Etymology of the name Gaza

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by origumi, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. origumi Senior Member

    Does anyone know what's the etymology of the name Gaza? Many sources claim something like:

    The name "Gaza," from the Arabic Ġazza, originally derives from the Canaanite/Hebrew root for "strong" (ʕZZ), and was introduced to Arabic by way of the Hebrew, ʕazzā, i.e. "the strong one (f.)";


    The ancient Egyptians called it Gazzat ("prized city").

    See also some interesting comments at, among them:

    Some sources derive the town's Hebrew name, `Azzah, from the root `zz "be strong". However, this is a folk etymology.

  2. Talib Senior Member

    I don't see how it can be from the root ʕ-z-z as in عزيز. The Hebrew spelling עזה is because Hebrew originally had the sound of Arabic غ ghayin, but merged it with ع/ע 'ayin. Arabic of course kept the two sounds distinct which is why it's spelled غزة in Arabic. If it were originally from Hebrew, wouldn't it rather be spelled عزة?

    Does anyone know if there's a Arabic root like gh-z-z? That could be the clue we need.
  3. origumi Senior Member

    Biblical Hebrew has only one ע. The distinction between 'a and gh existed in proto-Semitic but apparently disappeared in biblical Hebrew (no later than around 1600 bc, the days of Abraham?)

    The name Gaza is very old - possibly before 'a and gh merged in Canaanite dialects.

    Souag lists the follolwing forms:

    * Hieroglyphic: q3d3ti, g3d3y, g3d3tw (says Wallis Budge);
    * Akkadian (Tell el-Amarna): Az-za-ti;
    * Akkadian (Assyrian): Kha-az-zu-tu;
    * Biblical Hebrew: `azzah;
    * Greek (Herodotus): Cadytis (probably Gaza, but some dispute)
    * Greek (Septuagint): Gaza (Γάζα)
    * Latin (Pliny): Gaza

    And supports the idea that Gaza is related to gh-z-z, not 'a-z-z. However, he mixes the issues of different pronounciation and different radical meaning. He also takes the Arabic pronounciation of Gaza as proof. But he uses questionable facts about Herodotus, the name Cadytis, and the dating of Arab presence in Gaza. Also, early-times-northern-Arabs may have spoken Aramaic or Aramaic-Arabic dialect (see the Nabataeans) while the name Gaza could have been adopted when Arabs "re-discovered" it much later.

    Well... I join Talib's question about gh-z-z in Arabic / Aramaic.
  4. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    There is indeed a root for gh-z-z; but it means "to prick, to twinge", you'd youse it for, as an example, the act of putting the needle through a cloth, or a stick/twig in the ground. Somehow, I don't think it's relevent.
  5. thelastchoice Senior Member

    Arabic S.A.
    I believe the Greek "Καδύτιος" Cadytis is a greek form of the Arabic Name of Jerusalem which is "AlQuds". AlQuds means the "Holy" in Arabic and it is closely related to the word related to holiness in its sister languages such as Akkadian quddusu, Hebrew qados, South Arabian qds, Aramaic qaddes. I used "S" for both S and SH sounds as I do not know how to type IPA characters.
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The designation of Jerusalem as al-Quds is relatively modern. In classical Arabic texts it is called Baytu l-Maqdis (house of the sanctuary/temple). And Herodotus is more than a thousand years earlier these texts. Besides: why should the s/š of q-d-s1 change to t in Kadytis?
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Herodotus was quite inventive in Hellenizing foreign names. E.g. he called Pharao Menkaure Mykerinos.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  8. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    How modern?

    Also even in Hebrew it is referred to as Ir ha-Kodesh which is pretty much cognate to al-Quds. Also keep in mind al-Quds & bayt al-Maqdis are based on the same root anyway.
  9. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Not sure if you're still of this opinion, but evidence suggests 'gh' survived in Hebrew until much later than 1600 B.C.E.
  10. origumi Senior Member

    Wow, this thread is almost as old as the issue being discussed :D. Sure, gh was lost only in writing, apparently because the dialect of those who invented the Canaanite alphabet developed much faster than Hebrew.
  11. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Too modern to be of any relevance to Herodotus.

    But what is actually wrong with Kadytis being Gaza (Khazzutu)?
  12. thelastchoice Senior Member

    Arabic S.A.
    Cadytis was mentioned twice. Also Herodotus said:
    "Now by this way only is there a known entrance toEgypt: for from Phenicia to the borders of the city of Cadytis belongs to the Syrians who are called of Palestine,and from Cadytis, which is a city I suppose not much less than Sardis, from this city the trading stations on the sea-coast as far as the city of Ienysos belong to the king of Arabia, and then from Ienysos again the country belongs tothe Syrians as far as the Serbonian lake, along the side of which Mount Casion extends towards the Sea. "

    The above quote implied that Cadytis is not on sea cost as it is the case with Ghaza but near the coast!!!.

