Changing Meanings

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All languages evolve, and semantic shift can sometimes result in a word's modern meaning being radically different than its original usage.  Hebrew is no exception, as Ri writes, "לשון התורה לחוד ולשון נביאים לחוד ולשון חכמים לחוד" (Tosafot Kiddushin 37bKiddushin 37bAbout Ba'alei HaTosafot). Words might take on one meaning in Torah, another in the Prophets and yet another in Rabbinic or modern Hebrew.  Often, one's familiarity with the contemporary usage of a word influences the way one interprets Tanakh, as one might not recognize that a word's definition might have evolved, becoming more narrow, more expansive, or changing totally.  Below is a listing of many terms whose meaning has shifted, with examples of how the changing definitions might have influenced different understandings of the Biblical text.

Within the Biblical Period

There are several words whose meaning might have changed from one period within Tanakh to another:

  • אֲבָל – The meaning of this word has shifted over time, from meaning "indeed" or "verily" in the earlier books of Tanakh1 to meaning "but" in later books such as Daniel, Ezra and Divrei HaYamim.2
  • בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – The connotation of this word has changed slightly over time, becoming more expansive in meaning. In Sefer Bereshit3 and the opening verses of Sefer Shemot4 the term refers to the literal sons of Yaakov, whereas afterwards it refers to the nation of Israel.  The turning point might be Shemot 1:9, which uniquely states "עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",‎5 perhaps to clarify that the people have become a nation.6  There are a couple of cases in which the meaning of the term is ambiguous:
    • "לֹא יֹאכְלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה" (Bereshit 32:33) – See the debate in Bavli Chulin 100bChulin 100bAbout the Bavli whether this refers to a prohibition Yaakov's sons accepted upon themselves or whether this was first commanded to the nation at Sinai and placed in Sefer Bereshit only to provide the reasoning behind the command.7
    • "וַיַּשְׁבַּע יוֹסֵף אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל... וְהַעֲלִתֶם אֶת עַצְמֹתַי" (Bereshit 50:25) – It is ambiguous from this verse whether Yosef is speaking to his brothers or all their descendants (the nation). The difference relates to a larger question: Did Yosef assume that after his death, the family would immediately return to Canaan and take his bones with them, or was Yosef aware the nation was to remain in Egypt for centuries and was requesting that the nation remember him when redeemed?8
  • דֶּגֶל‎9 – ShadalBemidbar 1:52About R. Shemuel David Luzzatto asserts that the original meaning of this word is not flag or banner, but rather military unit.10 As such, when Sefer Bemidbar states that the nation camped "אִישׁ עַל דִּגְלוֹ" or traveled "לְדִגְלֵיהֶם" the verses are emphasizing the nation's military organization, not the fact that they had military flags. He claims that it is only later that the word came to also refer to the standard that marked the unit.11 Thus, in Shir HaShirim 2:4, the beloved uses the secondary meaning, saying: "וְדִגְלוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה", that her lover's banner is his love for her.12
  • דָּת – ShadalDevarim 33:2About R. Shemuel David Luzzatto points out that the word "דָּת" is a Persian loan word, first appearing as an independent word in the Book of Esther, where it means law or decree. The term appears only once earlier in Tanakh, in Devarim 33:2, but only as part of a larger term "אשדת". The word is written as just one word "אשדת" but read as if written "אֵשׁ דָּת". This has led commentators to debate the term's meaning:
  • חֹדֶשׁ – It is possible that in Torah, "חֹדֶשׁ" refers to the full month,13 while it is first in the Prophets that it also takes on the additional meaning of "Rosh Chodesh", the first of the month specifically.14 See, though, R. Moshe ibn ChiquitillaShemot Second Commentary 12:2About R. Moshe ibn Chiquitilla who claims that the primary meaning of "חֹדֶשׁ" in Torah is "Rosh Chodesh".15  The different possibilities might affect one's reading of several verses:
  • עצר/ת – R. D"Z HoffmannVayikra 23:33About R. David Zvi Hoffmann asserts that in Torah this root means to restrain.  The holiday immediately following Sukkot and the last day of Pesach are given this name as they are days in which one is restrained from engaging in work and other activities.20  Only later did the word take the additional meaning of gathering, as such days tended to be days of gathering.
