A few months ago, we discussed the root peleg פלג. I noted the following:
The cognate פלג provides even more words. As with פלח, the root means "cleave, split, divide." Here are a sample of some of the words deriving from that root:
- פִּלֵּג pileg - "to divide, separate"
- הִפְלִיג hiflig - "to depart (by ship), to set sail"
Looking back, I don't think I gave enough attention to the form hiflig, and I didn't even mention the passive form - muflag מופלג. Let's look at them now.
Unlike pileg, these forms only appear in post-Biblical Hebrew. Klein provides a few different meanings:
Hiph. - הִפֽלִיג 1 he separated (orig. ‘he divided’); 2 he went off (lit.: ‘he separated himself’); for sense development cp. Fren. partir (= to divide, separate), se partir (= to separate oneself, depart, leave); 3 he set sail; 4 he turned aside, diverted, put off; 5 he removed; 6 he exaggerated (lit. prob. meaning ‘he went too far’).
— Hoph. - הֻפֽלַג 1 was diverted; 2 was removed.
For muflag he offers a few more:
PBH 1 distant, remote. PBH 2 distinguished, excellent. NH 3 exaggerated.
However, there are many more meanings found in Talmudic and Rabbinic Hebrew. Jastrow lists the following (see the link for citations) for hiflig:
- to part, go away
- to go to sea
- to rest from work, to pause
- to divert, put off; to discard
- to reject, disregard, discard
- to decline from the road
- to withdraw one's self, to be reserved, speak in indefinite and general terms
- to differ
- to go too far
- to put off with fair words
- to put aside
- to separate oneself
- to branch off, to step aside
- to not mind, to not pay attention
- to go astray
- to go far
What I find remarkable, is that with the root having so many meanings and connotations over the centuries, in modern Hebrew very few are still in use.
to depart (by ship, boat); to sail; to exaggerate
sailed, sail, sailing, shipped out, proceeded, departed
If we add the word שבח shevach - "praise" - to the phrase, then we find examples both in Medieval Hebrew and in Modern Hebrew of הפליג בשבח meaning "lavish praise (on someone/something)." Those examples don't imply exaggeration.
Regarding muflag, we see a similar phenomenon. Looking at the definition found in the various dictionaries, you might think that the common meaning was "exaggerated." That's particularly true if you consider some of the negative connotations of hiflig cited, like "to go astray", "to reject', and in particular, "to go too far", which Klein suggested was the origin of the meaning "exaggerated".
But again, that's not really what we see in common use. Morfix does suggest "exaggerated", but the meanings listed are "grand" and "exalted". Reverso doesn't have "exaggerated" at all, instead offering:
superlative, ripe old, old age, great age, overdrive, superlatively, superfluous
I do recognize that "superfluous" isn't so far from "exaggerated", but I think the latter implies more conscious intent. A common use of muflag today is in the phrase gil muflag גיל מופלג (as seen in some of Reverso's suggestion), referring to someone very old. So I think good translations of muflag could be "exceeding(ly great)" or "excessive", depending on the context. Sometimes it would reflect the earlier sense of "to go far" and other times "to go too far."