Friday, September 21, 2007


On Yom Kippur, one of the prohibitions is neilat hasandal נעילת הסנדל - wearing of a sandal. Clearly the word sandal has the same meaning in English and Hebrew - what is its origin?

Klein writes that the word entered Hebrew in the post-biblical period, and provides the following etymology:

Greek sandalion, diminutive of sandalon, a word from Asia Minor (whence also Persian sandal), originally meaning 'shoe of the Lydian god Sandal').

I couldn't find reference to the god Sandal (other than sources mentioning this etymology), but I did find mention of a Lydian god named Sandan (also Sandon / Sandes). Some information about him can be found here:


Hittite/Babylonian sun, storm, or warrior god, also perhaps associated with agriculture, who the Greeks equated with Herakles (Hercules) and who the Lydians believed their royal house descended from. Sardis (Sardes, Sardeis), the capital of Lydia, may have been named after Sandon. "In honour of Sandan-Heracles there was celebrated every year in Tarsus a funeral pyre festival, at the climax of which the image of the god was burned. The dying of nature under the withering heat of the summer sun and its resurrection to new life was the content of this mystery, which at once suggests its kinship with the cults of the Syrian Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the Egyptian Osiris, and the Babylonian Tammuz."
The pyre of Sandan is featured on coins of Tarsus. Sandan is also associated on coinage with a lion.
As we've noted before, the city of Sardis is assumed to be the biblical Sefarad. So perhaps there is a connection between sandal and Sephardim as well...

The shape of the sandal gave its name to a number of other words. For example, we find a fish called a sandal (Tosefta Nida 4:7) which scholars believe is the same as the English "sole" - in both cases the etymology derives from the shape. (Maybe a good food before the fast?)

In modern Hebrew we find the word sandalit סנדלית - meaning paramecium, due to its resemblance to a sandal. I guess I can see that:Lastly, we find the slang verb סנדל, meaning "to lock someone in". While it can mean to lock someone in to anything, it originally meant to lock the wheels on an illegally parked car. In Hebrew this mechanism is called sandalei denver סנדלי דנוור. Rosenthal says the etymology is from the English "Denver sandals." But I'm guessing many readers of this site will already know that the real name in English is the "Denver Boot". I guess in Israel sandals are more common than boots...

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