• What is the source for referring to a rabbinic lecture as a "shiur" which literally means 'measurement'?
  • When did this usage begin?
  • What is its significance?
  • 1
    Scheur is Dutch for crack, fissure, separation. My guess is this Yiddish word goes back at least to the days of pilpul, which was called Chilukim, separations. And I'm guessing its related to the English word shear, a word of Germanic origin.
    – user6591
    Feb 1, 2015 at 17:22
  • 2
    And just maybe my theory validates the annoying pronunciation that girls from seminary seem to favor.
    – user6591
    Feb 1, 2015 at 21:58
  • @user6591 Pardon my ignorance, but what is the seminary pronunciation, and what is the pronunciation of the Dutch word you brought?
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 1, 2015 at 23:19
  • @mevaqesh the girls say shey-ur. The Dutch pronunciation can be heard on wiktionary. Very similar. But there is the guttural 'c' that most English derivatives of German words, and some Yiddish ones as well have lost from the original.
    – user6591
    Feb 1, 2015 at 23:39
  • 4

2 Answers 2


The meaning "measure" came first, and only in medieval Hebrew did shiur come to mean lesson - "a set measure of learning" (that sense is preserved in shiurei bayit שיעורי בית - "homework"), followed by the modern Hebrew sense of "class". The word shiur derives from the root שער meaning, "to calculate, to estimate, to measure". The verb form only appears once in Tanach, in Mishlei 23:7. The noun form also only appears once, but for me in a surprising location, Bereshit 26:12

וַיִּזְרַע יִצְחָק בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא, וַיִּמְצָא בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים Yitzchak sowed in that land and in that same year found meah she'arim

Source with more details: http://www.balashon.com/search?q=shiur

Orginally suggested by Gerhon Gold in the comments


See the Sefer Yisroel Veorisa who writes that it refers to the measurements people set for themselves. The Achronim write to set a measurement in chummash, mishnah etc.

It seems that people had set times to hear a daily or weekly shuir so it got that name.

  • You mean this sefer?
    – Yishai
    Apr 7, 2015 at 19:51
  • This is a fairly late source that doesn't have much in the way of convincing evidence.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:46
  • @mevaqesh If the usage of the term began at the same time period (early 20th century), then it could be convincing evidence.
    – user9907
    Apr 28, 2016 at 1:37

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