Monday, March 31, 2008


We've discussed some of the other spices in the incense - today we'll discuss נרד - nerd (no, not the cousin of geek). As with kinamon - it also appears in Shir HaShirim, originates in India and gave its name to the same spice in English - in this case "nard" or "spikenard". Klein's entry:

Together with Aramaic נרדא and Akkadian lardu (of same meaning), Hebrew נרד probably derives from Indo-Iranian narda, in Old Latin nadah, nalah ( = reed). Old Latin naladam (= nard), is possibly Sanskritization of Greek nardos. However, according to Manfred Mayrhofer the above Semitic words probably derive from Old Indian naladam.
He writes that the word nartik נרתיק - "sheath" is related:

From narthex, genitive narthekos, which is of uncertain origin. It derives perhaps from Old Indian narda (= reed).

A narthex is also the lobby of a church.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ohel and ahalan

In the post on aloe, we quoted the theory that the Hebrew ahal אהל derives from the Sanskrit aguruh. This theory seems to be fairly widely accepted. Even Steinberg, who generally strives to find Hebrew origins for Biblical words recognizes it. But he does have some difficulty doing so. This is from his entry in Milon HaTanach (written in the 1890s):

The name in the bible refers to Aquilaria agalacha, a tree from the Thymelaeaceae family that grows in India... Linguists claim that the origin of the name ahal comes from Eastern India, where tree originated, and is called there aghil.

But it is possible that the ancient (Phoenician) traders from Tzur and Tzidon gave the name, because the tree appears to shine like glass, which fits the meaning of the root אהל.
In his entry on the root אהל, he says it means "to shine", and is related to the roots הל and הלל, which have the same meaning. He quotes Iyov 25:5, where יאהיל means "is bright".

From here he connects the root to ohel אוהל meaning "tent". How? Because the white sheets of the tent shine as well.

Reading this now, Steinberg's theory looks rather fanciful, particularly considering no one else seems to agree with any of it. But when the origin of a word is still up for debate, it's not as easy to draw that conclusion. Let's look at another word that is claimed to be related to ohel.

Joel Hoffman, in his Jerusalem Post language column, writes:

[W]hen Israelis greet one another on the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, it is not shalom or a longer variation of it, but rather the colloquial ahalan that is most often heard.

Ahalan, borrowed directly from Arabic, comes from ahal, one of many words for "family." (The cognate Hebrew word, ohel, means "tent," that is a place where a family lived.) What better greeting could be offered to a weary desert traveler than to be welcomed into the protective shade of a tent or the warm company of family. Indeed, Abraham is known for his generosity in welcoming strangers into his family tent. And though tents are now rare in Israel, the cordial greeting pays homage to a form of ancient hospitality. Some speakers add wasahlan, "and to the plain," perhaps contrasting with, say, rocky mountains, and therefore alluding to a place of comfort. A loose translation of the pair might be, "make yourself at home" and "make yourself comfortable."
Stahl and Even Shoshan both say that Hebrew ohel (tent) and Arabic ahl (family, tribe) are related. Even Shoshan connects it as well to Akkadian alu - city or village. This article notes:

Oppenheim and Reiner indicate that alu had four basic meanings:
"1. city; 2. city as a social organization; 3. village, manor, estate; 4. fort, military strong point" (Assyrian Dictionary, volume 1, part I, 379). In each case, alu refers in some respect to either a sedentary dwelling or sedentary dweller (ibid., 379-390). This may indicate a sedentarized origin for the nonsedentary Hebrew 'ohel.
However, Klein writes that ohel is "usually connected with but probably not related to Arabic 'ahl (= relatives, kin, kinsfolk, adherents, inhabitants, people)." He goes on to write, "compare Egyptian '(a)har(a)" - but I'm not sure what that's supposed to show us.

Kaddari also dismisses a connection. Ben-Yehuda at first says that the Arabic verb ahal means to marry or to welcome someone - i.e. to take them into the tent, and from here 'ahl means "family". But then he goes on to say that the scholar Theodor Nöldeke rejects "any relationship or similarity between the Hebrew ohel and the Arabic 'ahl".

What's interesting here is that Ben Yehuda, Klein and Kaddari don't explain why ohel and ahl aren't related. It could be that if I understood Klein's Egyptian reference or read Noldeke I'd see their proofs. But it could just be that simply because the two words look similar, and one could make a connection - doesn't mean that one should. And that's probably the advice they would have given Steinberg as well...

