Tuesday, February 28, 2006


With Purim not far away, it's time for the the annual event: the search for costumes for the kids. But this time there's an etymological search as well: Is there a connection between חיפוש chipus - search and תחפושת tachposet - costume?

It turns out there is. The root חפש (or in Aramaic חפס) means to search or to dig. In Biblical Hebrew we find the root also meaning to disguise oneself - but only in the hitpael (reflexive) form - התחפש hit'chapes. One example is in Shmuel 1, 28:8, where it describes how King Saul "disguised himself (התחפש) and wore different clothes." Yehuda Kiel, in his commentary Da'at Mikra, explains that the root is from חיפוש chipus - search: he made others search for him (the reflexive.)

Only later did the word develop into a non-reflexive form - לחפש l'chapes (to disguise someone) or תחפושת tachposet - costume.

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