Friday, January 25, 2008


Well, we have a winner for Kri and Ktiv Game 6! Congratulations to Isaac M on his solution: כביש.

However, I have to admit a mistake I made in the comments. I wrote that:

neither word is particularly "modern" Hebrew...
I just figured that kvish, "road", was so familiar and common that it couldn't be of modern coinage. But once again, my initial assumption was wrong.

Klein provides the following etymology:

paved road [Coined by the author and historian Zeev Jawitz 1848-1924, from כבש]
I don't know if there was any debate about the adoption of this word; Ben-Yehuda doesn't include it in his dictionary.**

From the root כבש - "to tread down, subdue, press" we get a number of words:

  • כיבוש - kibush: conquest, capture
  • כבוש - kavush: pickled
  • כבש - kevesh: ramp (in Divrei HaYamim II 9:18 it is more of a footstool)
  • כבשן - kivshan: furnace - Klein says it means "literally 'that which subdues' (metals)"
There is also an opinion that the slang phrase "put the kibosh on" comes from this root, via Yiddish; however others disagree.

A closely related root to כבש is כבס - "to wash clothes", since laundry was done by beating and wringing the clothes. Klein also points out that the roots כפש (to press down) and גבש (to consolidate) may be related.

Almagor-Ramon in Rega Shel Ivrit writes that it's important to pronounce the word for ramp as kevesh, and not keves - which means "lamb". And in fact, Ben-Yehuda, Klein and Kaddari make no connection between the two homographs.

However, Steinberg writes that sheep are known for their trampling, as in Yeshayahu 7:25 - וּלְמִרְמַס שֶׂה - "...and sheep shall tramp about". He goes on to write that "the authors of the dictionaries have strayed from the straight path in their explanation of this word" - i.e. they don't connect kevesh and keves.

I'm not sure exactly which dictionary that preceded him is the object of his criticism. Gesenius connects the two terms by saying that the lamb at that age is "fit for coupling" (i.e. to be subdued). The BDB hints to a connection by mentioning "battering-ram". And Jastrow connects them by saying that the lamb was "thick, strong" (which I guess is often a result of pressure.)

In any case, perhaps Steinberg would have some comfort from an entry in a more recent dictionary. Botterweck and Ringgren discuss this term in their Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (page 43):

Hebrew kebes is related to the common Semitic verb kbs, "overthrow", and kbs, "roll", derived from Akkadian kabasu, "tread (down)". The semantics of kabsu may be explained by the early use of sheep to tread seed into the ground or to tread out grain on the threshing floor; this etymology is supported by the Egyptian parallels sh and sht.
So while כבש might be a good solution for a game of Kri and Ktiv, I wouldn't be able to say with certainty that they aren't related...


** Update: I now found that Ben Yehuda does mention כביש in his dictionary. He punctuates it as kavish (with a kamatz) and says that it is used in the press and in popular speech meaning "a paved road, made from gravel and earth pressed together." He says that an earlier source for this word is kvisha כבישה - as found in the Aruch's version of Mikvaot 8:1 - where it means a "side path" (according to Jastrow.)

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