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Balashon Hebrew Language Detective
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Bavel
In Bereshit 11, the Torah provides an etymology for the name of the city of בבל Bavel (Babylon in English, the capital of Babylonia). It is found at the conclusion of the famous "Tower of Babel" ( Migdal Bavel ) story. The people on earth all spoke the same...
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behemoth and behema
There is no question that the English word "behemoth", referring to a huge creature, comes from the Hebrew word behemot בהמות. But where does the word behemot come from? It only appears once in the Bible, in Iyov 40:15 הִנֵּה־נָא בְהֵמוֹת אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂיתִי ע...
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elephant
A podcast I enjoy, The History of English Podcast, had an episode a while back called " The Lion Kings " where the host discussed the etymologies of animals that were exotic to medieval England. One of them was the elephant, which is discussed in minutes 31...
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skeleton and sheled
I just read something interesting in Klein's entry for the Hebrew word sheled שלד: PBH [Post-Biblical Hebrew] skeleton.  Syriac שלדא (=skeleton), from Akkadian shalamtu (properly meaning 'the whole' corpse), from shalamu (=to be complete), which is related ...
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Balashon is on hiatus
As you may have noticed, I haven't written any posts in Balashon in over a year. While I have not abandoned Balashon, I have put my activity on hold for now, as I am working on a different project. I hope to finish the project in the next few months, and wh...
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charoset
I've planned on writing a post about charoset חרוסת since 2006. But every time I started, the etymology offered by Klein seemed so obvious and convincing that I didn't think I had anything to write about: חרסת - ' haroseth ' - a condiment made of fruits and...
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haggadah and aggadah
Pesach is coming up and we will be reading from the haggada הגדה. What is the connection between haggada and aggada אגדה - the stories found in rabbinic literature? They both derive from the root הגיד - "he told, narrated", and so, according to Klein, can m...
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malon
In the post about achsania , I mentioned the word for hotel - malon מלון. I didn't discuss the etymology there, so let's take a look now. Malon is a biblical word, originally meaning "lodging place" or more specifically "inn." It derives from the root לון, ...
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daysa
A reader asked about the origin of the word daysa דייסה - "porridge, gruel." He said that "the word looks and sounds not much Hebrew and seems to hide its roots." Indeed, Klein says that the etymology is unknown, and other sources weren't particularly helpf...
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krach
We are approaching the holiday of Purim, where the megillah is read in most cities on the 14th of Adar, but in walled cities it is read on the 15th. One of the terms for a walled city is  krach  כרך. Until very recently, I would have told you that the origi...
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