Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Aside from some other distractions, I've been holding off on a post until I was ready to write about remez (remember PaRDeS?). But while it makes sense for me to finish researching that word before I write about it, there's no need for me to stop writing completely. So we'll get back to that series soon, I hope.

A neighbor asked me recently about the Hebrew word for date (as in a statement of time) - taarich תאריך. Was it connected to the root ארך - as in a "length" of time? That seemed logical to me, but I figured I should look it up. Turns out it was an incorrect assumption.

Klein gives the following etymology:

Transliteration of Arabic ta'rih ( = dating, date, time, era; chronicle, annals), infinitive of 'arraha (= he dated a letter, etc. fixed a certain time, wrote the history of something.)
However, since Klein's dictionary is in English, and he doesn't go back further about the origin or Hebrew cognates of arraha - it's too early to say if it is related to ארך.

So I looked in the Hebrew dictionaries. Here the pictures becomes more clear. Ben Yehuda, Even Shoshan and Stahl all say that the Hebrew spelling of the Arabic word ta'rih is תאריח (the chet has an apostrophe at the end - for some reason Blogger isn't letting me place it there.) This is the Arabic letter Ha - which is (sometimes) cognate with the Hebrew chet. (Kaph is a different letter in Arabic and Hebrew.)

So taarich would appear to be related to the root ארח. Note what the Arabic Etymological Dictionary writes:

arracha : fix a date [Sem y-r-ch, Akk warchu (moon), Heb yareach, tarich (date), JNA yarkha (month), Sab warch, Amh war (month), tarik (history), Tig werehh (moon), Uga yrch, Phoen yrch]
Here it is connected to the Hebrew word yareach ירח - "month". But as Horowitz writes, the words ארח and ירח are related:

The root ארח-ירח means "to wander".

The following easily relatable words come from it:

אורח (oreach)- a guest, one who wanders
אורחה (orcha)- caravan, the caravan wandered
אורח (orach)- a path or road that wanders along
ירח (yareach) - the moon - preeminently the wanderer of the sky. The moon is constantly moving about th heavens and hence its name.
ירח (yerach) - is a month. A month is simply the period of time it takes the moon to grow from a crescent, to attain fullness and then to wane. This takes approximately twenty-nine and a half days.
ירחון (yarchon)- monthy magazine
Klein also adds the word for meal - ארוחה arucha. He writes that it probably originally meant "food for the journey".

This root also appears in the Arabic phrase "ruh min hon" - "Go away". Stahl connects these words to ruach רוח - "wind" and rea'ch ריח - "odor" - that wafts, travels in the air.

The only question remaining - and I don't have an answer - is why isn't the Hebrew word for date spelled תאריח? Ben-Yehuda and others quote the mathematician and philosopher Abraham bar Hiyya (1070-1136) as the earliest source for the word (in חשבון מהלכות הכוכבים -"Calculation of the Courses of the Stars"). He lived in Arabic Spain, but unlike his contemporaries, he wrote in Hebrew, not Arabic. He is credited with coining many scientific terms in Hebrew. It doesn't seem likely he would have mistaken a chet for a kaph - but who knows? Actually - maybe one of you?

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