Sunday, March 23, 2008


The Akkadian word for aloe was sibaru, and the related Syriac word was צברא. From these more ancient language the word entered Arabic as sabr. The Arabic word entered Hebrew in the Middle Ages. For example, we find that Ibn Tibbon, in his translation of the Rambam's Shmonah Perakim (Chapter 4) writes that tzabar צבר, in la'az (foreign language) is "aloe".

When the Spanish found the prickly pear cactus in Mexico, they brought it back to the "Old World", and the plant particularly succeeded in spreading in the Mediterranean area. Both this cactus and the aloe are spiky and succulent - and so the Arabs called the new plant sabr as well.

This imported plant interestingly became the nickname for the those Jews born in the Land of Israel. Oz Almog writes in his book, The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew (on page 4):

Ironically, the tzabar, or prickly pear cactus, is not native to Israel. It was introduced from Central America some two hundred years ago, but quickly acclimatized. In fact, it took hold so well in Palestine that it became one of our country's best-known features. Even before it became a symbol for the country's Jewish natives, the tzabar, or "sabra," cactus appeared in paintings, stories and songs of local artists and was cited by visitors as one of the outstanding visual elements of the Palestinian landscape.

The widespread use of the word "Sabra" as a generic term for the generation of native-born Israelis began in the 1930s, but the first glimmerings of a generational term can be seen forty years earlier in the use of the Biblical term "Hebrew".


In time - during the 1930s, and even more clearly in the 1940s - "Sabra" changed from a derogatory term to one of endearment. The emphasis was no longer on the cactus's sharp spines but rather on the contrasting sweet pulp of its fruit. This was taken as a metaphor for the native Israeli, whose rough, masculine manner was said to hide a delicate and sensitive soul. The appellation contained another symbolic comparison - just as the prickly pear grew wild on the land, so were the native-born Israelis growing, so it was said, naturally, "without complexes", in their true homeland.

Credit for the transformation of the term "Sabra," now with a modern Hebrew pronunciation, into a generic term for the native-born Israelis was claimed (rightfully, as far as I have been able to discover) by the Journalist Uri Kesari. On 18 April 1931, the newspaper Do'ar HaYom published an essay by Kesari titled "We Are the Leaves of the Sabra!"
In addition to aloe / cactus, in Arabic the root sabr means "patience" Stahl quotes Yitzchak Yehuda as saying that both terms come from the same root, and are cognate to the Biblical Hebrew שבר and Aramaic / later Hebrew סבר - "to see". One who has patience is watching to see what will happen. Another theory that Stahl mentions is that sabar means in Arabic "to bind" and from here "to restrain, to be patient". This would connect sabr to the Hebrew צבר - "to heap up, accumulate". This is the root of the word tzibbur - originally heap, later collection, congregation. Related to the meaning "to bind", is a meaning in Literary Arabic of "to embalm". Embalming was often done with aloe - the English word "embalm" literally means "preserve with spices." This seems like a bit of a stretch to me - the binding was done with bandages, not with aloe, so I don't see how that verb would have given the name to the plant.

In any case, it is certainly ironic that a synonym for "patience" became identified with Israelis. That is not one of the traits they are generally said to be blessed with!

The plant in Modern Hebrew is known both in the singular and plural as "sabres". According to this article by Yoram Meltzer, this suffix comes from Ladino - and we see it in the word burekas as well. In Ladino, the suffix "-es" means plural, but that significance has been lost over the years, and so we hear in Hebrew "burekasim" and "sabresim".

I think I first became familiar with the term "sabra" via the Israeli liqueur. According to this article, in 1963, Edgar Bronfman, the head of Seagrams, felt it was important to have an identifiably Israeli liqueur. Originally, the drink was made from the tzabar fruit. However, this was not successful, so it was changed to the now familiar chocolate-orange.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

almog and coral

[This post is dedicated to the memory of Isaac Meyers, a regular commenter on this site. יהי זכרו ברוך.]

In the previous post, we discussed ahal / aloe. The Yerushalmi (Ketubot end of chapter 7) and Midrash (Bereshit Rabba 15a) identify the aloe tree (agarwood) אלוים - with almugim אלמוגים. This tree appears in Melachim I (10:11) and Divrei HaYamim II (2:7, 9:10) where it is called algom אלגום. It is also variously identified as red sandalwood by Gesenius and others or brazilwood (from where the country Brazil gets its name) by Radak. All of those trees are common to India.