  • שַׁבַּת – It is possible that it is first in Prophets that the word "שַׁבַּת" refers to the seventh day of the week,21 while in Torah it refers to either a state of cessation,22 or the full week.23 When Torah speaks of the seventh day, it instead uses the terms "יּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי"‎24 or "יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת".‎25
    • The meaning of the word has important implications for the debate regarding the meaning of the phrase "מִמׇּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת" in Vayikra 23:15, and hence the dating of both the bringing of the Omer offering and Shavuot.  See MiMachorat HaShabbat for discussion.
  • שָׂטָן – In earlier books of Tanakh this word refers to any adversary or enemy, and not to a demonic being.26  In the later books of Zekharyah and Iyyov, in contrast, the word is used as a proper noun (prefaced by a definite article) and appears to refer to an independent supernatural figure, Satan.27 In several instances, commentators debate whether the term takes on the earlier or later meaning:28
  • רֹאֶה, נָבִיא, חֹזֵה – Tanakh itself attests to the changing terms used to describe a prophet.  See Shemuel I 9:9, " כִּי לַנָּבִיא הַיּוֹם יִקָּרֵא לְפָנִים הָרֹאֶה". The different terms might reflect varying conceptions of the prophet's main role.  Was he primarily a "seer", fore-teller of the future, or a spokesman,30 someone whose job it was to relay the word of Hashem or rebuke the people?

Biblical vs. Rabbinic Hebrew

There are many words whose usage might have changed from the Biblical period to the Mishnaic period:

  • אֶגְרֹף31 – This word appears in only two places in Tanakh (Shemot 21:18 and Yeshayahu 58:4), making it difficult to define. In his Sefer HaShorashim,32 RadakSefer Hashorashim, גרףAbout R. David Kimchi notes that while the word means fist in Rabbinic Hebrew, in Tanakh it refers to a clump of earth,33 connecting it to the word "עָבְשׁוּ פְרֻדוֹת תַּחַת מֶגְרְפֹתֵיהֶם" in Yoel 1:17.34 RambanShemot 21:18About R. Moshe b. Nachman and R. D"Z HoffmannShemot 21:18About R. David Zvi Hoffmann, disagree, allowing for the possibility that the meaning of the word has not changed over time, and that in Tanakh, too, it means fist.35
    • "וְהִכָּה אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְאֶגְרֹף" (Shemot 21:18) – According to Radak's reading, "בְּאֶבֶן" and "בְאֶגְרֹף" are somewhat parallel terms, and the verse is simply giving two similar examples of external objects used to smite. According to Ramban, the verse is setting up a contrast, declaring that whether one smites with a tool that is likely to kill or one which is not, the same law applies.
  • אמה – In Tanakh, the word אמה means either maidservant (when spelled without a dagesh)36 or a unit of measure (when spelled with a dagesh).37 In Rabbinic Hebrew, it may be used to refer also to the forearm itself.
  • בֶּדֶק הַבַּיִת – As opposed to Rabbinic Hebrew, where "בדק הבית" refers to Temple maintenance or repairs, and "בדק" is understood in terms of inspection or fixing41 (as in the root's verbal form),42 in Tanakh "בֶּדֶק" means a crack or fissure,43 and "בֶּדֶק הַבַּיִת" refers to the breaches of the Mikdash.44 As such, when speaking of maintenance in Tanakh, the term is always accompanied by the verb "לחזק".
    • The change in meaning was a key factor in the debate over the authenticity of the so-called Yehoash Inscription. The relevant part of the inscription reads, "ואעש את בדק הבית", a usage which would have been anomalous in the time of Yehoash where בדק meant breaks rather than repairs.45
  • בָּיִת – In Tanakh, this root generally refers to either a physical house46 or receptacle,47 or a family or household.48 In Rabbinic Hebrew it is also understood more narrowly to refer specifically to a wife.49
  • גּוֹי‎50 – Though the Sages use this word to refer to a non-Jew,51 in Tanakh it simply means nation, and can even refer to the Nation of Israel.52 In his Sefer HaShorashim, RadakSefer HaShorashimAbout R. David Kimchi attempts to explain the change in usage, suggesting that when the Sages wanted to identify a person as a non-Israelite but did not know his nationality, they would refer to him as simply "גוי", so as to say that he was from a different nation.53 This later usage has influenced the midrashic interpretation of the following verse:
    •  "לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי" (Devarim 4:34) - Though the simple meaning of the verse is that Hashem took the nation of Israel out from Egypt, Pesikta Rabbati15About Pesikta Rabbati54 notes that Israel is referred to as a "גוי" because she behaved like a non-Jew (not being circumcised in Egypt).

