[Avodah] Is it Hebrew or is it Aramaic?

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Sat Feb 20 20:33:22 PST 2021

Yesterday, I found yet another word in Onkelos that I thought was Hebrew:
The fabric "shesh" (shin-shin) appears in Bereshis 41:42 and many times in
Shemos from Terumah to the end. I checked five of them, and Onkelos
translates it consistently as "bootz" (beis-vav-tzadi). "Bootz" seems to be
another case of an Aramaic word (as attested by Onkelos) which got adopted
by Hebrew long after Chumash days: It appears once in Yechezkel, twice in
Esther, and 5 times in Divrei Hayamim.

I'm not going to bother reporting on additional findings. The main reason
I'm posting today is to inform interested parties about "A Comprehensive
Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English" by
Ernest Klein, published by Carta. It's available from Amazon, and I've seen
it in a few seforim stores too. I was impressed to find that he lists all
of these as coming from Aramaic:

techum (Onkelos' translation of gevul in Bereshis 10:19 and Devarim 27:17)
butz (Onkelos' translation of shesh in Bereshis 41:42 and Shemos 28:39)
yakar (Onkelos' translation of kavod in Shemos 28:2 and Devarim 5:21)
siruv (Onkelos' translation of ma'en in Shemos 7:27 and Bamidbar 20:21)

On the other hand, consider the word "oni" (ayin-nun-yud), often translated
as "affliction", such as in Shemos 3:7, 3:17. Onkelos translates this as
"shibud" (shin-ayin-beis-vav-daled), so I imagined it to be an Aramaic form
of ayin-beis-daled. But if I am reading it correctly, Klein says that it is
indeed Hebrew, of the "shaph'el" form, which I never heard of before, but I
suppose it was vernacular to Onkelos' audience.

One more note: This dictionary is available on line, as a searchable and
downloadable pdf file, at
but its copyright is murky to me. There's an "Info" button near the top
right of that page, and if you click it and the "More information" button
afterwards, it claims that the dictionary is in the public domain. But page
2 of the dictionary itself says "Copyright 1987 by ...", so I don't know
which claim is more correct.

Akiva Miller
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