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I have seen two terms used to refer to the evening prayer Ma'ariv and Arvit. If I recall correctly, Arvit seems to be the more common Talmudic term esp. in Talmud Brachot. Ma'ariv is used near the beginning of the first blessing of the evening prayer.

Both words seem to emanate from the same Hebrew root form ערב ("evening").

Is there any difference in meaning of these 2 words or is it that one is a noun and another a verb (or something similar)?

When did these terms first originate? Both around the same time? In the Talmud or other scholarly writings (Siddur included, of course), is there a preference or situation where one term is used over the other?

  • @DannySchoemann Oopsy daisy! Read the 3rd sentence of my question! Who are you calling "nobody"? – DanF Jan 29 '18 at 15:53
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תפלת ערבית is mentioned in the Tosefta Berakhot (3:6), and several places in the Talmud, e.g. Berakhot 4b, 6b, 26b, etc. תפלת מעריב does not appear in Hazal (at least none of the works included in the Bar-Ilan database).

However, it is a common term among Ashkenazim, and indeed, the term is found in quite early Ashkenazi works. These include the Mahzor Vitry (145) which emanates from Rashi's circles (11th cent.), Ra'avyah (Teshuvot Ubeiurei Sugyot 969) which dates from mid-12th century Germany, Sefer HaRokeah (Hilkhot Yom HaKippurim 218), which dates from late 12th century Germany, and multiple 13th-14th century works such as the Aggudah, and the Tashbets Kattan. It also appears in Tosafot to Megillah 4a (s.v. pasaq v'amar).

The fact that both the Mahzor Vitry in France, and Raavyah, in Germany use term, makes me suspect that the term precedes them, and perhaps goes back to the beginning of the Ashkenazi culture.

It should be noted, however, that some of these works may have been textually corrupted by later Ashkenazim, so the aforementioned survey isn't foolproof.

Indeed, we also find rather early Ashkenazi works using the Talmudic term, such as Sefer HaOrah (1:16) and Mahzor Vitry (1) which are both products of Rashi's school, and Raavan (140) of early 11th century Germany.

By the 14th century, we find Sephardi sources using the term, such as the Mnorat HaMaor (Kadmon).


It should be noted, that even if there is some significance to the change, that R. Mazuz S"T has noted that Rishonim were not particular with grammatical correctness, often referring, for example to the tallit g'dolah, as a tallit gadol. Accordingly, it seems very likely to me, that the Geonim and Sephardim mostly maintained the Talmudic term, while Ashkenazim often used their own very old term, and this was probably not a conscious point on the part of the Ashkenazim, and certainly not on the part of the Sephardim.

  • Interestingly around 99% of the results on Bar Ilan for t'fillat maariv are Ashkenazi. It seems that the term never really caught on with Sephardim, and perhaps those lone instance s of Sephardim using the term, are typos. – mevaqesh Nov 15 '16 at 23:31
  • What about results for Tefillat Yotzer? You should consider that Maariv was used to refer to the Birkhot Keriat Shema and as a synecdoche to the entire service. – Double AA Nov 15 '16 at 23:46
  • @DoubleAA I am not following your point. That is a fine explanation of the cause for the Ashkenazi term, but the usage is nevertheless nearly universally Ashkenazi. || Are you suggesting that some usages of the term don't refer to the evening service in particular? – mevaqesh Nov 15 '16 at 23:51
  • It's certainly possible. If you trace usage of tefillat yotzer you could see if there is a pattern. Right now you literally traced the literal terms, but there may be more to say given some more context. – Double AA Nov 15 '16 at 23:53
  • @DoubleAA I assure you that many if not all were referring to the evening prayer, as evident from context. Perhaps I will edit this in... || I am still not positive I follow your suggestion. Would it be a term for Shaharit and Aravit? || Tosafot, Rokeach, Tashbets Kattan, Mahazor Vitry, and Raavya are all referring to the evening prayer. – mevaqesh Nov 15 '16 at 23:55
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Regarding your question about the difference in meaning between the words, Rabbi Berel Wein writes (Living Jewish: Values, Practices and Traditions) that both words are indeed derived from erev/evening; Maariv is the verb meaning "bringing on night" (and the service is so named because of this word appearing in the first blessing), while Arvit is an adjective form, roughly translated as "of the evening".

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