Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ketev and kotev

In the Bible, we find the word ketev קטב meaning "destruction, plague". It appears in this form in Devarim 32:24, Tehilim 91:6, and Yeshaya 28:2. In Hoshea 13:14 there is a different vocalization - it appears as kotev. In Talmudic Hebrew and later, ketev is also the name of a demon.

A homonym is kotev meaning "axis, pole". This usage began in the Middle Ages. For example, Ibn Tibbon uses it in his Hebrew translation of the Arabic Guide of the Perplexed by Maimonides.

Is there any connection between the two words?

Regarding ketev, Klein follows the Ben Yehuda dictionary and provides the following etymology:

Related to Aramaic קטב (=he cut), Arabic qataba (= he cut off), qutbah (=arrow).

And as is mentioned in the Ben Yehuda dictionary, a connection between arrows and ketev as destruction can be found in the chapter of Tehilim (91:5-6) where ketev is mentioned:

You need not fear the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in the darkness, or the scourge (ketev) that ravages at noon.

Other Hebrew roots beginning with the letters קט that mean "cut" include קטם,  קטע, קטם, קטף, as well as the related words beginning with קצ (as we discussed here).

Kotev meaning "axis, pole", derives directly from the Arabic qutb, of the same meaning. Klein does not connect qutb - "axis" and qutbah - "arrow", and Ben Yehuda's comment suggests a possible connection but does not elaborate. I could imagine that the straightness of an arrow could lead to a connection with poles or a straight line like an axis. However, I haven't found confirmation of that. Perhaps one of you readers has a source that can help?

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