Monday, January 04, 2021

etzel, atzil and asli

According to Klein, the Hebrew preposition etzel אצל means "by the side of, beside, near." Milon Morfix (a more recent resource) offers "at; in the possession of; for; (literary) near, close to."  As this article by the Hebrew Language Academy points out, the word is found in Biblical sources, with additional meanings added in the Talmudic and Medieval periods. Today, according to the article, the main usage is to describe something in the area or possession of a person. 

So if you were to say that a meeting was in Esther's house, you'd say it was babayit shel Ester בבית של אסתר. But if you wanted to say the meeting was "by Esther", you'd say it was etsel Ester אצל אסתר.

Klein says that etzel actually means "side," deriving from the root אצל meaning "lay aside, set apart, reserve, emanate." That root is used today in the hifil form he'etzil האציל - "to delegate" as in the phrase ha'atzal samchuyot האצלת סמכויות - "delegation of authority."

Klein further connects the root to a Semitic root meaning "root, origin, source." The Hebrew word atzil - אציל - "nobleman, aristocrat" derives from here, originally meaning "firmly rooted." Another meaning of atzil - not frequently used in Modern Hebrew - is "joint (of the arm, elbow)", also related to the sense of "side."

Arabic also has cognates, which include 'asil - "of noble origin", coming from asl - "root, origin." This gives us the word asli, which in Arabic means "original." It has been borrowed into Israeli slang with the sense of genuine or authentic, and is often found describing food products.

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