My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly good word for it anyway. I then took out an Aruch Hashulchan to point out the word m'nora — but didn't find it. (He seems to use neros exclusively. I might have missed it, though: I didn't look very thoroughly.) So my question is this: am I right? I mean, I know I'm right that m'nora has long been used to mean a Chanuka-thing, but (1) what's the earliest it's attested in print and (2) what's the earliest chanukiya is attested in print? (And any other information about the prevalence of the two words.)

  • Follow-up: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/22693/2
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 20:00
  • The Gemara refers to a Menarta (a candelabra) somewhere in Shabbath. I remember it from earlier this Daf Yomi cycle, but I can't remember where exactly.
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 20:50
  • Rabbi Chezner (a posek in Ofakim, Israel) writes in his book Sha'arei Yemei Chanukah that it's actually preferable to use the word menorah than the word chanukiyah.
    – Gavriel
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 14:55
  • @Gavriel interesting. You may wish to comment at judaism.stackexchange.com/q/22693, where your comment is more on-point.
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 16:13
  • Related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/45097/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


Don't know the earliest attestation of menorah for what we light on Chanukah, but it is mentioned parenthetically in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 671:7 (and from there in Aruch Hashulchan 671:25), where it's talking about how to set up the menorah in shul. All of the rest of their references to the Chanukah lights indeed use the term נר(ות) חנוכה. I'd guess that indeed the average person in those days didn't have a specially-designed candelabra for this purpose (or if they did, it wasn't branched like the original menorah), whereas the community as a whole might have one for use in shul, hence the terminology.

As for chanukiyah, Hebrew Wikipedia says that this term was coined by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda's wife Hemda in the late 19th century.

  • 5
    Some Sephardic Jews (Persians, I think) refer to the candelabrum itself as a "chanukah", as in "go light your chanukah." Similarly they refer to a mezuza scroll as a "shadai", "do you have a shadai on the wall yet?". I think you'd call these usages synecdoche?
    – Shalom
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 13:31
  • 4
    The mezuzah one is definitely synecdoche (using a part of something to refer to the whole). The menorah one sounds more like metonymy.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 20:13
  • See the updates to the Wikipedia article since Dec 2010
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:23
  • @DoubleAA it then said "השם העברי 'חנוכייה' ניתן לו רק בסוף המאה ה-19 בירושלים על ידי חמדה בן-יהודה, אשתו של אליעזר בן-יהודה" and now says "השם 'חנוכייה' רווח בקרב היהודים הספרדים בארץ ובארצות הבלקן (בכתיב שונה ובהטעמה מלעיל - 'חנוקיאה'), והוא הוכנס לעברית בסוף המאה ה-19 בירושלים על ידי חמדה, אשתו של אליעזר בן-יהודה". WP now has more info than it did, but what Alex wrote is still accurate (though perhaps "coined" should be replaced by "adopted from a slightly different word").
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 3:48
  • 1
    @msh210 What Alex wrote is still a true statement, but it no longer answers your question very well.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 3:58

Sedei Haaretz Volume 3 - Orach Chaim Siman 38 was published in the year 5544 = 1784. This was written by Rabbi Avraham Bar Shmuel Meyuchos Zatzal who was a Rabbi in Jerusalem in his times. In Siman 38 he has a question from Rabbi Eliezer Nachum Zatzal who was the author of Chazon Nachum. In the question he asks regarding something which is called a Chanukia

ראובן היה לו פמוט של־נחושת, שקורין אותו חנוקיאה

You see from here that the word Chanukia was in use in 1784, and there was no issue with calling a Menora a Chanukia.

Thanks to http://www.maharitz.co.il/?CategoryID=272&ArticleID=518&dbsAuthToken= for this answer.

  • There it is spelled differently and was probably pronounced Mileil instead of Milra. +1 though.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:24
  • @DoubleAA, how do you know how it was pronounced - because of the Yiddish spelling?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:26
  • @Issac Moses: more likely Ladino than Yiddish Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:30
  • @IsaacMoses see the recent comments on R'Alex's answer.
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 4:03

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