Sunday, July 02, 2006

moten and matun

A friend of mine recently asked me if there was any connection between the following words:

  1. מותן moten - hip, loin, waist
  2. מתון matun - moderate
  3. המתין himtin- he waited
  4. מתנה matana- gift
First of all, we can safely say that #4 is not related to the first 3. The original form of the word of the word was מנתנה, but the nun dropped out (as we've seen here for example). The root of the word is therefore נתן - not connected to the other three.
As far as #2 and #3, everyone agrees they are related. Klein says the root מתן means "to slow down, act slowly". Matun means he was moderate, patient and himtin means he waited (a sign of patience.) From what I can see there is no difference between להמתין and לחכות - both mean wait, but לחכות is used in the Tanach, and להמתין appears first in Lashon Chazal. In fact, when the verb חכה appears in Iyov 32:4, the Targum translates, and Rashi explains it as being המתין.
So what about moten? Any relation to matun? Klein does not suggest a connection, but Steinberg does. Steinberg says that the root מתן means "was long, was stretched" (Jastrow does as well.) He says this is the source of motnayim מתניים (the word always appears in the plural in the Tanach.) He doesn't exactly explain the connection between "to stretch" and "waist, hips", but I bet many of us could look at our belts and begin to associate...
Steinberg goes further and connects this root with a number of other words beginning with the same two letters. The verb מתח is fairly easy to connect - it means "to spread out, to stretch".
He also connects them to the word matai מתי - which besides meaning "when?" also means "a length of time" (see Yirmiyahu 13:27). He gives a number of additional examples (Habbakuk 2:6, Tehillim 80:5) and says that it is an error to always explain there matai as being part of a question.
Another related word, according to Steinberg is mavet or mot מות - death. He explains the idea of a dead person "lying down, stretched out".
Lastly, he connects the word metim מתים - meaning people, as in ויהי מתיו מספר - (Devarim 33:6) - "and let not his men be few". However, he doesn't explain the connection, so I can't write it here...

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