However, in the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh HaShana 23a) it is identified with red coral - the skeleton of a sea animal. This also seems to be the meaning in the Mishna - Kelim 13:8. That is the common usage today.

How did this word come to mean two different things? Which was the first meaning? There are a number of different opinions, many of which use the etymology of the word to help find an answer.

First of all, as Kil points out in the Daat Mikra on Melachim, the Biblical usage cannot be referring to coral, since the almog is described as being used for harps, lyres and ramps - appropriate for wood, not for coral. On the other hand, in Kelim (the Mishna and Tosefta), it mentions that they made beads and rings from almog - which does make sense for coral.

Low identifies the almog with the Akkadian elammakku - a tree mentioned in the Gilgamesh epic. He writes that as building material it was called almog, and when used for incense was called ahal. Kaddari adds that in Ugaritic we find a tree called almg. Greenfield, however, here says that this etymology proves that this was not an Indian tree like the sandalwood, but rather a tree from Lebanon - like the cedar. This works well for the verse in Divrei Hayamim, which has the wood coming from Lebanon, but not for the one from Melachim, where it comes from Ophir, generally identified as India.

A possible solution to this is suggested by the Jewish Encyclopedia:

the simplest solution seems to be that Algum and Almug were originally two different trees—as already suggested by Celsius—which have been confused with one another.
However, most sources say that the letters gimel and mem were simply transposed due to metathesis.

To return to our original question - how due we have one word (or two similar words) for both a kind of tree, and coral?

Stahl writes in Motza HaMilim that a common theory is that both the sandalwood tree and corals share a common reddish color. That, and the tree like shape of the coral (Rashi on Rosh Hashana even calls the coral a "tree"), would seem to indicate that the almog first referred to a tree, and later became identified with coral.

Ben-Yehuda, on the other hand, reverses this theory. He connects the word almog to Latin margarita, Greek margarites and Aramaic marganita מרגניתא meaning "pearl". He suggests the following development:
אלגם, ארגם, ארגן, מרגן

He claims that the tree got its name from having a similar color to the coral. While Ben-Yehuda is in the minority in regards to almog, that does seem to be the case in English: one of the synonyms for the red sandalwood tree is coralwood. In this case certainly coral gave its name to the tree, and not the opposite.

If we're already discussing coral - what is the origin of the English word? The Online Etymology Dictionary provides this etymology:

c.1305, from L. corallium, from Gk. korallion, probably of Sem. origin (cf. Heb. goral "small pebble," Ar. garal "small stone"), originally just the red variety found in the Mediterranean, hence use of the word as a symbol of "red."
Klein writes that the Hebrew goral גורל originally meant "a small stone for casting lots". We find the word used in the Bible in a number of occasions used to determine the outcome of an unclear choice or future - a goral was placed on each of the goats in the Yom Kippur ceremony (Vayikra 16:8) and the Land of Israel was divided among the tribes according to lots (Bamidbar 26:55). (The English word "lot" meaning "plot of land" has the same origin. The word lottery also originally meant "to draw lots". ) From here the word developed into the more general concepts of fate or fortune.

But in perhaps the most famous use of the goral in the Bible, another word was substituted in most of the text. When describing the lot that Haman cast (literally threw the stone), it tells us that pur פור means goral גורל. Pur is an Akkadian word synonymous to goral (not Persian as I mistakenly wrote here. Akkadian was the lingua franca of the Middle East at the time). And of course this is where we get the name of the holiday of Purim.

Happy Purim everyone!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My previous post discussed cinnamon / kinamon - a word dating back to biblical times. In Mishlei 7:17, we find kinamon listed with two other spices:

מֹר אֲהָלִים, וְקִנָּמוֹן

The JPS translates this as "myrrh, aloes and cinnamon". We've already discussed mor / myrrh. Let's take a look now at ahal / aloe.

