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 Breishit as a result of Adam and Chava's realizing they were unclothed and clothing, soon after, as follows:


כה וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ.

and 3:21

כא וַיַּעַשׂ ... לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ, כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר--וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם.

It seems to me that the verb would be an explanation for how one resolves that shame, by covering it; clothing (like a תלבושת?) would, at the source be "that which covers shame". Onkelos has totally different words for each (shame being from the k-l-m root and clothing from the same l-b-sh root).

Has anyone seen a source which explores this connection?

  • I'm pretty sure that R' Hirsch addresses this directly in his commentary on the Torah. I'll see if I can find it tonight.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 14:15
  • thanks -- I don't have a Hirsch commentary handy and would love to hear what he has to say.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 14:54
  • @IsaacMoses, From here, it doesn't seem that he does.
    – jake
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 15:01
  • @jake from there, interestingly, one might draw the conclusion that clothing is designed to deceive as the b-vav-sh (or b-sh-sh) root is about deception and expectations.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 15:07
  • @jake, I've never had a chance to look through that volume. I don't know how exhaustively it reflects what's in the commentary.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


Abarbanel (Bereshis 3) makes the connection between the word for "embarrassment" (בושה) and the word for "clothing" (לבוש). Seemingly, like you said, because the clothing is a covering-up of the embarrassment, and also because clothing (or especially lack thereof) has the strong potential to embarrass a person. He writes as follows:

שיש שתי תכליות בלבוש. האחד להגין על הגוף מהפעלות החום והקור החזק. והב' מפני הכבוד כי חרפה היא לנו ללכת האדם ערום ויחף ומגולה ערותו עד שמפני זה אחשוב שנקרא לבוש מלשון בושה לפי שכמה פעמים יתבייש האדם במלבושו אם להיותו ארוך או קצר יותר מדאי או לצורתו או לגוונו או לפחיתותו

There are two purposes to clothing. The first is to protect the body from the elements, e.g. extreme heat and cold. The second is for dignity, for it is woeful for a person to go about naked and revealed; so much so that I think it is called "l'vush" as in "bushah" because of this, since often a person will be embarrassed by his clothing, whether it be too long or too short or because of its style or color or inferiority.

  • interesting, thanks -- he takes it in a direction I wasn't expecting by saying that clothing can be a source of busha, not a solution for it, that one can be as ashamed of what he is wearing as of not being clothed.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 17:52

Rashi has a theory of 2-word roots (eg. here), but in general it is assumed that there is no such thing. Despite the fact that there are many rules (and many exceptions to those rules), Hebrew is a pretty basic language in terms of sort of piecing together words almost like interchangeable construction toy sets. You take one of these, put it with one of those, and before you know it you've got a helicopter. It's one of the things that I find most fascinating with Hebrew. But at the same time, you get a lot of pieces that almost fit and you think they should, but they just don't.

  • thanks -- I'm not working towards a thesis claiming shared current linguistic root as much as I am looking for either a historical, linguistical/logical development discussion or an exegetical discussion. I am not saying that they "should" be connected but I wonder either if they were or if anyone has written that there is significance in that they might or even could.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 14:53

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