Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by airelibre, Jun 19, 2013.
Does anyone know the origin of this fantastic-sounding (not necessarily in a good way) word? (Eel)
I think Hebrew got צלופחא from Aramaic in Talmudic times. See עבודה זרה ל"ט עמוד א. According to רש"י this is the fish known as אנגיליא = Anguilla. Other say it's a slimy freshwater species that hides in the river bottom and looks like eel. My zoology knowledge is not enough to tell whether this one is really a conger / eel / morena or just looks similar.
This answer shifts the question from Hebrew to Aramaic... I have nothing about the further origin.
Yes, rashi is hinting at the eel, Anguilla Anguilla is its Latin name, but this doesn't really help with the origin. Interesting still.
Edit: As in, yes it shows perhaps Aramaic origin but what I should have said is probably more like what is the פירוש, what is the word's true meaning and is it similar to any other words? Word root and so forth.
Moderator note: Thread moved to EHL.
For those who cannot read Hebrew letters - the question is about ṣelophaḥ, eel (moray) in Modern Hebrew.
A similar Semitic word I can think of is PS *šalaḥpaw. The Akkadian variant is šeleppû = turtle, snake. In Arabic sulaḥfā or sulḥafā = turtle (where the leading "s" is "z" in some dialects). In Eblaitic šalabùum < šalaḥpuyum = turtle. In Mehri salefḥōt = turtle. Modern Hebrew שלחופה šalḥupha is borrowed from Arabic.
I am not sure how much the sound shifts and/or meaning shift can be safely established.
To elaborate a previous comment - Judeo-Aramaic used this word for a freshwater eel or eel-like beast, similar to fish by showing fish scales in certain conditions, although hardly visible (this is an important issue for Jews, of the water creatures only fish can be eaten, attested by their scales).
The Aramaic word for “eel” occurs exactly once in the Talmud, as ṣlwbḥʼ, variant ṣlwpḥʼ. It does not seem to have any exact parallel in the other Aramaic languages or in Semitic. There is a rare Arabic word silbāḥ (with sīn), which Fränkel saw as a borrowing from Aramaic, but which Dozy had previously tentatively connected with Berber salbaḥ.
The “turtle” words cited by Origumi are very interesting. Mehri salefḥōt is presumably borrowed from Arabic (a South-Arabian cognate ought to have š-). In any case the sound correspondences between the words for “turtle” and “eel” are not regular, so if they are connected then presumably as substrate words.
Two other similar things I haven't mentioned earlier because they seem too far-fetched yet worth mentioning if there's no simple answer:
* The Biblical name צְלָפְחָד Zelophehad, of uncertain origin as far as I know. Spelled in the LXX as Σαλπαάδ or Σαλφαάδ. Some scholars think that the root is Syriac and means "first rupture," indicating that he was a first-born son which makes it irrelevant to our issue.
* The Hebrew word שלפוחית šalpuḥit = blister, bladder, vesicle. Some say it's related to sulaḥfā (the Arabic turtle) by describing its appearance of physics (I have no reference in front of me).
Thank you for all the responses so far. I guess my main interest in the word was from a suspicion that it may be a word with some kind of onomatopoeic character: לדעתי הצנועה יש במילה הזאת משהו שנשמע חלקלק. Perhaps that's just coincidental if any of these proposed common Semitic words are in fact related.
Greek as usual
I suppose relevant to selachos (kind of fish)http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aalphabetic+letter%3D*s111%3Aentry+group%3D14%3Aentry%3Dse%2Flaxos, attested in Aristotle. I don't know if originates from selas (light, bright, shiny etc) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper...etic+letter=*s111:entry+group=14:entry=se/las
Connecting it to Greek seems rather a long shot to me. Do you have anything at least coming close to evidence?
This sounds close to the IE serpent (Gr. herpeton) and zoologically is close, too.
I'd say this Greek link is far more tenuous than most of what's already been suggested. Also, there are some Greek words taken from Hebrew, especially in the case of biblical writings. Perhaps not in this case but I'm just advising not to be so quick to jump to conclusions.
And vice versa.
Of course, but this is irrelevant in this case. There's simply hardly any relation between serpent/herpeton and tzlofakh, phonetically.
1) I refered to the šeleppu which with rhotacism is "sereppu". The initial S (or whatever) has been replaced in Greek by the aspiration.
2) Greeks had no reason to borrow words from Hebrew in pre-christian time. The opposite happened, at least during hellenistic period.
1)Still not convinced. Anyway, this is Hebrew that we are talking about, not Akkadian and the other Semitic words that are related are much less similar to serpent.
2)Yes, your average Greek-in-the-street had no use for Hebrew words but biblical greek did. One example of many is cherubim, from כרובים (kruvim).
I'm thankful for your suggestion, and it's interesting, but I just don't agree with the way you seem to be stating that it is fact.
Separate names with a comma.