Monday, December 26, 2016


I found an old note of mine that said I should write about the word achsania - the Hebrew word for "hostel." Since the note was written in English, I initially assumed that the word was spelt with a chet, and was therefore cognate with the word machsan מחסן - "storeroom", and I could see a connection regarding storing things or people.

But when I started looking in my dictionaries, I discovered that the word is actually spelled with a khaf - אכסניה (or אכסניא). Klein writes that the word originally meant "hospitality", then "lodging", and derives from the Greek xenia, meaning hospitality. Xenia is related to xenos, "stranger, guest", and is the root of the English word "xenophobia", meaning "fear of strangers." Both come from the root xeno-, "strange, foreign", and ultimately may be cognate with the Latin word meaning guest - hostis. If this is the case, it would lead to a connection between achsania and usphizin אושפיזין, as we discussed here.

Achsania earlier had the sense of "inn", which is generally more rural than an urban hotel. Today the word for inn is pundak פונדק, although tzimmer צימר is used for specifically rural guest houses. Hotel is malon מלון, and therefore the less expensive option, hostel in English, found its place in achsania. As far as I know, there's no specific Hebrew word for "motel"...

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