Monday, June 18, 2018

Word Magic

If you have ever heard that the magical word “Abracadabra” is Hebrew, then you may enjoy today’s Jewish Treat highlighting the etymological connection of some common English words and their Hebrew origins. Abracadabra, a word used to bring forth magic, is an excellent place to start. It is traced to Hebrew phrase av’rah k’dabrah - I will create as was spoken.

Some words are obvious to those who know the Bible: To “babble” is to speak rapidly and randomly, as did the people at the Tower of Babel when they lost the ability to speak to one another. A cherub, that cute little angel with the dimpled cheeks, comes straight from the Hebrew word k’ruvim, the angelic figures that were on top of the Holy Ark.

There are many words that are not credited with a Hebrew etymological root* and yet the connection is hard to overlook: The word  “over” is phonetically similar to the word ever (ayin-vet-reish), which is also the root of the word ivri (Hebrew), the term used to describe Abraham for having crossed over the river. Another interesting word is “mystery,” which shares an interesting resonance to the Hebrew word hester (samech-tav-reish), the Hebrew word for hidden. Creating a hole in the ground is the act of “boring,” and Joseph’s brothers threw him into a bor (bet-vav-reish), a deep pit. One last example is the Hebrew word ayin, which is not only the name of a Hebrew letter but also the Hebrew term for eye.

*Many words are traced to Old French or Old German, but no further back than that.
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