Friday, February 20, 2009


After discussing shaked and botnim, I thought it made sense to talk about the other biblical nut - the egoz אגוז. Like botnim, it only appears once in the Tanach, in Shir HaShirim 6:11 -

אֶל-גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי

This is generally translated as "I went down to the nut grove" but occasionally as "I went down to the walnut grove". And indeed, egoz can mean either "nut", or the more specific "walnut".

Like some of the other words we've looked at in Shir HaShirim, it is apparently of foreign origin. Klein writes:

Compare Aramaic אגוזא, אמגוזא, Arabic jauz, Ethiopian gauz. These words are probably borrowed from Persian gauz.
Even-Shoshan also adds the Armenian engoiz. There is also apparently a Ugaritic word 'rgz, which some scholars think may be related. This would make a Persian origin less likely.

In order to distinguish the walnut from other egozim (nuts), Modern Hebrew has two specific terms: egoz hamelech אגוז המלך - "the king's nut". This term has ancient origins - the Greeks called the walnut "basilicon", meaning "royal nut" (basileus meaning "king"); the species name is the Latin Juglans regia, of the same meaning.

It is also popularly called egoz moach אגוז מוח - "brain nut", due to the similarity between a walnut:

And the hemispheres of a brain:

(I don't think it has anything to do with the quote I've heard since I was a kid about the dinosaur Stegosaurus having a brain the size of a walnut.)

Other nuts also have egoz in their name:

  • coconut - אגוז הודו egoz hodu ("Indian nut"), אגוז קוקוס egoz kokus
  • pecan - אגוז פיקן egoz pecan
  • pine nut - אגוז צנובר egoz tsnobar
  • nux vomica - אגוז הקיא egoz haki
  • hazelnut - אגוז לוז egoz luz, אגוז אלסר egoz ilsar
  • brazil nut - אגוז ברזיל egoz brazil
I've seen that people mistakenly think that just egoz means "hazelnut" instead of "walnut". I have a feeling that this comes from the Israeli candy Egozi - a chocolate bar with a hazelnut filling.

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