I have two similar English translations of Asher Yatzar. They both have something to the effect of "many orifices and cavities." However, the Hebrew for these two is ,נקבים נקבים חלולים חלולים.

What is a literal translation of this and how can the same word mean both orifice and many and another mean cavity and many?

2 Answers 2


In English, we often double a word for emphasis or to indicate volume. ("miles and miles" means "many miles") The practice of lashon kaful (doubling of language) is not limited to this prayer but is often found in biblical text on the level of the word (shamo'a tishma) and the phrase ("Vieileh Toldot Yitzchak Ben Avraham, Avraham Holid Et Yitzchak") and is a literary device also found in Shakespeare (Hamlet: Words, words, words).


This form of writing is often found throughout the Torah. In your example, the word נקבים means orifices, and while literally when it's doubled it should read 'orifices orifices', when a word is repeated it's used to stress the previous word. In your example, which I believe would apply to all nouns, repeating the word means 'many of the [word in question]. (while I know there are example in the Torah of this, I can't find them this moment. If I find them later, I'll try to edit them in)

Another use of stressing repeated words, which I think applies to verbs, means 'I will surely do [word in question]'. Some examples of this are (Genesis 18:10) "שׁוֹב אָשׁוּב", which literally should mean 'return I will return', but in reality means 'I will surely return', and (Genesis 37:8) "הֲמָלֹךְ תִּמְלֹךְ", literally means 'rule will you rule', but actually means 'shall you indeed rule'.

This is also used with adjectives also, quite commonly used with the phrase "מְאֹד מְאֹד", which appears numerous times in the Torah, which literally means 'much much', yet simply stresses that it's a lot.

  • 1
    I should've though of that, as I already knew about the Torah convention. Thank you for reminding me. I recall someone mentioning this about Isaiah 6.3: קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ as intending not only 3 times holy but triple holy (aka, the holiest) May 9, 2014 at 13:57
  • Re verbs: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/2329
    – msh210
    May 11, 2014 at 5:36

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