Sunday, July 01, 2007


Sometimes I find a such an obvious connection between a Hebrew word and a foreign one that I'm really surprised I didn't notice it earlier.

The Hebrew word navat נווט, means "navigator", and the verb נוט means "to navigate". I imagine by now you notice the "nav" in both the Hebrew and English words, but I never paid attention to it.

And indeed the Hebrew נווט derives from the Greek nautes - "seaman, sailor", which in turn comes from the Greek naus - "ship". Naus is related to the Latin navis, of the same meaning. From the Greek and Latin we get a number of familiar English words:

Hebrew adopted the Greek word already in Talmudic times. For example, the Midrash in Bereshit Rabba 12:12, quotes the verse from Yishayahu (42:5) - בּוֹרֵא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנוֹטֵיהֶם
"Who created the heavens and stretched them out (v'noteihem)".

But the midrash reads the verse as follows: בורא השמים ונווטיהם - "He created the heavens and her sailors (v'navteihem)".

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