Tuesday, August 01, 2006


In the book of Eicha we find the following description of the time of the destruction of Jerusalem:

נָעוּ עִוְרִים בַּחוּצוֹת, נְגֹאֲלוּ בַּדָּם

"They wandered blindly through the streets, defiled with blood" (4:14)

What is the origin of the word iver עיוור - "blind"? The BDB connects iver with or עור - skin, "whence blindness as cataract", or as here "through the idea of a film over the eyes".

Klein does not provide an etymology per se, but provides the cognates in other Semitic languages:

Aram. עויר, Syr. עויר (=blind), עור (= he blinded), Arab. 'awira (=was one-eyed), Ethiop. 'ora (= was blind), 'ewur (= blind), Akka. turtu (=blindness).

From the Arabic 'awira (or awar) we get a very common English word. Mike Gerver writes (and see also here):

Hebrew עור, “blind,” is from the same Semitic root as Arabic awar, “one-eyed,” hence “damaged.” The Arabic word is the source, via French, of the English word average, which originally referred to the tariff that had to be paid on imported goods, taking into the account the average fraction of goods that would be expected to be damaged.

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