After logging on tonight I noticed my last post – about the most common words in the Hebrew Old Testament – was untitled. We will let that anomaly remain unedited. Today we will finish with the 6-10th most common words in the Hebrew scriptures. I would have posted yesterday but I left the flashcards which inspired this in my office. So…
6) Min – from or out of – is the 6th most common word in the Hebrew OT and appears 7, 592 times. In Semitic languages the words for from and who are pretty much the same with usually just the verb – which is flexible in Semitic languages – changing. In Arabic min means from and men means who – in Hebrew we have min as from and mi-, with the weak n sound dropped, as who. Young scholar Gabrielle Russo suggests that the sameness of the words comes from the fact that in ancient Near East society your identity was so tied into the area from where your family originated.
7) ‘al – on or upon – clocks in at number 7 with 5, 777 occurrences. This otherwise unexciting preposition lives on in the name of the Biblical priest Eli as well as the common Islamic name Ali, meaning elevated. All of these words begin not with an a sound but with the voiced pharyngeal fricative ‘ayin, a consonant that is very difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce.
8) Appearing 5,518 times is the preposition el, which means to or toward and is clearly a variant of le which we examined above.
9) ‘ashar appears 5,503 times and is an indeclinable relative pronoun. There may be a connection with the word for happy, which shares the same tri-consonantal root, but again that is for another article.
10) Rounding out our top 10 occurring Hebrew words is kol, which means all or every and is common in Semitic languages. If you come to liturgy at Sts. Anargyroi you will hear it during the Great Entrance, when after the Greek and before the English I proclaim “‘al ‘ana wa kulla ‘awanin” – literally now and all nows, meaning forever.