Just as with myrrh and cinnamon, aloe is said to derive from the Hebrew ahal אהל:

O.E. aluwan (pl.) "fragrant resin of an E. Indian tree," a Biblical usage, from L. aloe, from Gk. aloe, translating Heb. ahalim (pl., perhaps ult. from a Dravidian language). The Gk. word probably was chosen for resemblance of sound to the Heb., since the Gk. and L. words originally referred to a genus of plants with bitter juice, used as a purgative drug, a sense which appeared in Eng. 1398. The word was then mis-applied to the American agave plant in 1682.
However, what exactly were the ahalim (and ahalot)? This seems to be a matter of dispute.

In addition to the verse in Mishlei, we find the word ahal three other times. In Tehilim 45:9, we have מֹר-וַאֲהָלוֹת קְצִיעוֹת - "myrrh and aloes and cassia", and in Shir HaShirim 4:14 there is מֹר, וַאֲהָלוֹת, עִם, כָּל-רָאשֵׁי בְשָׂמִים - "myrrh and aloes - all the choice perfumes." The fact that ahal is grouped together here with mor each time, and that all are talking about fragrant trees, leads to a general consensus that these verses are referring to a certain type of tree.

Klein, in his CEDEL, explains that this is the agarwood tree - also known as lignum aloes (thanks Mike G for the lookup):

aloe, n. -- L. aloe [there is long sign over the "e"], fr. Gk. [unaspirated alpha, lambda, omicron with an acute accent, eta], 'aloe', prob. borrowed fr. Heb. ahalim, ahaloth (pl.), wihc are perhaps borrowed fr. OI. agaruh, aguruh [the "h" has a dot under it in both words], 'aloewood', these latter being prob. of Dravidian origin. Cp. agalloch.

, n. aloewood. -- ModL., agallochum, fr. Gk. agallochon, agalochon [I'm transliterating the Greek here], 'aloe, aloewood', which is prob. a loan word from OI. aguruh [again, a dot under the "h"], 'aloewood'. Cp. eaglewood. Cp. also aloe.

eaglewood, n., agalloch. -- Loan translation of F. bois d'aigle, fr. Port. aguilla, 'aloewood', fr. Gk. agallochon, 'aloe, aloewood'; see agalloch. French bois d'aigle arose from a confusion of Port. aguila, 'aloewood', with Port. aguia, 'eagle'. See eagle.
In Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, and Ethnobotany Jean H. Langenheim writes that the related Indian name "gharu wood" derives from "the Sanskrit word connoting the wood's heaviness". An opposite, but related, opinion is mentioned in this article by Wilfred H. Schoff. However, it discusses the resin instead of the wood:

Why now the name agar or agur by which this Eastern resin is generally known in India? The Sanskrit lexicographers give a+guru, 'not heavy'
The root - whether it gave the name meaning "heavy" or "not heavy" - is also the source of the word "guru":

from Hindi guru "teacher, priest," from Skt. guru-s "one to be honored, teacher," lit. "heavy, weighty," from PIE base *gru- (see grave (adj.))

It's not clear to me if the gelatin like material "agar agar" is related to agar. On the one hand, the origin of the word(s) is Malay, but Malay borrowed many words from Sanskrit, so there could be a connection.

The remaining verse - Bamidbar 24:6 - isn't as clear. Here we have Bilaam blessing Israel:

כַּאֲהָלִים נָטַע ה', כַּאֲרָזִים עֲלֵי-מָיִם

"Like aloes planted by the Lord / Like cedars beside the water".

"Aloe" is a fair translation for ahal here as well. And indeed some point out that the parallel to cedars in the second half of the verse should be a tree as well, and therefore the agarwood tree is appropriate (Feliks here). Others (Immanuel Low, as quoted in Feliks and here) point out that unlike the imported spices mentioned in the other three verses, Bilaam was not likely to find agarwood trees in the steppes of Moav. (Of course those who claim that this verse is also talking about agarwood would point out that cedars were not in that exact area as well. They also don't grow "beside the water", so there is clearly poetic imagery here.)

So if ahal isn't referring to agarwood trees - what other aloes could we be talking about?

We find two other plants (not trees) called ahal. One is what most of us think of as aloe - "aloe vera". It is now spelled in Hebrew אלוי - alvay - and it appears in that spelling in Yerushalmi Shviit 35b. According to Klein, this seems to have been borrowed from Greek or Latin back into Hebrew.