Biblical vs. Modern Hebrew

Many modern Hebrew words might take on different meanings than their Biblical counterparts:

  • אָחֻז – The meaning of this word has become narrower with time. In Tanakh it refers to taking a part from a whole, but not necessarily one from one hundred.106 It is first in modern times that it comes to mean percent specifically.107
  • אֶמֶת – In modern Hebrew אמת stands in contrast to שקר and means truth.  In Biblical Hebrew, however, the meaning of the word is broader and includes also the connotation of being steadfast or faithful,108 with "אֶמֶת" being synonymous with "נאמנות".‎109 RadakSefer HaShorashimAbout R. David Kimchi even suggests that the original root of the word is "אמן" where the nun was dropped.110
    • The two possible Biblical meanings of the word are highlighted when comparing two instances of the phrase "תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת".  In Malakhi 2:6, the context "תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת הָיְתָה בְּפִיהוּ וְעַוְלָה לֹא נִמְצָא בִשְׂפָתָיו בְּשָׁלוֹם וּבְמִישׁוֹר הָלַךְ אִתִּי" might suggest that the phrase refers to truth or honesty.111 In Tehillim 119:142, "צִדְקָתְךָ צֶדֶק לְעוֹלָם וְתוֹרָתְךָ אֱמֶת, the parallel to "לְעוֹלָם" might instead support the meaning "steadfast", that Hashem's laws are constant and unchanging.
  • אֶפֶס – It is relatively recent that the word "אֶפֶס" is used to express the number zero,112 but it is not difficult to see how the modern word might have stemmed from the Biblical "אֶפֶס".  In Tanakh the root relates to cessation.  As such, in noun form it can mean nought113 or it might refer to the ends of the earth (as in the phrase "אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ").114  [In Tanakh the word might also express "but",115 qualifying a previous statement.]116
  • אֶקְדָּח‎117 – This word refers to a handgun in modern Hebrew, a usage obviously not found in the Biblical period.  The word appears only once in Tanakh, in Yeshayahu 54:12, "וְשַׂמְתִּי כַּדְכֹד שִׁמְשֹׁתַיִךְ וּשְׁעָרַיִךְ לְאַבְנֵי אֶקְדָּח".
    • As the root "קדח" relates to burning or fire,118 the phrase "אַבְנֵי אֶקְדָּח" is understood by most commentators to refer to a fiery or sparkling stone such as a carbuncle.119  As such, when looking for a word to describe a pistol (something which "fires stones"), Ben Yehuda raised it as a possibility.120  Rashi Yeshayahu 54:12About R. Shelomo Yitzchakibrings an alternative understanding of the phrase, suggesting that the verse speaks of a "מקדח", a hollowed out stone.  This, though, is taking an anachronistic understanding of the root "קדח", as it is first in Rabbinic Hebrew that the root "קדח" takes on the meaning to bore a hole.121
  • בטח – Y. Etsion122 suggests that though today this root is associated with stability and means to trust and rely upon another, it is possible that originally in Tanakh, like in Arabic today, it meant to fall (and only from there also to lean upon or to trust).123  There are several verses in which the traditional understanding of "trust" is difficult, yet the definition of "fall" is appropriate:
  • בִּירָה – Though today, "בִּירָה" is used to refer to a capital city, in Biblical Hebrew the word generally means simply palace or fortress,125 related to the Akkadian "birtu".
  • דּוֹד‎128 – Though today "דּוֹד" can refer to an uncle on either the mother or father's side, see RashiYirmeyahu 32:12About R. Shelomo Yitzchaki129 who notes that in Tanakh, the term is reserved for a father's brother.130  [It also takes the meaning of beloved, as in Shir HaShirim]. 
