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 connected to "סומא" (blindness) and "אל" (God; the suffix on many angel names), but it doesn't bring a source (it says "[דרוש מקור]").

The Hebrew Wikitionary mentions another possibility (in addition to "סומא"), that it comes from "סם" (potion, poison), but says that neither has any proofs.

This question is looking for academic answers, based on reliable sources. However, more midrashic answers such as acronyms are also acceptable.

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    Inkbug, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your question here. I look forward to your participation here. Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 14:17

3 Answers 3


I have collected the answers I and others found. Please update with any other possibilities you find.

Etymologies based on reliable academic sources

  • The Jewish Encyclopedia brings two possible etymologies:
    1. "סם-אל" ("the venom of God") - Samael is the angel of death, who kills with a drop of poison (apparently based on this book, pgs. 69 and 71 - can someone who understands German verify this?).
    2. From the "Syrian god Shemal" - apparently based on "Bousset, 'Religion,' p. 242" (I don't know what this book is). According to The Origin ff Our Belief in God (Erik Langkjer - does anyone know anything about this?) the name of this God comes from the word "left". This means that Samael is indirectly related to שמאל (Hebrew left).

Other Etymologies

  • Why is "apparently based on" a "reliable source[]" but "I have heard in the name of the Klauzenberger Rebbe" not??
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 17:53
  • This question is looking for scientific answers. Not to disregard the Rebbe's knowledge, but I prefer more academic answers.
    – Inkbug
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 17:56
  • −1, then: poor dichotomy.
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 18:01
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    @msh210 I clarified the question and rephrased the title. I hope that is better.
    – Inkbug
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 18:11
  • @Inkbug this is not a scientific question
    – user813801
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 19:17

I have heard in the name of the Klauzenberger Rebbe Zatzal that סמאל is the Malach that does all in his power that people should not make a Siyum. Therefore סמאל is ראשי תיבות

"סיום מסכת אין לעשות"


I heard of a different explanation that סמאל is סמ אל - the potion/medicine/poison (it can be any of those depending on context) of Hashem - but I'm not 100% sure how that fits in with the part that he is a "bad" angel. ("" on the bad because really everything an angel does is what Hashem tells him to do and Hashem is the ultimate "Tov Vehameitiv")

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    Interesting, but I'd like something with reliable sources backing it up.
    – Inkbug
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 15:30
  • Sorry, I wish i could also, but i heard this a while ago from someone and im not sure where he got it from.
    – MosheY
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 15:32
  • Seems to be also in Hebrew wikitionary.
    – Inkbug
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 15:37

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