Questions tagged [etymology]

About the history and origins of words.

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Origin of the term Yoshke?

I have often heard Jews refer to Jesus as "Yoshke". Is the origin of that appellation based on halachic issues regarding mentioning names of foreign deities, or some other Jewish law or custom? When ...
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13 votes
5 answers
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Males named מיכל?

Where does the male name מיכל (as in יחיאל מיכל) come from? Is it a diminutive/corruption/translation/elision of מיכאל, derived therefrom in some other way, or simply a false cognate?
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חס ושלום! (whatever that means)

What on earth does חס ושלום mean literally, or what is its etymology? Why do people use that phrase in particular to "ward off" bad things? (That last part of the question is not asking whether saying ...
msh210's user avatar
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12 votes
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Etymology/connection between Ari, Aryeh, Yehudah, Leib, and Leibel

What is the relationship between the following names that often go together is some combination? Ari/Aryeh Yehudah Leib/Leibel I've encountered many men, young and old, with the following first ...
Seth J's user avatar
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Why do we call the Festival of Matzos "Passover"?

Today we observe what we call "Passover" or "Pesach" beginning on the evening of the 15th of Nisan, and then for seven days in Israel and eight days elsewhere. But the Torah, at Lev. 23:5 and Exodus ...
Bruce James's user avatar
11 votes
3 answers
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Why is the Machzor called a Machzor?

The Siddur we use for Yom Tov is known as a Machzor. What does it mean and where did this originate?
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What is the etymology of סמאל?

I've heard that סמאל (Samael, a "bad" angel) is related to the word שמאל (left). Is there any basis for this, and are there any other explanations for his name? The Hebrew Wikipedia claims that it is ...
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Why is אותו מקום referred to as the מקום התורף? What does תורף mean?

In Bavli Berachot 24a (and Shabbat 64b), the Gemara records that: כל המסתכל באצבע קטנה של אשה כאילו מסתכל במקום התורף -- Anyone who gazes upon a woman’s little finger is considered as if he gazed ...
Chaim's user avatar
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What exactly does "Lord of Hosts" (צְבָאוֹת) mean?

When I think of the Judaism, I don't think of Angelic armies attacking the armies of evil directly. G-d usually works in far more subtle ways than this, e.g. appearing as a burning bush to motivate ...
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Source of Term "Shiur"

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?
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Are the names Akiva and Ya'akov related?

Are the names Akiva and Ya'akov related?
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Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר?

Is there a substantive difference in meaning when the Torah uses the Hebrew verb root דבר rather than אמר, or do they both pretty much mean "to say" or "to speak"? Do any sages see the choice of one ...
Bruce James's user avatar
10 votes
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Etymology of the Name Feivel

Where does the Jewish name Feivel (or Feivish) come from? What does it actually mean?
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What does שעטנז (sha'atnez) mean?

.שעטנז. I'm asking about the literal meaning behind the word, its etymology, etc.
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How does a door hit against a lintel (משקוף)?

Rashi in several places (Gen. 41:6; Ex. 12:7, 21:25; Lev. 26:36) writes that משקוף ("lintel") is related to the Aramaic root שקף ("beat"), "because the door beats against it." How so? Doesn't the ...
Alex's user avatar
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Etymology of the word sanhedrin

What is the root and source of the term "sanhedrin," the name of the Jewish high court and of a tractate in the Talmud? As far as I know, it is not from scripture.
ray's user avatar
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Source that "Teiku" References Eliyahu?

What is the earliest source that indicates that "teiku" (תיקו) references Eliyahu? Any source earlier than the Tosafos Yom Tov who provides an alternative explanation?
mevaqesh's user avatar
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דילמא == Dilemma?

Is there documentation to prove that the Aramaic word "דילמא" is a transliteration or derivation of the Greek word "dilemma"? If so, this fact is informative to G'mara-learning in understanding the ...
WAF's user avatar
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First use of the term "Taharat HaMischpacha "

When and by whom (and why) was the phrase "טהרת המשפחה" ("family purity") first used to describe the halachot relating to niddah?
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Etymology of the word "trope"

The word Trope seems to me to be a Yiddish word. What is the source of this word? How do you say this word in Hebrew? Taamei Hanegina?
Gershon Gold's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
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Etymology of the surname "Katz"

Are there sources for the etymology of the surname Katz being an acronym for Kohen Tzedek? Is that simply a backronym?
Ariel Allon's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
282 views

What is the Shekhina?

To what are people referring when they talk about the Shekhina? Is it a form of God? A part of God? An attribute of God? Perhaps it is something else entirely? Also, what is the etymology of the word,...
Daniel's user avatar
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"Boich sevarah"

There is a common Yiddish phrase used to describe an arbitrary reasoning that is not based on the sources: "Boich sevarah" -- literally, "stomach reasoning." What is the exact meaning of this phrase, ...
Dave's user avatar
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Pronunciation of Yerushalayim

In the Tanach, the word Yerushalayim is almost always written without a yud between the lamed and mem, but pronounced as if there is a patach under the lamed and a yud following it. We find though ...
Jewels's user avatar
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Whence "בחזקת בשרי"?

Besides the main categories of meat, dairy, and pareve (non-meat, non-dairy) foods, two special subcategories of pareve foods are relevant to halacha (e.g. Yore Dea 93): pareve food cooked using clean ...
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What is the origin for Reform to call their synagogues a "Temple"?

Why does Reform typically call it a Temple, vs a Beit Knesset, a Beit Sefer, or a shul? I imagine the Hebrew would have been the obvious go to, if they chose to ignore the yiddush. Not that I know ...
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207 views

When did Ben Teshuva become Baal Teshuva?

