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 May 25 '11 at 20:24
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    I think it adds the first tag that's not already in the question title. – Alex May 25 '11 at 21:14
  • @Alex I suspect the algorithm may be more sophisticated than that, perhaps choosing the most "interesting" tag, or something. – Isaac Moses May 26 '11 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 May 26 '11 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 Jun 24 '11 at 20:16

It's not so odd that there be no old word for ice. Israel doesn't really see ice outside of frost (for which there's a word, as noted in the question), the occasional hail (for which there's a word, barad, in Vaera) and, of course, artificially produced ice (not until recently).

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    A thought just struck me. Sure, they mostly see ice only in the form frost (and now artificially produced ice). But the Kinneret does freeze over. Buckets of water left outside do freeze - at least a thin layer at the top. Icicles do drip/freeze. So...are you sure? – Seth J Aug 11 '14 at 15:37
  • @SethJ, good point. – msh210 Aug 12 '14 at 2:53
  • Whar about har Chermon? Was it not part of E"Y? – Noach MiFrankfurt Aug 24 '14 at 14:40

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 May 25 '11 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 May 26 '11 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 May 26 '11 at 0:30
  • @jake: Also לא תביא... ומחיר כלב. – Alex May 26 '11 at 2:19
  • @jake, Alex, and Nach has shegel, also a dog, IIRC. – msh210 May 26 '11 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 May 26 '11 at 2:21
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    @Alex, mashlich karcho k'fitim can't be sleet? – msh210 May 26 '11 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 May 26 '11 at 16:30
  • @Alex, I don't see what's difficult about broken pieces of ice. – jake May 26 '11 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 May 26 '11 at 19:43

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