its origin is Persian (as mentioned by the Ibn Ezra in the Megillah)

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