Rabbeinu Yonah in Bava Basra 39a talks about someone who does Teshuva and calls him a Ben Teshuva. What is the earliest reference in history to the words Baal Teshuva? And why did it change from Ben ...
Gershon Gold's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
520 views

Why is a Shechitah Knife termed a Chalaf?

In the Diaspora the Shechitah knife is termed "Chalef". What is the origin of this word? When was this word first used and where was this first first used?
Avi M's user avatar
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Niqqud of the name of the מהר"ץ חיות

What is the correct niqqud to put on the name of the מהר"ץ חיות? Wikipedia claims that his last name is spelled Chajes in English, and that Chayes or Hayot may also be seen. This seems to imply that ...
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7 votes
1 answer
450 views

How and when did the word "Kollel" come to mean "an institution for paying scholars to study Torah"?

How and when did the word "Kollel" come to mean "an institution for paying scholars to study Torah"? If I'm not mistaken, the Hebrew word "kollel" means "includes." But today we've all heard of the ...
Shalom's user avatar
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2 answers
519 views

What is the meaning of the name Lemech?

In Bereshis 4:18 Lemech is introduced. Do any commentators explain the meaning or implication of his name?
rikitikitembo's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
165 views

First Use of the Phrase "Cheit HaMeraglim"

The negative report given by the people who are sent to scout the land of Cana'an before Bnei Yisrael go in, resulting in the punishment that they have to wander for another 38 years in the desert, is ...
user5173's user avatar
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7 votes
4 answers
217 views

What's the connection between שחר (morning/light) and שחור (black)?

How do we understand the connection between שחר (morning/light) and שחור (black) which seem to be opposites of the spectrum? (The definition should also be able to fit into 'shaver' as Rashi in Beitza ...
NJM's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
425 views

What does Yarmulka mean?

What does the word Yarmulka mean?
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6 votes
4 answers
1k views

Etymology of the word "Kvater"

What is the etymology of the word "Kvater"? Kvater is what we call the person that carries the baby boy into a Bris.
Gershon Gold's user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why is Shmoneh Esreh referred to as 18 blessings when there are actually 19?

Originally Shmoneh Esreh only had 18 blessings, thus the name "Shemoneh Esreh." However, subsequently a 19th blessing was added of Velamalshinim regarding the heretics. If there are 19 blessings now, ...
RCW's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why is it called Bas Kol

Why is it called Bas Kol versus Ben Kol?
SimchasTorah's user avatar
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1 answer
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Is there a particular reason Ezra HaSofer name is spelled with an "א" instead of with a "ה"?

In 1st Chronicles 4:17, a man from the tribe of Yehudah by the name of Ezrah is listed as follows: And the sons of Ezrah: Jether, and Mered, and Epher, and Jalon. And she bore Miriam, and Shammai, ...
יהודה's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
326 views

Root of the name Aharon

What is the etymology of the name Aharon? The only serious site I've found that proposes an etymology is this, but I'm hoping for a more classical source, i.e. Chazal or Rishonim.
Yaakov Kuperman's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
212 views

The word 'Halakhah'

When and under what circumstances did the word "halakhah" (also spelled "halacha", "halachah" or, in Hebrew, הלכה) come to mean Jewish law?
Lee's user avatar
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6 votes
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360 views

etymology of the word "Kittel"

What is the etymology of the word "Kittel"? (Kittel is a white garment worn by many at the Pesach Seder and on Yom Kippur by Davening)
Gershon Gold's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
206 views

How did it happen that the m'chaber came to be called that?

The author of Shulchan Aruch, in his capacity as the author of Shulchan Aruch, is often called "the m'chaber", or "ham'chaber", literally "the composer" or "the author". (Obviously, many authors are ...
msh210's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
562 views

Are the Aramaic root ק.ב.ל and the Hebrew root ק.ב.ל related?

When the word מקבילות comes up in parashas T'ruma, Rash"i defines it based on the Aramaic root ק.ב.ל, commonly found in the preposition לקבל (against or opposite) to mean physically across from/...
WAF's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
384 views

What are some examples of Jewish names? [closed]

What are Jewish sounding names that come from various occupations and locations? Please give the "rough" translation and background too.
Moshe's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
850 views

Source and etymology of כפירה kefirah ‘heresy’

Can someone inform me of where the word כפירה meaning ‘heresy’ was first used? Mishnah? Talmud? Word is not found in Tanach, apparently. How is it distinguished from other triliteral roots meaning ...
Gnarlodious's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
292 views

Etymology of קטלא (necklace, in משניות מעילה)

The mishna, M'ila 5:1, discusses a woman wearing a קטלא, which the commentary Yachin and the one by Rambam say means a necklace made of or with gold. I wonder what the etymology of this word is, since ...
msh210's user avatar
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5 votes
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The (female) name Freeda amongst Sefardim

I am under the impression that the name Freeda is a female Yiddish name. For some reason it seems to be very popular amongst the Sephardim. How did this happen?
Gershon Gold's user avatar
5 votes
7 answers
683 views

What's the origin of the name "Jew"?

Why are we called "the Jews"? Did Hashem pick out this name for us? What does the word "Jew" mean?
Carrot monster's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
172 views

Source for the Usage of "Kabbalah"

What are the earliest sources that refer to Jewish mysticism in particular as "kabblah". (Preferably the answer should include an indication that the word was associated with this in particular, ...
mevaqesh's user avatar
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5 votes
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531 views

Etymology of מחילה

I am looking for a possible etymological root for the word מחילה as meaning forgiveness. The word מחל does not appear in Tanach1, and neither does מחילה, nor does מוחל, and I was unable to find any ...
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