The other is the iceplant - which is what Low (and Kaddari) claim Bilaam is referring to. It is mentioned in the Talmud (Shabbat 50b and 90a, although Rashi and Jastrow on 110b say in that case it means aloe vera), where Steinsaltz points out that it contains a significant amount of soda (the Targum on Iyov 9:30 translates lye - בור bor as אהלא ahala) , and was used for soap. They come up in large numbers after the rains, covering the Arava. So according to this theory, Bilaam was comparing the tents (ohalim אוהלים) of Israel to the ahalim covering the plain.

So how did two (or three) such different plants come to share the same name? In 1922, Schoff (linked above) offered a possible explanation. He rejects the Sanskrit etymology of the word ahal. I have some doubts about that, considering how universal that understanding is today. However, he does mention that:

The word 'aloe' seems to be derived from an Arabic root, lawaya, to bend or twist, and could refer to any product obtained by bending or doubling back a growing branch, or otherwise injuring it whereby an excrescence would be produced charged with accumulated and hardened sap.
This makes sense in regards to the medicinal aloe. So perhaps there were two similar words - one Semitic, one from Sanskrit. Both ended up as ahal (in Hebrew) or aloe (in English - eventually). While I have no concrete proof of this, it would certainly help explain some of the confusion found in both biblical and post-biblical sources - let alone the confusion about "aloe" on the internet today...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


A reader asked what the connection is between the English word "cinnamon" and the Hebrew kinamon (or qinamon) קינמון.

Well, the English word comes from the Greek kinnamomon, which in turn was borrowed from the Hebrew / Phoenician. This etymology is rather old - the famous Greek historian Herodotus mentions it here, in discussing spices from Arabia:

Still more wonderful is the mode in which they collect the cinnamon. Where the wood grows, and what country produces it, they cannot tell- only some, following probability, relate that it comes from the country in which Bacchus was brought up. Great birds, they say, bring the sticks which we Greeks, taking the word from the Phoenicians, call cinnamon, and carry them up into the air to make their nests.
I had assumed that Hebrew and Phoenician were similar enough to simply share the word kinamon. However, Philologos writes that the Phoenicians probably borrowed the word from Hebrew:

The Greeks indeed had no clear idea of what the source of cinnamon was. Herodotus, according to whom the Greek word kinnamomon was borrowed from Phoenician traders, knew only that the latter purchased it from “the Arabians,” who “do not know where it comes from and what country produces it.” In the same breath, however, he then fancifully related that these same “Arabians,” by whom he presumably meant the Nabateans living in what is today Israel’s Negev and southern Jordan, collected the spice from the nests of large carrion-eating birds built of cinnamon bark and mud on “mountain precipices… which no man can climb.”

Phoenician, the West Semitic language of the seafaring peoples living along the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine, was closely related to Hebrew, and since Hebrew kinnamon occurs in the Bible while no parallel Phoenician text has survived, Hebrew is commonly given as the word’s source. Indeed, since cinnamon probably reached the Phoenicians from the Nabateans via a land route crossing Palestine, it is just as likely that the word entered Phoenician from Hebrew as the other way around.
So now the question needs to be asked: Where did the Hebrew word kinamon come from? Klein curtly notes that it is a "word of foreign origin".

One etymology mentioned here, suggests that:

English cinnamon, German Zimt, Lithuanian cinamonas, Belarusian cynamon [цынамон], Serbocroatian cimet [цимет], Yiddish tsimering [צימערינג] and Armenian ginamon [կինամոն] all derive from Latin cinnamomum, which was in turn a loan from Greek kinnamomon [κιννάμωμον]. The Greek had borrowed the word from a Semitic tongue, cf. Old Hebrew kinamom [קנמון] and Aramaic qunimun [ܩܘܢܝܡܘܢ]. However, these words can hardly be native Semitic, and their further origin is not known; it has been suggested that they ultimately stem from early Malaysian language and are thus related to modern Indonesian kayu manis “sweet wood” (although this is a problematic assumption).
The Malaysian origin is supposedly mentioned in the BDB - unfortunately, I no longer have access to that book. Can anyone confirm?