    • See Yirmeyahu 32:12 where Rashi attempts to explain how Chanamel can be referred to as both Yirmeyahu's cousin and uncle,131 rejecting the possibility raised by some that he was Yirmeyahu's cousin on his father side and his uncle on his mother's side, claiming, "לא מצינו בכל המקרא אח האם קרוי דוד".‎132
    • See also RadakAmos 6:10About R. David Kimchi133 on Amos 6:10, who raises the possibility that the hapax legomenon "מסרף" in the phrase "דּוֹדוֹ וּמְסָרְפוֹ" might refer to an uncle on the mother's side (suggesting that the words דוד and מסרף are a pair).134
  • "דָּת" – The word "דָּת" is a Persian loan word,135 which appears predominantly in Sefer Esther, and consistently means "law" or "decree".136 This stands in contrast to the word's prevalent usage today where it means "religion".137
  • חֹזֶה – While today this word refers to a contract, in Tanakh it refers to a prophet, or more literally a "seer". The modern usage might stem from Yeshayahu 28:15, "כָּרַתְנוּ בְרִית אֶת מָוֶת וְעִם שְׁאוֹל עָשִׂינוּ חֹזֶה" where the definition "prophet" is somewhat difficult and the parallel to "בְרִית" implies that "חֹזֶה" might mean an agreement:
  • חשל – This root appears twice in Tanakh, once in Devarim 25:18, "וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כׇּל הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ" where it refers to weary stragglers and once in Daniel 2:40, where the Aramaic means to shatter or be beaten (by a hammer or the like).143 In modern Hebrew, in contrast, the word takes on an almost opposite meaning: to forge or strengthen. The contemporary usage likely stems from the Aramaic, where to "crush by a blow" evolved into "forge",144 and from there to "strengthen".
  • להתחתן (חתן)‎145‎‎ – In Tanakh, in contrast to modern Hebrew, the parties who are "מתחתן" are the חֹתֵן (father146 of the bride) and the חָתָן (son-in-law)147 or the חֹתֵן (father of the bride) and the father of the groom,148 not the husband and wife. The verb "להתחתן" is not used to describe the forming of the marital relationship between the bride and groom149 as it was the father of the bride and not the bride herself who was the active party in the marital contract. This betrays the nature of marriage in Tanakh as the formation of an alliance150 rather than a bonding of love.
  • יָרֵא אֱ-לֹהִים – Today, this phrase is used to refer to a person who is a believing, God-fearing Jew, and focuses on the person's relationship to Hashem.  In Tanakh, though, it might also be used in the context of interpersonal relations, referring to someone's moral or ethical conduct.151 ShadalShemot 1:15About R. Shemuel David Luzzatto suggests that the term might refer to anyone who fears even a false god, for someone who fears such a higher authority will have some sense of morality.  The difference in meaning might affect how one reads several stories:
    • The Midwives – As the midwives are said to have "feared God" (Shemot 1:17), whether one understand the phrase to refer to having belief in Hashem or having a sense of morality will influence whether one suggests that they were Egyptian or Hebrew. See Who are the Midwives.
    • Amalek - In speaking of Amalek's attack, Devarim 25:18 states, "וְאַתָּה עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ וְלֹא יָרֵא אֱלֹהִים".  Commentators debate whether the description "יָרֵא אֱלֹהִים" refers to Amalek or Israel, and, if the former, whether it describes the Amalekites' lack of ethics or disregard for God. See Annihilating Amalek.
  • "יְרַקְרַק אוֹ אֲדַמְדָּם"– In modern Hebrew the doubling in each of these words signifies a lighter shade of the color (greenish rather than green). There is a dispute as to whether this is true in Tanakh as well. While Ibn EzraVayikra 13:49About R. Avraham ibn Ezra writes, "וזה הכפל לחסרון", explaining, "ואדמדם – כמו כן קל האדמומית", the Sifra13:49About the Sifra Vayikra declares the opposite, explaining ירקרק to refer to "יָרֹק שֶׁבַּיְּרֻקִּים".
  • כן – Though this word appears hundreds of times in Tanakh, it never means "yes" as it does in modern Hebrew, but rather "thus" (כך)152 or veritably / right (נכון).153 In Biblical Hebrew there is actually no equivalent of the word "yes".  A positive reply is instead expressed by repeating the verb mentioned in the question.  For example, in answer to Yaakov's question, "הַיְדַעְתֶּם אֶת לָבָן בֶּן נָחוֹר", the people do not say yes, but "יָדָעְנוּ" (Bereshit 29:5).‎154
  • לֶחֶם155 – The meaning of this word has become narrower over time. Whereas today it refers specifically to bread, in Tanakh it can also refer to any food or meal.156 As bread was the staple of the diet, all foodstuffs could be spoken of in terms of "לֶחֶם".‎157  This general understanding exists in English as well, in the term, "breaking bread," which refers to sharing a meal.
