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

  • Quarterback? Holds the baby like like a football... – IsraelReader Feb 11 at 12:28
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Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh De'ah 265:35:

וקורין לזה קוואט"ר. ויראה לי שזהו מלשון "קטורת", דאמרינן בכריתות (כריתות ו ב): מה לשון "קטורת"? דבר שקוטר ועולה. ופירש רש"י: קוטר – שמתמר ועולה כמקל, עיין שם. וכיון שנתבאר שהמילה היא כקטורת, לכן נקרא זה שמקרב התינוק אל המילה, שמקרבו להקטרת. ועל פי שינוי הלשונות נתחלף בין "קוטר" בחד וי"ו לקוואט"ר בשני ווי"ן.‏

We call him kvatter.

It seems to me that this is related to the word ketoret (incense), as we say in Keritot, "What is the meaning of ketoret? Something which is koter and rises." Rashi explains: "Koter - that it collects in a cloud and rises like a stick". See there.

As we have explained, milah is like ketoret, therefore the one who brings the child to the milah is called this [koter] because he brings him to the ketoret.

And through the evolution of language, the word changed from koter with one vav to kvatter with two vavin.

  • 1
    All my respect to R' Epstein, but it's absolutely implausible that this is the etimology... – Kazi bácsi Feb 11 at 12:50
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According to this article, it is from the Medieval German word, Gottvater (godfather).

  • Wikipedia agrees with this one (though disagrees on the spelling... "Kvater is etymologically derived from the German Gevatter ("godfather")." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godparent#Judaism ... It is much less of a jump from Gevatter to kvater than it would be from Gottvater to kvater. – SeanJA Jan 19 '12 at 3:02
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    @Seanja Gevatter could be the bridge between the two. – Seth J Jan 19 '12 at 3:09
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This post claims that it comes from "kavod tir" (Yiddish: honor at the door), although I haven't found this in his cited source, Ohel Rachel by R. Chaim Liberman.

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