Hebrew is cool. It’s a Semitic language, and it works very differently from English.
Most words in Hebrew grow from a three-letter ROOT. The root expresses a general idea, a family of possible words with three basic consonants. We add vowels, endings, and prefixes to make the variations on the theme.
For instance, K-D-Sh (Kuf, Dalet, Shin) is a root whose general idea is “holy.” With appropriate vowels, etc we get:
Kaddish – (kah-DEESH or KAH-dish)* The prayer mourners say, which also divides the service into sections.
Kiddush – (Kee-DOOSH or KID-ish) The blessing-toast for Shabbat and holidays, or a meal that begins with that blessing.
Kodesh – (KOH-desh) – (adj.) Holy
Kiddushin – (kee-doosh-EEN) – Jewish marriage, in which each partner is sacred to and set apart for the other.
Can you think of any other words in this family that you’ve heard around synagogue?
Are there any other Hebrew words you’ve heard that sound like each other and confuse you?
*Some words have two pronunciations listed. The first is the modern Israeli pronunciation, and the second is the Ashkenazi pronunciation, which sometimes pops up in American English. Both are correct.
Also, in the illustration above, remember that English reads left-to-right but Hebrew reads right-to-left. The Shin is the letter on your left.
- Hebrew, Greek, Sanskrit and the Arabic Alphabet (hannahjodesign.wordpress.com)