After reading MB OC 301:17:65 (thanks, YDK!) I am baffled by a nagging question regarding Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew. Eliezer Ben-Yehudah is known to have revitalized Hebrew, in part by taking Biblical and post-Biblical (often Mishnaic and/or Rabbinic) Hebrew words, and sometimes Aramaic words, and adapting them to modern uses. But there are words that are not new to the world, and certainly could not have been new to our ancestors, which he apparently adapted from the classical sources because he could not find evidence of them there but found similar words that could be made to apply. The example I'm trying to understand is the Hebrew word for "ice".

In the Mishnah Berurah above why did the M"B need to describe ice as "water which has frozen"? Furthermore, why did he have to Hebraicize the Aramaic word for "freeze"? Is there no classical Hebrew word for "ice" or even "freeze"? According to http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0131.htm "קֶרַח" translates as "frost". According to http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/גלד the word "גלד" is Aramaic for "freeze" and Hebrew (presumably modern) for "scab". I have also seen elsewhere in my search today that "גלד" is also used in the context of congealing (I believe in Hebrew).

Is there no other classical Hebrew source for a word that translates directly as "ice"? It seems almost inconceivable that our ancestors did not have a word for this. Is it just that the word is unknown because our sources are limited to Biblical and post-Biblical writings?

  • Does anyone know why the titlebar for this question is "aramaic - Hebrew for ice - and other "new" words"? Something off with the meta tags or something?
    – Seth J
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 20:24
  • 1
    I think it adds the first tag that's not already in the question title.
    – Alex
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 21:14
  • @Alex I suspect the algorithm may be more sophisticated than that, perhaps choosing the most "interesting" tag, or something.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:02
  • @Isaac, @Alex pretty much got it correct, except that "first" is defined as "most interesting", which is defined by "most used".
    – AviD
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 10:02
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    I'm going to assume that the answer to my ultimate question, "Is it just that the word is unknown because our sources are limited to Biblical and post-Biblical writings?" is most likely, "yes", and it seems everyone who has answered (so far) feels the same way.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 20:16

3 Answers 3


There is at least one possible usage of קרח in Tanach in the sense of "ice" - Ezek. 1:22 (כעין הקרח הנורא), which Targum Yonasan translates as גליד חסין, "strong ice." [Metzudos also renders some other instances of קרח as גליד, the Talmudic word for ice (from the root גלד, as you noted), as in Mikvaos 7:1 and Bava Basra 20a.]

To follow up on msh210's point, though: if (supposedly) the Eskimos need lots of words for snow, then people living in the temperate climate of Eretz Yisrael may have needed only one word meaning "frozen water" generally, and then the words כפור and ברד to describe particular kinds of frozen precipitation. Alternatively, the word גליד may have existed in Biblical times too and just wasn't recorded. Which isn't as odd as it sounds: cats are pretty common in the Land of Israel too, but there is no word for "cat" in Tanach (the word חתול is attested only in Mishnaic and later Hebrew).

  • The חתול thing was mentioned to me once by a guy who knows tanach by heart, in the form of a riddle: How many times does it mention dogs or cats in tanach? Answer: dogs twice and cats none.
    – jake
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 21:45
  • @jake: not sure where he got the idea that dogs are mentioned only twice. By my count there are 32 mentions (including two in one verse, I Kings 21:19).
    – Alex
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 0:26
  • @Alex, Sorry I meant in the Torah, not in Tanach. Then it's just לא יחרץ כלב לשונו, and לכלב תשליכון אותו, I think.
    – jake
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 0:30
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    @jake: Also לא תביא... ומחיר כלב.
    – Alex
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:19
  • @jake, Alex, and Nach has shegel, also a dog, IIRC.
    – msh210
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:25

Although קרח can refer to frost, in certain instances it refers to ice and is translated as such by Artscroll as well as Mechon-Mamre, like Iyov 37:10, Yechezkel 1:22, and Tehillim 147:17.

Also, I noticed that that mechon-mamre translates יתלכדו of Iyov 38:30 as "frozen" even though Artscroll translated it as "imprisoned". On the other hand, Artscrol translates מים במוצק of Iyov 37:10 as "water becomes solidified", while mechon translated it as "straitened".

Even if there are words for ice and freezing in biblical hebrew, though, I can see why Mishna Berura would be reluctant to use them, as they're quite obscure, and likely not to be understood by the average reader.

  • In Tehillim, though, it seems more likely that it means frost, rime, or something of the sort. A sheet of ice could hardly be described as כפתים ("like broken pieces"), after all.
    – Alex
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:21
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    @Alex, mashlich karcho k'fitim can't be sleet?
    – msh210
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 2:26
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    @msh210: could be, but then what would כפור be? If anything, it seems more likely that קרח would mean frost (which is common at night, as in Yaakov's complaint) rather than sleet (which is not).
    – Alex
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 16:30
  • @Alex, I don't see what's difficult about broken pieces of ice.
    – jake
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 16:35
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    @SethJ, I would think that the hebrew word for ice, being that it could be used for frost, as in @Alex's example, is more vague than "water that froze". Also, it could be Chafetz Chaim thought that the more familiar terminology to the reader is the Aramaic term, being that it is used in the gemara, more so than קרח.
    – jake
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 19:43

see the Shulchan Aruch O.C. 320:9-10:

ט השלג והברד אין מרסקין אותם דהיינו לשברם לחתיכות דקות כדי שיזובו מימיו אבל נותן הוא לתוך כוס של יין או מים והוא נימח מאיליו ואינו חושש וכן אם הניחם בחמה או כנגד המדורה ונפשרו מותרים: י מותר לשבר הקרח כדי ליטול מים מתחתיו:

There are three words being used in these two halachos: שלג, ברד and קרח.

שלג and ברד are used in the gemara (שבת נא) which is the source of halacha 9.

The source for the term קרח here is the sefer אבי עזרי being quoted by the מרדכי and שיבולי הלקט as sourced in the בית יוסף. And when referencing these rishonim, it doesn't seem like there's a need to explain what קרח is (the בית יוסף doesn't translate the word, etc.) In fact, in the previous halacha (about the ברד ושלג) the בית יוסף discusses all three terms in relation to each other.

So clearly at least during the times of the rishonim the word קרח meant ice. Which means that the Mishna Berurah 301:65 could definitely have used this word if he wanted to.

Why didn't he? First off, the question is not really on the Mishnah Berurah; he's just quoting the Taz 301:12.

So why did the Taz write this way? I don't have a definite answer. But it's possible that he wanted to describe the situation to explain why it's dangerous and why someone would need a cane. Elderly men don't walk on frozen rivers, but they would walk on an area which was wet and froze over.

So he didn't mention "ice" but rather "frozen water."

It's also possible that the Taz wanted to use the Yiddish word since that was how it was called in the vernacular and he wanted it to be understood by the common people.

  • Wait, what's the Yiddish word?
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 0:36
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    @SethJ איי"ז is yiddish for "ice."
    – Binyomin
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 14:53

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