[b-hebrew] HEBREW HOMONYMS was Lexical question

Ishinan ishinan at comcast.net
Fri Jul 31 19:55:01 EDT 2009

Vadim Cherny wrote:

The thing is, Hebrew lacks homonyms. What you see as homonyms are actually related meanings. As Karl saw for himself, finding the common meaning requires some study but it is always there. This is a function of root cells. I take Steinberg's  dictionary 
(*) for a fine example of such search.

Ishinan's response: 

In the Supplements to the Vetus Testamentum series which cover the whole range of Old Testament study, is a pertinent article which I recommend reading.  It is entitled: Hebrew Homonyms by G. R. Driver, p. 50. 

A preview of the article can be reviewed at:



I would also consult the following Hebrew scholars, who wrote extensively on the topic of Hebrew homonyms:

AARON BEN MOSES BEN ASHER who compiled a list of eighty homonyms, "Shemonim Zugim," which was afterward incorporated in the "Masora Finalis," s.v. א, and in the "Oklah we-Oklah" (). Aaron ben Moses may be regarded as the connecting link between the Masorites and the grammarians.

DAPIERA, SOLOMON BEN MESHULLAM (Neo-Hebraic poet of North Spain; died after 1417) compiled a comprehensive dictionary of rimes in three parts, two of which dealt with homonyms and synonyms 

IBN BAL'AM, ABU ZAKARYA YAḤYA (R. JUDAH)  (Hebrew grammarian of Toledo, Spain, about 1070-90.) 
 "Ta'lif fi al-Muṭabiḳ wal-Mujanis" (in Hebrew, "Sefer ha-Tagnis"), on Hebrew homonyms, still unpublished. Only a fragment of the original Arabic has been preserved (see Poznanski in "R. E. J." xxxvi. 298). 

HEILPRIN, JEHIEL BEN SOLOMON: (Lithuanian rabbi, cabalist, and chronicler; born about 1660; died at Minsk about 1746). Of Heilprin's numerous works, mentioned in the "Seder ha-Dorot," the only one which has been published is "'Erke ha-Kinnuyim," a dictionary of synonyms and homonyms occurring in the Bible, Talmud, and other works, chiefly cabalistic (Dyhernfurth, 1806).

MOSES BEN MAIMON  (Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician; born at Cordova March 30, 1135; died at Cairo Dec. 13, 1204; known in Arabic literature as Abu 'Imran Musa ben Maimun ibn 'Abd Allah) . He devoted much of the first part of the "Moreh Nebukim" to the interpretation of the Biblical anthropomorphisms, endeavoring to define the meaning of each and to identify it with some transcendental metaphysical expression. Some of them are explained by him as perfect homonyms, denoting two or more absolutely distinct things; others, as imperfect homonyms, employed in some instances figuratively and in others homonymously.




HADASSI, JUDAH BEN ELIJAH HAABEL:(Karaite scholar, controversialist, and liturgist; flourished at Constantinople in the middle of the twelfth century).  Hadassi mentions a previously written work of his entitled "Sefer Teren bi-Teren," a collection of homonyms which, he says, was an addition to the eighty pairs of Ben Asher (alphabets 163 ב, 168 ס, 173 נ). 

IBN EZRA, MOSES BEN JACOB HA-SALLAḤ (ABU HARUN MUSA): (Spanish philosopher, linguist, and poet; born at Granada about 1070; died after 1138; His "Tarshish" is accompanied by a commentary explaining the signification of the homonyms used.

JUDAH IBN BALAAM. wrote on the accents of the first three books of the Hagiographa, on homonyms ("Kitab al-Tajnis"), and several smaller treatises  Mention should be made here of the following works pertaining to the subject, and written in Arabic by Spanish Jews of the eleventh and twelfth centuries:  Abu Ibrahim ibn Barun's monograph "Kitab al-Muwazanah," on the relation of Hebrew to Arabic (edited, as far as extant, by Kokowzoff, St. Petersburg, 1894); "Kitab al-Kamil" (in Hebrew "Sefer ha-Shalem"), including a grammar and lexicon, by Jacob b. Eleazar of Toledo, known only through extracts.

HILLEL I.  on Gezerah shawah: Argument from analogy. of Biblical passages containing synonyms or homonyms .
as the chief guides for the interpretation of the Scriptures and for the deduction of laws from them (Tosef., Sanh. vii.; the introduction to the Sifra, ed. Weiss, p. 3a, end; Ab. R. N. xxxvii.).


            Best regards,

            Ishinan B. Ishibashi


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list