In the article I quoted above, Philologos rejects this theory:

For one thing, cinnamon, which is prepared from the bark of the young branches of an Asiatic tree, seems to have reached the Mediterranean world in ancient times not from Malaysia or Malay-speaking Indonesia but rather from China, in which it was known as kwei, and Sri Lanka, in whose native Singhalese language it is called kurundu. And for another thing, no other Eastern or Central Asian language listed by Katzer has a word resembling either kayu manis or “cinnamon” — which is qurfa in Arabic, darchin in Persian, durusita in Sanskrit, tuj in Gujarati, ilavangam in Tamil, op cheuy in Thai, chek tum phka loeng in Khmer, yuhk gwai in Cantonese, rou gui in Mandarin and so on. Even if the ancient Greeks had gotten their cinnamon from Malay speakers, it would have had to pass through many other hands on its way to them; how, then, would a Malay word for “cinnamon” have reached them without leaving its imprint anywhere else?
That makes sense to me, and in fact, most sources that quote the Malaysian theory go on to reject it.

In the end of the article, Philologos (can I call you Phil?) sticks with his theory that "our English word 'cinnamon' can be etymologically traced back no further than Hebrew kinamon."

However, I think that one of the points he made could actually help us find an earlier source. He mentioned that cinnamon originated in China. Kaddari writes that Loew (Die Flora der Juden II:107) rejects the suggestion that kinamon derived from the root קנה (reed) or קנמ as suggested by Delitzsch (as well as Jastrow and Gesenius.) Instead, he feels that the word refers to China - "Kina" in Hungarian (Wikipedia points out that it is so spelled in many Northern and Eastern European languages - Swedish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Danish, Bosnian, Serbian etc.)

I don't have access to Loew's works and couldn't read them in their original German even if I did. (If anyone out there can do both - please tell me!). But I'm guessing that he was influenced by this article by
W. Desborough Cooley from 1849.

Cooley discusses the Chinese origin of the spice:

But we cannot suppose the Chinese to have been equally heedless of the riches scattered by nature over their hills, or remiss in turning such advantages to account; and indeed there is good reason for presuming that they were the earliest dealers in this spice. The Persian name for cinnamon is Darchini, which signifies Chinese wood; and as this name has been adopted in the languages of India with little or no change, it is evident that the article so called arrived in the latter country by the overland route, or through Persia.
He then goes on to take apart suggested etymologies (some of which we've seen before):

The Hebrew word kinamon is said by some to be derived from the Arabic verb kanima, to have a strong or foul smell - a derivation the flagrant absurdity of which is inconsistent with the fundamental laws of language.


But again, we are told that cinnamomum is derived from the Malayan kashiomanis, which signifies sweet wood. Now, to say nothing of the torture and mutilation necessary to change the latter word into the former, what can be more ridiculous than to seek the derivation of a word used on the shores of the Mediterranean 3000 years ago, in the Malayan, which we know only as a modern language ? Or how did this solitary Malayan term find its may into Phoenicia, without leaving a trace of its passage through India, Persia, or Arabia?


Cinnamomum. cardamomum and costamomum are apparently compound words, denoting so many species of amomum ... With respect to the first syllable of this name, Dr. Vincent supposed it to he derived from keneh (קנה), a cane, pipe, or tube, as if kinamomum signified pipe-amomum. But to this it may be objected, that the name in question, to whatever language it belongs, ought to serve the ends of language, by marking distinctly the object so named, but cinnamon appears to have been brought to market in early times in unpeeled twigs; and if, on the other hand, it were peeled off, then it had the rolled and tubular form in common with
cassia, so that in neither case could it have been appropriately called pipe-amomum.


An ingenious, and by no means unlikely, explanation of the fables in which the origin of cinnamon was involved by the early Greek writers, who relate that it was taken from the nests of birds, which had collected it in unknown regions, is suggested by Bochart. He supposes that the Greeks were deceived by some popular Phoenician etymology playing on the word קנן (kinnen), to build a nest. The fable, in short, originated in a quasi derivation, and proves at once the antiquity of the word, and the foreign origin of its first and disputed element.

And then he offers what he believes to be the most convincing etymology:

The only explanation then of the word cinnamon which does not savour of arbitrary etymological fancies, and which accords strictly with the principles regulating the formation of words, is that which considers it as meaning simply Chinese amomum or spice, and thus differing only by a slight and natural modification from the Persian name darchini, under which the spice in question was probably received by the Hebrews and Phoenicians.

While it might seem far to get from China to the Land of Israel, it should be noted that the word kinamon appears only three times in the Bible. Once (Shmot 30:23), is referring one of the spices in the incense, that was used in the Temple. The other two quotes - Shir HaShirim 4:14 and Mishlei 7:17 - are both from books attributed to Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon), who was certainly known for trading with distant lands...