(Inspired by HodofHod's commment here: Four Holy Cities)

What is the proper plural for the common Aramaic phrase Nafka Minah נפקא מינה which means something along the line of "practical differences"?

As in "This distinction leads to multiple XXXXX XXXX."

Nafkot Minah? Nafkei Minah? Nafka Minam?

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    its aramaic, so both the 1st and 3rd suggestions dont work. – Hod - Monica's Army Jan 3 '12 at 2:12
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    for that matter, i'm not sure its a noun in the original, it may only be used as such in yeshivish. – Hod - Monica's Army Jan 3 '12 at 2:21
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    Nafka Mina-s :) – ertert3terte Jan 3 '12 at 4:09
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    Is this on topic? – Double AA Oct 28 '13 at 7:59
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    I strongly suspect that this phrase is used as a noun only in the context of Torah study jargon. Edit the words "in Torah study jargon" into the question, and it's unambiguously on-topic. – Isaac Moses Jun 5 '16 at 2:13

Grammatically, I guess "nafkei minah" would have to be the correct plural if there are two practical differences emerging from one distinction, or "nafkei minayhu" if they're completely disjoint. (See Avodah Zarah 28b and Shabbos 23b, respectively, although in neither place is the expression being used in the sense of "a practical difference or outcome.")

However, HodofHod is right: it's definitely not a noun in Aramaic - it's basically an adjectival phrase. So we might analogize it to words from Latin that have become nouns in English ("omnibus" and "virus," for example), which correctly use English plurals. So here, the plural would be "nafka minahs" (or for Israelis, I guess, "nafka minot").

  • Wouldn't Minam (from them) make sense somehow? – Hacham Gabriel Jan 3 '12 at 3:49
  • @HachamGabriel: only if it was Hebrew. In Aramaic (Bavli Aramaic, at least), "their/them" is expressed with the suffix ייהו, as in מילייהו (their words/things), שבחייהו (their praise), etc. – Alex Jan 3 '12 at 3:55
  • My mistake. Ashrecha – Hacham Gabriel Jan 3 '12 at 4:02
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    +1. But re "it's basically an adjectival phrase" in Aramaic: it's actually a predicate, a verb phrase (rather than an adjectival phrase), meaning "comes out [=can be derived] from it", no? – msh210 Jan 3 '12 at 5:36
  • Great answer! I suspected as much, but my knowledge of Aramaic grammar is too weak to have known for certain that it couldn't be pluralized in the original. – Hod - Monica's Army Jan 3 '12 at 5:50

I posed this question to a tenured professor, whose PhD was in Aramaic Biblical Exegesis, and who is a published expert on several Semitic languages. This is what he wrote (edited for brevity; it was over several email exchanges over several months):

Nafka minnah means the "thing that come out from it" The plural will therefore ought be "the things that come out from it" not "the thing that come out from them."

I.e., nafkei minnah is the likely form.

I'll be happy to remain anonymous!

nafka minnah = Heb. (ha-)yotze' mimmenah (or possibly yotza mimmena.

The Hebrew plural would be (ha-)yotz'im mimmenah

There's a slight ambiguity with nafka -- it's clearly singular but could in theory be masculine or feminine.

It is also an active participle qal. and will therefore always have its qamats gadol, just as its Hebrew counterpart will always have the vav-holam.

The plural of nafka masc. is nafkei; the plural of nafka fem. would be nafkan (but this really applies to older Aramaic)

minnah is clearly from her.


After all of that, however, in the case of the expression in question, I would posit that it ought to be used in the singular (Nafka Minnah) in all instances. The reason for that is the fact that the expression itself is referring to the consequence - encompassing all possible variables - of the comparison being made. In other words, when the text asks "LeMai Nafka Minnah", it is asking in parallel English, "What IS the CONSEQUENCE of this comparison," which deserves the singular form of the word Nafka, just as it is used so commonly across virtually all Talmudic (and Talmudic-style) analysis I've ever encountered. Hence, the expression itself only exists in the singular form.