    Also, Herodutus stated that Cadytis was a Great City :
    " Erythraian Sea; and of these the shedsare still to be seen. These ships he used when he neededthem; and also on land Necos engaged battle at Magdoloswith the Syrians, and conquered them; and after this he tookCadytis, which is a great city of Syria: "

    Again the context implies that is not Ghaza the coastal city, It is a city near the cost.!!!

    Calvin, John (1509-1564) in his book Commentary on Daniel - Volume 1 (page 400) stated the following:
    "Vaux, the learned author of “Nineveh and Persepolis,” furnishes a clear sketch of Nebuchadnezzar’s career, by combining the accounts of Herodotus and the Scriptures. In the thirty-first year of Josiah’s reign, Necho fought the battle of Megiddo, in which Josiah was mortally wounded. He then took Cadytis, “the holy city” of the Jews, and at length returned to Egypt with abundance of spoil."

    Cadytis can be a pure Greek version of Qudus, Qadosh . The Greek "is" is just a suffix. The final Tin Cadyt is a mere interchangeable sound with S or "sh".
    For example, in Arabic the word for Bull is Thawr ثور, while in Aramaic it is Tor But in Hebrew it is Shor. Even the Y in Cadyt is just a U. Hence, Cadyt is a Greek form of Qados or Qadush . The argument based on the city being near the sea can be understood if we considered Strabo writing explicitlywrites that b is near the sea.

    In addition, Ghaza maybe related to Herodutus's Azotos but not Cadytis.

  13. origumi Senior Member

    I don't think this is a good argument. The case of th / t / sh among Arabic / Aramaic / Hebrew is explained by evolution of a specific proto-Semitic sound. For quds / qadish / qadosh in Arabic / Aramaic / Hebrew, the final s / sh / sh arrives from a different proto-Semitic sound.
  14. sotos Senior Member

    If this is true, then I find relevant the Greek or Hellenized word gaza (γάζα, which means "treasure", "safe for money" etc., attested in 3rd c.BC. Some say that this is cognate to the Italian casa (safe for money or valubles).
    On the other hand, the Cadytis, mentioned previously by a fellow, reminds us of the Gadeira (today Cadix in Spain), this supposedly deriving from the Phoenician "gadir" (wall, fortress).
  15. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    We have had this discussion before. Greek γάζα is the widely-borrowed Iranian (Old Persian) word ganza- 'treasury'. It has nothing to do with the place name Gaza, which (as noted above) is attested at a time long before the arrival of Iranians in the Near East.
  16. origumi Senior Member

    Towns or villages with the names Gdera (fence, wall), Gderotaim (dual form, "two walls"), Gderot (plural, "several walls"), Gdor (not sure about the exact meaning) exist in the Bible, book of Joshua. So they make sense in Israelite (or actually Judean) context. Yet I do not think it supports the idea of Gaza = Cadytis: for Canaanites / Hebrews the names Ghazza (for Gaza) and Gdera (or Cady_) are not similar, and these places (Gaza and Gdera) existed in the same time.

    Another proposal I've heard is Cadytis = Gath, a Philistine town not far from Gaza. The name means "wine press" or "vat", of root *g-t-t, while Gaza is of root gh-z-z.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  17. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    This name is ancient and i am not sure why it is related to Tagalog word for candle or lamp" wick"! The Tagalog for wick is "Gasah". The place has very old issue between 2 nations thousand years ago. Once you light a candle or lamp, there will be light and light is not just a symbol clarity but also disputes or problems.
  18. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    They most certainly aren't. Words from different sources are not related just because they sound similar.
  19. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    How about the root gh-z-w meaning to raid?

    There seems to be a connection between roots where the 2nd and 3rd radical are doubled, and those where the 3rd radical is a weak consonant.
  20. origumi Senior Member

    Gemination of the z in Hebrew עַזָּה is a sign for double letter, thus root gh-z-z. If we compare your gh-z-w to mahahode's gh-z-z above, the meanings are different.
  21. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Abu Rashid is absolutely right: there is an overlap between the various classes of “weak” (bi-consonantal) roots all across Semitic. A connection between γ-z-z and γ-z-w is in the realm of the possible, but I would be hesitant to put it any more strongly.

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