Tuesday, March 15, 2022


Several years ago, I wrote about the root gazar גזר - "to cut". After pointing out that it's not related to gezer גֶּזֶר - "carrot", I pointed out a number of Hebrew and Arabic words that likely derive from the root and its cognates.

Well, I recently discovered another word that may have גזר as its etymology: gizzard.

Admittedly, the Online Etymology Dictionary doesn't offer a Semitic origin:

"stomach of a bird," late 14c., from Old French gisier "entrails, giblets (of a bird)" (13c., Modern French gésier), probably from Vulgar Latin *gicerium, a dissimilation of Latin gigeria (neuter plural) "cooked entrails of a fowl," a delicacy in ancient Rome, from PIE *yekwr- "liver" (see hepatitis). The unetymological -d was added 1500s (perhaps on analogy of -ard words). 

However, Klein, in his CEDEL entry, does offer one. He also writes that the English derives from the French, but from there offers a different Latin one:

From Latin gizeria, 'cooked entrails of poultry', which is probably a Punic-Phoenician-Hebrew loan word. Compare Hebrew gezarim, construct state gizrei, 'pieces of sacrificed animals', plural of gezer, 'anything cut, a piece,' from the stem of gazar, 'he cut, divided'.

I assume that Klein's inspiration for gezarim being "pieces of sacrificed animals" comes from the story of the Covenant of the Pieces, where God tells Abraham to sacrifice a number of animals, and then after Abraham prophesized,

וַיְהִי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בָּאָה וַעֲלָטָה הָיָה וְהִנֵּה תַנּוּר עָשָׁן וְלַפִּיד אֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר עָבַר בֵּין הַגְּזָרִים הָאֵלֶּה׃ 

When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces [ha-gezarim]. (Bereshit 15:17)

That is the only mention of gezer indicating a sacrifice in the Bible.

You may have noticed that Etymonline has the Latin gigeria, and Klein has gizeria. That is also addressed in his CEDEL:

In Latin, gigeria, a collateral from of gizeria, z has been assimilated to the preceding g.

From searching through Google Books (see here, here, and here), it seems that it's not clear which word Latin used - gigeria or gizeria - so that may have added to the confusion over the etymology.

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