Perhaps my favorite one is Name Explain by Patrick Foote. His charming British accent, subtle sense of humor and genuine curiosity about the etymology of words makes each video a pleasure to watch.
Recently, I watched his video on "The Names of Iberia Explained":
Even though I've written about some of the words he discussed before, he caused me to think about them from a new perspective, and suggested some new ones that I had not heard previously.
I wrote about Sefarad ספרד - the Hebrew name for Spain - back in 2006, when I just started Balashon. It's an interesting place to write about in regards to Hebrew etymology, because it was settled at one point by the Phoenicians, and then centuries later by the Arabs, both of whom spoke languages cognate to Hebrew, and those cognates are reflected in many place names.
In that post, I wrote:
According to a theory in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Phoenicians gave the name to Gibraltar's neighbor Spain (Hispania) as well. One theory claims that the name derives from tsepan - rabbit or hyrax (in Hebrew shafan שפן) and so another name could be "The Land of Rabbits".
I should have been more careful, and pointed out, as Rabbi Natan Slifkin famously does here, that in ancient Hebrew the shafan is only a hyrax, not a rabbit. (In fact, according to Slifkin in his book, The Camel, the Hare and the Hyrax, there were no rabbits in biblical Israel. The word commonly used today for rabbit - arnav ארנב, which in the Bible only appears in the female, arnevet ארנבת - refers to a hare, which is distinct from a rabbit.)
Name Explain was aware of this distinction, and therefore said of the origin of Hispania:
this name apparently comes from the Phoenicians who, when they came to the land noticed the rabbits that were living there. The rabbits reminded the Phoenicians of the hyraxes they have in their homeland and also the Phoenicians would have to sail there, so without knowing any better they thought the rabbit filled land was an island. So they went with the name Hispania, which means Isle of Hyraxes despite the fact it wasn't an island and it wasn't full of hyraxes.
And so in addition to properly explaining how a land of rabbits was named for hyraxes, he also implied that the "Hi" in Hispania is cognate with the Hebrew אי - "island."
In my original post, I discussed the etymology of Gibraltar:
the name comes from the Arabic Jebel el Tarik "the Mountain of Tarik." Jebel derives from the Semitic root גבל - the same as the Hebrew word גבול gvul - meaning border.In a later post, I expanded on the word gvul, and showed how it was likely the origin of the name of the town Byblos, which eventually gave us the word "bible."
In his video, Name Explain presented a theory that I hadn't heard before, that the word gibberish derives from Gibraltar. He quotes from this site in the show notes, which writes:
Others believe it comes from the island of Gibraltar, where residents speak an interesting mix of English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi and Arabic. Nonresidents often believe the natives are simply speaking… well… gibberish!At first glance, that seemed a bit far-fetched, and the alternate explanation, that it came from the word "jabber", seemed more likely. But this detailed study indicates that the Gibraltar explanation might very well be valid.
One word I did not address in my post was the town of Ibiza. Name Explain quoted a source that said it comes from the Arabic yabisa meaning "dry land", which is cognate with the Hebrew yabasha יבשה of the same meaning, which in turn comes from the root yavesh יבש - "dry."
He also discusses the origin of the capital, Madrid. Its etymology is unclear, but he does provide one theory which gives it an Arabic origin:
Others say the Moors named the city in the 8th century. Apparently, the River Manzanares was called ‘al-Magrit’, which means water source in Arabic. The surrounding area was then called Mayrit, which comes from the Arabic term Mayra (meaning water or giver of life), which later changed to Magerit, which means ‘place of water’ in Arabic. The name then evolved to Matrit and then eventually, Madrid. This may be the most likely theory, as the name Matrit is still found as a Spanish gentilic.
That theory is further discussed in this forum, where one poster says that it may derive from an Arabic word meaning "water, stream", which comes from the root jara, meaning "to flow" (as well as "to run.")
Klein writes that the Hebrew word ger גר - "foreigner, stranger" has the Arabic cognate jara - "he went astray from." Seems to me that could be the same jara as "to run" or "to flow". So if all that is true, then the name Madrid has a Hebrew cognate as well.
So from one lover of etymology to another, thanks Patrick!