The Origin of The Language Name Hebrew

What is the origin of the language name; Hebrew?

Hebrew is a Western English name for an ancient Semitic language that does not call its own language Hebrew. This language is called: [ע ib.ri.ya]

The first letter consonant of the name cannot be written in the Latin English alphabet.  It is a bizarre sound that comes out from the throat. The nearest to it, as far as foreign speakers are concerned, is the vowel [a] but it is not it in any way.

The [i] that follows the first consonant is a vowel, thus it is not considered a letter but part of the niqqud system. None of the other two vowels [i and a] is written separately as they are also part of the niqqud. So, without niqqud, the name would be written this way [עb.ry]

The sound [ע] exists in Arabic as well. It is written this way: [ع].  The Arabic language name also starts with this sound [ע]. Without niqqud or tashkil, the name would be written this way: [ע]

Thus, the main difference between the name Hebrew and the name Arabic, in both languages is the first vowel in the name [(i) or (a)] and the order of the first two letters; [עb.ry] and [ע].

The Meaning

So, what is the difference in meaning?

1- Hebrew – [ע ib.ri.ya] comes from the verb [ע(a) b(a)r (a)] meaning:

a-to pass from a place to another; to cross the river – to die…

b-to read quietly or cry silently.

There are other meanings added when the root verb changes into a complex verb such as:

c-[ע]  to express oneself.

d-the noun: [ע ib.ra] meaning the impact of an experience that serves as a lesson.

The general connotation here is that being on the move (whenever God calls you) keeps you firm and tough; physically, mentally and spiritually.

2- Arabic – [ע] or [ع] comes from two possible roots:

A- [ע (a).r(a).b(a)] = [ع(a).ra.b(a)] – From Old Arabic: to eat

B- [ע (a).r(i).b(a)]; two types of meaning one positive and the other is negative:

a- Positive meaning:

-for a person: to be fluent – for water: to be clear – for a well: to be filled by water – for a married woman; to be nice to her husband. The common connotation here is a comfortable dwelling; either be it economically speaking (food & water = wells; agriculture), socially speaking  (in harmony between a wife and her husband) or in terms of communication (fluency).

b- Negative meaning:

-for a bodily organ or a scar: to become unwell or infected. There is also the meaning of indigestion or a bad stomach.

The noun [ע(u)rb] refers to those who live outside the city or in the desert.

The general connotation here is that comfort living leads to indigestion and infectious diseases.


So, who are the real Hebrews and why they were called [ע (i)b.r(a:).n(i).’y(u:)n]?

It is believed that they are originally from the Semitic tree and came from the Chaldean Ur in modern-day Iraq.

They were called as such for one of two reasons:

1- One of Abram’s ancestors was called [ע(a:)b(i)r] – meaning passerby.

2- They were called as such by the Kan[ע(a)]nites when Abram crossed the Euphrates River to settle in Palestine.




There is a more significant difference between the two names. The Arabic name [ע(a).r(a).b(a)] is the opposite of the Hebrew name [ע(a)b(a)r(a)]. The first refers to the action of dwelling, staying, being stagnant or staying behind. The Hebrew name [ע(a) b(a)r (a)] refers to movement, passing by places, crossing obstacles, and there is a connotation of staying on call, ready and prepared to move whenever needed.

Therefore, we can conclude that the two names are at a perfect opposition of each other, not only on a phonetic level but also on a semantic one.

It is amazing that God took a nation (the Hebrews) from within a nation (Ur – Iraq, which is part of the modern Arab world) and made them not only two separate nations, but at a complete opposition from each other.  This goes to show that our spiritual alliances are far stronger than our biological ones. It also shows that the spiritual realm is above the physical one and is in control of it.






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