What is the source of the Hebrew word "Rabbi" - which is commonly applied to a Rav, Rosh Yeshiva, etc.?


In the Online Etymological Dictionary's entry on the corresponding English word, it says that the Hebrew word is Mishnaic Hebrew for "my master," combining "Rav" - meaning "master" or "great one" with the suffixx "-i" - meaning "my." "Rav," in turn, is associated with the Semitic root "R-B-B," which means "to be great or numerous."

(You can find much more on this root in the "Resh" chapter (PDF) of the Hebrew Etymology Project.)


Unkelus translates the word "Sar" ("officer") to mean "Rav" ("Rabbi"). Officer of God, I guess? (See Bereshit 26:26).

וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ אָתָא לְוָתֵיהּ מִגְּרָר וְסִיעַת רַחְמוֹהִי וּפִיכֹל רַב חֵילֵיהּ׃‏


Rabbi is Roshei Teivos R'osh B'nei Y'isroel (Taamei HaMinhagim Likutim #85).

Most likely the current English term derives from the original word Rabbi.

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    That is a reference to "רַבִּי" (which originally referred to one who has received real semicha) and not to the modern English term "Rabbi" which is used for any religious leader of Jews and not just for תלמידי חכמים. – Yahu Oct 24 '10 at 17:15
  • @Yahu - So what? – Adam Mosheh Apr 26 '12 at 18:49
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    @AdamMosheh, so it doesn't answer the question asked. – msh210 Jul 5 '12 at 17:36
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    Is your answer really "The word Rabbi derives from the word Rabbi"? – Double AA Jul 5 '12 at 18:41
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    @GershonGold, if the acronym developed after the Hebrew word, how could it the acronym be the Hebrew word's source? – Isaac Moses Jul 5 '12 at 19:14

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