Monday, October 30, 2006


No, this isn't a post about the interesting blog LAMED, but about Hebrew's 12th letter. The letter lamed originally referred to an ox-goad or taming whip - see the noun malmad מלמד in Shoftim 3:31. However, the more familiar root is למד - meaning to learn or to teach. Klein writes that lamed got that association from being the "rod of the teacher", and the verb meant "to prick, sting, incite, goad".

Kaddari provides a long note with various theories as to the etymology of למד. Some say it comes from "to accustom an animal to carry a load"; other have "to connect, to bind".

Lamed alternates with resh ( שלשלת and שרשרת ) and nun ( לחץ and נחץ ). Additionally, as Jastrow writes "lamed as first radical letter often rejected in inflection" - the root לקח becomes קח . On the other hand, as Klein notes, "the lamed sometimes appears at the end of nouns as an additional consonant, as in גבעל ( = stalk, stem), כרמל ( = garden land.)"

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