Sunday, October 16, 2011


One of the strange sounding words from Sukkot is koshiklach קוישיקלך (or sometimes spelled koishelach קוישלך). It refers to the woven holders used to bind the lulav to the hadasim and aravot. But what is the etymology?

Let's start by taking off the suffixes and then we'll see what's left. The Yiddish suffix -ach indicates a plural, as in rogelach or kinderlach. So removing the -ach leaves us with koishekil (or koshikel)- and "-il" is a diminutive suffix. So koishiklach is the plural of "little koishik". But what's a koishik?

While much of Yiddish comes from German and Hebrew, there's a significant amount that comes from the Slavic languages, and this is where we find the meaning of koishik - "basket". For example, basket in Polish is "koszyk" and in Czech and Slovak - "košík" or "koš". In fact, the Yiddish translation for basketball is koyshbol.

Are there any cognates to these words in English? I think so. The Online Etymology Dictionary provides the following etymology for "chest":

O.E. cest "box, coffer," from P.Gmc. *kista (cf. O.N., O.H.G. kista, O.Fris., M.Du., Ger. kiste, Du. kist), an early borrowing from L. cista "chest, box," from Gk. kiste "a box, basket," from PIE *kista "woven container."

This seems to me likely to be the origin of kos(ik) as being a basket in the Slavic languages as well.

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