English Words You Didn't Know Were Really Hebrew

Everyone knows English is a language cobbled together from French, German and Old English, but did you know that Hebrew has also played its part in the development of English? Here are some words you might not know have Hebrew roots:


1. Bedlam - Came to mean craziness or disorder, because of the lunatic asylum at the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London. Bethelem in Hebrew is Beit Lechem בית לחם which became "bedlam" in Cockney English!



2. Vatican - The Pope's citadel in Rome was founded by the elders of the church, who like most early Christians, were Jews. The word for "Elders" in Hebrew is "Vatiikin" ותיקין.



3. Amen אָמֵן - It appears over 30 times in the Jewish bible, and basically means "so be it". Amen is probably derived from the Hebrew word EMUNAH אֱמוּנָה meaning "faith". 



4. Copacetic - Linguists think this may have started out as Kol Beseder הכל בסדר (everything OK), which in Israel is basically all the Hebrew you'll ever need! In fact it is the name of the hit song by Cafe Shachor Chazak which appears in our latest release Mekonen: Journey of an African Jew.



5. Abracadabra -  From Talmudic Aramaic, (which was a  Hebrew based language spoken by the Jews around 2000 years ago) - A’bra (I will create [from nothing]) K’dabra (As I speak). 



6. Saphire - a biblical Hebrew word - G-d's throne is described as shade of blue which the bible calls "sappir".



7. Macabre - Probably from a French phrase  Danse Macabre ‘dance of death,’ which is a  reference to a play about the slaughter of the Maccabees (Hebrew word of course). Some say it comes from M'Hakever - Hebrew for Beyond the grave.



8. Camel - What would a Birthright trip be without humpday? Camel in Hebrew is "Gamal". 



9. Bath in Hebrew is a liquid measure of around 10 gallons. Not much of a stretch to see how that became used for bath tubs.



10. Leviathan, which means  sea monster in English, is virtually unchanged from "Leviaton" in Genesis's creation story, where it refers to giant sea creatures.


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Tags: Judaism, Hebrew, language