Wednesday, February 21, 2007


What does the word timyon טמיון as in the phrase yarad l'timyon ירד לטמיון mean? The phrase means "down the drain, lost forever" - so it would seem that perhaps the word timyon relates to that. For example, this site translates Aharon Appelfeld's novel Timyon as "Abyss".

But the truth is, the word means something else entirely. The definition is actually "government treasury". Then why does the phrase mean "lost for good"? Because from the taxpayer's point of view, anything paid to the treasury will never be seen again...

The word is Greek in origin. Klein provides the following etymology:

Greek tameion, related to tamias (= one who distributes, dispenser, steward), originally 'one who cuts up portions for the sake of distributing them', in gradational relationship to temnein (= to cut), tomos (=piece cut off, section).

Tamias is the name of the genus of the chipmunk, for it is like a steward, storing food in its mouth.

From temnein we get a number of words with a component meaning "to cut", such as dichotomy, anatomy and atom.

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