Hard to believe, but this is Balashon's 500th post! Since I started the site in February 2006, there have been many fluctuations in post length and depth, and the frequency of posting has also varied considerably. But my interest in the subject of etymology hasn't changed, and I'm very grateful that you have continued to read and follow me for so long. I'm also particularly appreciative to those of you who click on the Google and Amazon ads and links - that small amount of income has allowed me to reinvest in resources. Just recently with that revenue, I was able to purchase a book I was interested in for a very long time, Michael Sokoloff's A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. This book, which was published in 2002, is a fantastic resource for researching Aramaic words from the Babylonian Talmud (of which many influenced later Hebrew words) and has in-depth etymologies as well.
For today's post, I thought I'd look at the methodology of Sokoloff, as well as a number of his predecessors, and hopefully you'll get some insight into how I do the research for Balashon. The word I'm looking at is alunka אלונקה - "stretcher, litter". Looking at Talmudic dictionaries is helpful, since the word appears in the Talmud, Beitza 25b, although in a slightly different form: אלונקי alunkei.
So let's start looking in Jastrow's dictionary. This is his entry:
1550s, "line of battle in close ranks," from Latin phalanx "compact body of heavily armed men in battle array," or directly from Greek phalanx (genitive phalangos) "line of battle, battle array," also "finger or toe bone," originally "round piece of wood, trunk, log," of unknown origin. Perhaps from PIE root *bhelg- "plank, beam" (source of Old English balca "balk;" see balk (n.)). The Macedonian phalanx consisted of 50 close files of 16 men each. In anatomy, originally the whole row of finger joints, which fit together like infantry in close order. Figurative sense of "number of persons banded together in a common cause" is attested from 1600 (compare Spanish Falangist, member of a fascist organization founded in 1933).
"a covered litter," 1580s, from Portuguese palanquim (early 16c.), from Malay and Javanese palangki "litter, sedan," ultimately from Sanskrit palyanka-s "couch, bed, litter," from pari "around" + ancati "it bends, curves," related to anka-s "a bend, hook, angle," and meaning, perhaps, "that which bends around the body." Some have noted the "curious coincidence" of Spanish palanca, from Latin phalanga "pole to carry a burden."
The two words - palanca (phalanga) and palanquin are certainly similar in both meaning and sound. Perhaps the Portuguese form was influenced by both the Asian and the European roots during their time in India, or maybe there was even earlier contact between the languages. No one seems to be sure, and doubt is not a bad thing in etymology - I certainly prefer it over unjustified confidence.
This is referring to the word אפריון apiryon in Shir HaShirim - which I wrote about back in 2007 and had forgotten to look up now! Apiryon also means palanquin or litter, and I discussed a number of different etymologies, including one from the BDB, which says that apiryon might actually derive from this same root we've seen before: