We've previously discussed the Hebrew word שקד shaked, meaning "almond." But what about the etymology of the word "almond" itself?
The Online Etymology Dictionary provides the following origin:
kernel of the fruit of the almond tree, c. 1300, from Old French almande, amande, earlier alemondle "almond," from Vulgar Latin *amendla, *amandula, from Latin amygdala (plural), from Greek amygdalos "an almond tree," a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Semitic. Late Old English had amygdales "almonds."
part of the brain, from Latin amygdalum "almond" (which the brain parts resemble), from Greek amygdale "almond" (see almond). English also had amygdales "the tonsils" (early 15c.), from a secondary sense of the Latin word in Medieval Latin, a translation of Arabic al-lauzatani "the two tonsils," literally "the two almonds," so called by Arabic physicians for fancied resemblance.
The connection between almonds and tonsils exists in Hebrew as well - shaked can refer to both.
However, I'd like to return to the mention above that the Greek amygdalos may be "perhaps from Semitic." In Klein's CEDEL, he expands on this idea. In his entry for "almond" he writes:
…according to H. Lewy, Die semitischen Fremdwörter im Griechischen, pp. 25-26, [amygdalos] is borrowed from Hebrew meghedh El, 'divine fruit'.
The Hebrew word referred to here, meged מגד, is not a very common one in the Bible, only appearing eight times. However, those familiar with the Torah reading for Simchat Torah will certainly recognize it, as it repeats five times during Moshe's blessing of the tribes of Yosef (Devarim 33:13-16) . The word is variously translated as "sweetness," "best", or "bounty." Some say it means "blessing", particularly when comparing the parallel blessing Yaakov gave Yosef in Bereshit 49:25.
Klein's etymology for meged is not much more precise:
מֶֽגֶד m.n. choice of things, excellence. [Related to Aram. מִגְדָּא (= fruit, something precious), Syr. מַגְדָּא (= fruit), Arab. majd (= glory, honor).]
In any case, based on all the biblical appearances of the word, it always refers to good crops or fruits, and so the possibility that it eventually was borrowed by the Greeks for their word for the fruit of the prized almond tree should not be dismissed.
Klein mentioned the Arabic cognate, majd. That Arabic word is found in a number of names of people and places, One such place, familiar to Israelis, is the Arab town of Majd al-Krum in the Galilee. While the English Wikipedia page says that the name translates to "watch-house of the vineyard" (perhaps cognate with the Hebrew migdal מגדל - "tower"), the Hebrew entry translates the name as "glory of the vineyards", which makes it cognate with meged.
Yet there is another town in northern Israel, even more well known, which may derive from meged as well. This is the Biblical city of Megiddo מגידו. Megiddo appears 12 times in the Bible, once (Zecharia 12:11) as Megidon. While its etymology is debated, the Encyclopedia Mikrait suggests that it may come from meged due to the produce grown there.
The mountain of Megiddo was known in Hebrew as har Megido הר מגידו (or perhaps har Megidon), and this led to another familiar word in English - Armageddon:
"cataclysmic final conflict," 1811, figurative use of the place-name in Revelation xvi.16, site of the great and final conflict, from Hebrew Har Megiddon "Mount of Megiddo"
Today many are concerned about the environmental impact of almond growing. Let's hope that instead of leading to an armageddon, they continue to be the divine fruit of blessing that we've enjoyed for millennia.