  • מִדְבָּר – In modern Hebrew a "מדבר" is defined as an area with a hot, dry climate and less than 250 mm of precipitation a year. RadakYehoshua 8:15Yirmeyahu 12:12About R. David Kimchi158 points out that in Tanakh, in contrast, the term refers to grazing land, unfit for agriculture but well suited for shepherding.  He suggests that the word "מִדְבָּר" might relate to the root "דבר" meaning to lead (or shepherd).
    • The difference in meaning affects how one thinks about the forty years in the wilderness.  Did the nation trek through barren, arid land, with intense heat and almost no water,159 or were the conditions considerably better, with pasture for their livestock?160  See Life in the Wilderness.
  • מוֹקֵד – The modern meaning of this word, center or focus, appears to have nothing in common with its Biblical counterpart which means fire.161  Y. Etsion suggests that the choice can be understood in light of the etymology of the English word focus. In Latin, "focus" originally referred to an oven or fireplace, but in the 17th century was adopted to refer to the center of a lens, the site where the suns rays concentrate enough to produce enough heat to ignite a fire. From here the word's meaning slowly moved to refer to any center.  When modern linguists were looking for an appropriate Hebrew translation for the word focus, they looked to מוקד as a fitting choice.
  • מַחֲמָאָה – This word appears only once in Tanakh, in Tehillim 55:22.  It is likely the source of the modern "מחמאה", meaning compliment, though the Biblical usage of the word might be somewhat different.  In the verse, the phrase "חָלְקוּ מַחְמָאֹת פִּיו" is parallel to "רַכּוּ דְבָרָיו מִשֶּׁמֶן", leading RadakSefer HaShorashim, אמןSefer HaShorashim, גויSefer HaShorashim, חמהBereshit 32:33Yehoshua 8:15Tehillim 55:22About R. David Kimchi and the commentary attributed to RashbamTehillim 55:22About Attributed to Rashbam to suggest that "מַחְמָאֹת" relates to חמאה, meaning butter or cream. The verse is saying that the person's speech was "smoother than cream".‎162  It speaks of false flattery rather than sincere compliments.
  • מֶשֶׁק‎163– Today this word refers to running a farm, household or even to the economy as a whole, which leads many to naturally assume that the phrase "וּבֶן מֶשֶׁק בֵּיתִי הוּא דַּמֶּשֶׂק אֱלִיעֶזֶר" in Bereshit 15:2 refers to one who was in charge of administering Avraham's household. The word "מֶשֶׁק", though, is a hapax legomenon and its original meaning is unclear:
  • נוֹרָא – This word has shifted in connotation, from primarily meaning "awesome" in the Biblical era167 to meaning "awful" in the modern period. The shift might relate to the few exceptional cases in Tanakh where the word takes the negative connotation, dreadful.  See the descriptions of the wilderness in Devarim 1:19Devarim 8:15 or Yeshayahu 21:1.
  • נִין וָנֶכֶד‎‎168‎‎‎‎‎ – This pair of words appears three times in Tanakh,169 always in this order.  As such, in context, the terms would appear to mean child and grandchild respectively,170 or perhaps refer more generally to descendants (with no differentiation between the terms).171 In modern Hebrew, in contrast, נין and נכד no longer take on the general connotation of "descendant", and the chronological order is reversed and moved down a generation, with נכד referring to a grandson and נין referring to a great-grandson.172
  • נַעַר – Though in modern Hebrew this word refers to a youth rather than an infant or adult, in Tanakh, it might refer to any of the three.173
  • נצל - The הפעיל form of this verb (הציל) has maintained the meaning of to save or deliver until today, but the meaning of the פיעל and התפעל forms might have changed over time:
    • The פיעל form appears in four places in Tanakh, but its meaning is ambiguous.  Based on the context, in three cases (Shemot 3:22, Shemot 12:35-36, and Divrei HaYamim II 20:25) the word appears to mean to strip or despoil,175 while in a fourth case it appears to mean to "save".  Both possibilities stand in contrast to the modern usage of "to exploit". See Reparations and Despoiling Egypt for how the different understandings might affect how one reads the command to borrow / ask for vessels from the Egyptians.