  • So either Nafkei Minah or Nafkan Minah depending on gender? – Double AA Aug 13 '12 at 19:49
  • @DoubleAA, no, his point is it would be Nafkah either way, unless you're writing in the early part of the Talmudic period. – Seth J Aug 13 '12 at 19:57
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    Well, maybe I am! – Double AA Aug 13 '12 at 20:43
  • Just be careful you don't violate the Rambam/Hawking theory, or cross over the dateline (it could get messy). – Seth J Aug 13 '12 at 21:07
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    It's not "LeMai Nafka Minnah" but "may nafka minah" (no "l-"). So it's really "what comes out of it", and can be pluralized. That is, I disagree with your new, last paragraph. – msh210 Jan 3 '13 at 0:50

In my Yeshiva experience I have always heard Nafkah Minahs (or Minot).

Example: "Really? So what are the Nafkah Minahs"

But I must say that usage of this plural form is rare.

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    +1. I've heard this also, and don't think it's all that rare, but do think it's not in accordance with Aramaic grammar. – msh210 Jan 3 '12 at 7:04
  • @msh210 Well not necessarily rare, but rare to hear. I noticed that people tend to subconciously convert it to the singular form when they want to say it in plural. E.g. "Really? And what would a possible Nafkah Minah be?" – yydl Jan 3 '12 at 22:29
  • That's the way we said it in (an American) yeshiva – Menachem Jan 4 '12 at 0:45

The correct translation of Nafka Minah is not 'practical differences'. It is 'comes out from it'. The reason this has evolves as slang for 'practical differences' is because people used to ask each other after a certain logic or din has been applied, what comes out from it i.e. what is the practical difference with that logic/din added. However whether only one difference comes out or a myriad of them makes no difference, they still all are Nafka Minah, which means they still all come out of it.

It is like people say one mustn't listen to music in the middle of Bein Hamtzorim (the three weeks). But really Bein Hamtzorim translates as the middle of Metzarim (harsh days) so the correct terminology is one mustn't do something Bein Hamtzorim means one mustn't listen to music in the middle of the three weeks.

  • But verbs inflect for number in Aramaic. – msh210 Jan 3 '12 at 7:35
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    Like ATM machine :) – avi Jan 3 '12 at 7:35
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    ... OTOH, if you stick "be" before it ("they are nafka minah") then I suppose you're all right, much like "they're bodek the lungs" or "they were niftar": this Yiddish-influenced use in English of Hebrew (which I try to avoid in writing, myself) is quite common and I suppose can be used for Aramaic verbs like nafka minah, too. – msh210 Jan 3 '12 at 7:38

I'd suggest the following answer based on how the Talmud itself references certain internal terminology.

The Talmud refers to the gezeirah shava to its plural form as גזירות שוות in Temurah (a search will reveal other locations among the Jewish canon of literature).

Therefore we can take each of these words as well and expand them to their plural form respectively. The common Babylonian Talmud Aramaic term would render נפקא as נפקי and מינה as מינייהו. However, these are only shortened versions of נפקין and מינהון.

Thus, we have [נפקי[ן] מינהו[ן as the plural. So as with gezeirah shava the meaning would transfer by both words to mean 'the things that come out of them'. This is essentially what one is doing when referencing multiple nafkin minhon, these 'things (many)' are coming out of those 'things (many)'.

  • גזירות שוות is the only grammatical way to express the plural because שווה is an adjective and is forced to agree with the noun. (There are other cases like בתי מדרשות that could fit with your argument) – b a Feb 19 '19 at 14:56

In Israel we say Nafke Minot.....

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    And in America we say Nafka Minas. – Double AA Sep 8 '15 at 13:55

I have no source, but I would assume that you pluralize it with Nefkei Minin.

puting the suffix of "in" is the same, in aramaric as adding an "s" to the word. I believe.

  • Ok, that is doubly funny. But, I still think it is correct, and in my mind helps explain why Minim means heretics in other contexts. – avi Jan 3 '12 at 7:07
  • @msh210 aww, that was a good comment, put it back! :) – avi Jan 3 '12 at 7:07
  • Actually, in Bavli Aramaic the plural often drops the final nun, so more likely it would be "mini." – Alex Jan 3 '12 at 17:01

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