I would like to know how to define the root word ענה, what actual meanings are given to this root and what is the common denomitor?

[I’ve found this root in different verses, so I don’t want to focus on just one verse. But to name some I came across this root in Bereshit 18:27, Shemot 10:3, Shemot 22:22, Vayikra 23:27, Yeshayahu 58:3, I even came across a phrase outside of the Tenach in which it could mean ‘apologize’ (נעניתי לך מחול לי)]

  • i.stack.imgur.com/EAAMI.jpg מילון אבן שושן - ערך ענ"ה Hope it's what you ask with all the sources.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 28, 2018 at 13:31
  • It can mean answer or speak aloud in response. Aug 28, 2018 at 14:27
  • @AlBerko could you help to translate it for non-hebrew readers and post it in answer?
    – Levi
    Aug 28, 2018 at 14:28
  • It seems that the common theme is "suffering" or "oppression". That seems to be the general theme, in the Torah and notably in the halachic term Chameshet Inuyim - The five forms of "oppression" required on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av.
    – DanF
    Aug 28, 2018 at 14:47
  • @DanF how is this related to ‘speak aloud, response or answer’, I assume these are two different roots build from the same letters?
    – Levi
    Aug 28, 2018 at 15:17

2 Answers 2


Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch is quoted in Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew (page 188) as translating ענה as “respond; make dependent.” Some applications of this translation, according to the book:

  • Answering, responding (as in ותען להם מרים in Shemos 15:21)
  • Proclaiming (as in אין קול ענות גבורה in Shemos 32:18)
  • Expressing opinions (as in לא תענה על ריב in Shemos 23:2)
  • Testifying (as in לא תענה in Shemos 20:13)
  • Beginning a speech (as in וענית ואמרת in Devarim 26:5)
  • Singing (as in ענו לה׳ בתודה in Tehillim 147:7)
  • Humbling (as in ותענה שרי in Bereishis 16:6)
  • Afflicting (as in ענותו בסבלותם in Shemos 1:11)
  • Depriving food (as in ויענך וירעבך in Devarim 8:3)
  • Raping (as in נשים בציון ענו in Eichah 5:11)
  • Fasting (as in תענו את נפשותיכם in Vayikra 16:29)
  • Being poor (as in לעניך ולאביונך in Devarim 15:11)
  • Being humble (as in משה ענו מאד in Bamidbar 12:3)
  • Because (as in יען in Bereishis 22:16)
  • For the sake of (as in למען חמישים הצדיקים in Bereishis 18:24)
  • Therefore (as in למען תצדק in Tehillim 51:6)
  • Interest (as in ענין רע in Koheles 1:13)
  • Furrow (as in למעניתם in Tehillim 129:3)
  • Poverty (as in ענות עני in Tehillim 22:25)
  • Ostrich (as in בת היענה in Devarim 14:15)

All of these translations relate to something being dependent on or responding to something else, whether it be one’s financial state (poverty), or the person he’s talking to (answering), or even one part of a sentence responding to another (because, therefore). I can’t figure out ostrich, though, but there you have it.

  • Can your verify if ענה uses the same shoresh for meaning "answering" and "suffering"? In particular, ויענך וירעבך has me wondering, that it may have adifferent shoresh, b/c the Yod has a sheva under it. As a Ba'al Kri'ah, for many years, I used to pronounce it with a patach under the yod, and finally, one gabbai corrected me, as the pronunciation with a patach is incorrect, here, as it would mean "He answered".
    – DanF
    Aug 28, 2018 at 17:56
  • @DanF The list and examples I provided are directly out of the book; I’ve edited my post to clarify. If you have any problems with this you can take them up with Rav Hirsch. :)
    – DonielF
    Aug 28, 2018 at 17:58
  • "Singing (as in ענו לה׳ בתודה " and as in ותען להם מרים
    – Double AA
    Aug 28, 2018 at 17:59
  • @DoubleAA Once again, those were the examples in the book. Perhaps Rav Hirsch learns that the women’s song was, in effect, “answering” the men? I’m not sure.
    – DonielF
    Aug 28, 2018 at 18:01
  • It just seems unnecessary to take a position on the matter in this context unless he's trying to make a statement
    – Double AA
    Aug 28, 2018 at 18:01

“The root includes the meaning of fasting (ta’anit), torture (inuy), poor (ani), humble (anav), where the common denominator is that something is “lacking” (either food, comfort, money, or honor).`The term oneh as an answer (la’anot), stems from singing where one group sings, and the other “answers” them with a chorus (e.g. Shmot 15, 20-21). It’s also used as one part of a dialogue to answer the other speaker (e.g. Breishit 18, 27). Here too, each of the 2 groups or speakers is “lacking” that which the other comes to complete. Accordingly, explains the Malbim, “oneh” is used regarding an immediate answer (like the chorus), as opposed to “meishiv” which is often to “return” an answer after a long time or from afar.”

Rabbi Ari Shvat

P.s. posted this because I thought it was a good possible common denomitor

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