    • The התפעל form of "נצל" appears only once, in Shemot 33:6 where it appears to mean remove from one's self.176 Today, in contrast, the word means to apologize.  Y. Etsion177 notes that the connotation of the verb has changed over the years. In medieval times it was used in the context of defending one's self against others' arguments (rather than acknowledging guilt),178 and it meant to save one's self or cast off blame (thus, somewhat in keeping with the Biblical usage of the term). Only in modern times does it refer to the taking responsibility for one's actions and expressing regret for them.
  • עָיֵף – Today this word refers to being tired, while in Tanakh179 it has a broader meaning, also referring to one who is thirsty (or hungry).180 The two meanings might be connected as thirst/ hunger is often connected to weariness. The less well known usage might shed new light on verses which can sustain both meanings:
  • עתק‎181 – In Tanakh this root means to move from one place to another (as in "וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם הָהָרָה", Bereshit 12:8),182 or to advance,183 whereas today it refers to copying. The change is not fundamental, however, as copying is in effect moving text from one place to another.  Such usage is already attested to at the end of the Biblical period, in Mishlei 25:1, "גַּם אֵלֶּה מִשְׁלֵי שְׁלֹמֹה אֲשֶׁר הֶעְתִּיקוּ אַנְשֵׁי חִזְקִיָּה".‎184 As such, the semantic shift is simply a narrowing of the original meaning.185
  • רגז – Today, perhaps under the influence of Aramaic, this root relates to anger. See, though, RashbamBereshit 45:24About R. Shemuel b. Meir who notes that in the Hebrew sections of Tanakh186 it takes the meaning of "tremble" or "agitate",187 and is often paired with fear,188 not anger.189
  • שופט – In modern Hebrew, a "שופט" serves solely in a judicial capacity.  In Biblical Hebrew, however, the verb "לשפט" might also refer to the execution of judgement, and the noun form has the broader connotation of "governor" or "savior" as well.190
    • The difference in meaning might influence how one perceives the various "שופטים" of Sefer Shofetim. Were they religious leaders, judges, or simply warriors who took vengeance on Israel's enemies?  See Hoil Moshe on Shofetim 10:4
  • שזף - Though today this root relates to suntanning, in Tanakh it means to see or look upon.191 The modern usage most likely stems from the verse, "אַל תִּרְאוּנִי שֶׁאֲנִי שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת שֶׁשְּׁזָפַתְנִי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ" (Shir HaShirim 1:6), which literally means "for the sun has looked down upon me"192 but nonetheless results in the beloved's becoming tanned.
  • שיכול ידיים – Today this phrase refers to crisscrossing one's arms.  The term comes from Bereshit 48:14, when Yaakov puts his right hand on Ephraim's head and his left on Menashe's, with the verse stating "שִׂכֵּל אֶת יָדָיו". Perhaps, surprisingly, though, many commentators193 do not think that the word "שִׂכֵּל" refers to the physical positioning of Yaakov's arms, but to the word "שֶׂכֶל", explaining that Yaakov "acted in wisdom".194 RashbamBereshit 48:14About R. Shemuel b. Meir and RalbagYehoshua 8:31Bereshit Beur HaMilot 48:14About R. Levi b. Gershom are exceptional, relating the word to the root "סכל", which is generally understood to mean foolish but might also take the connotation of crooked.195
  • שִׂמְלָה – This word has narrowed in meaning over the years, from referring to a garment appropriate for either a man or woman,196 to one worn only by women.197
  • צרפ – In Tanakh, this root means to purify or refine.198  Today, the root also means to join.  In some ways the two meanings are opposites, as refining generally means getting rid of impurities, and is a process of separation rather than attachment.
  • Body parts as metaphors – Though both Biblical and modern Hebrew have various body parts act as metaphors, they disagree regarding what is expressed by each part:
    • לב – In Tanakh the heart, rather than the brain, is home to thought and the intellect.199
    • כליות, כבד and מעיים – In Tanakh, it is the kidneys, intestines, and liver, which are home to emotions and affections.200
  • Directions and orientation – In modern times, people tend to orient themselves to the north, and so one's left would be to the west and one's right would be to the east.  In the Ancient Near East, in contrast, people oriented themselves towards the sun, and hence to the east.  Thus, in Tanakh, "קֶדֶם" (literally: forward) is not north, but east, "אָחוֹר" (literally: backward) is west, "יָמִין" is south, and "שְׂמֹאל" is north.