A proposed new etymology for in northwest semitic
Journal of Semitic Studies
The term, known from the Hebrew Bible, the Ugaritic corpus, and a sole example from Qumran, has frequently been glossed as 'eyelids' or 'eyelashes', and thought to be a reduplicated form of the hollow root, 'to fly' (the idea being that eyelashes and eyelids 'flutter' like wings). This interpretation has been criticized, however, for its unsuitability in a number of cases in which the term occurs, and some translators have offered alternatives that seem to fit the context better (e.g. 'pupils', 'eyeballs') or avoid the issue entirely through paraphrasing (such as the KJV's 'dawning' in Job 3:9). Such translations, however, leave unanswered the question as to how they are related to the idea of 'flight'. In this paper I propose that is derived not from the hollow root meaning 'to fly', but rather from the homograph meaning 'to be dark, gloomy' (and is thus similar to the other reduplicated roots related to colours, such as and ). The interpretation of as 'pupils' would then have an appropriate etymology connoting their 'blackness'. This new reading solves a number of problems that scholars have identified with the traditional interpretation.
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Burnight, John, "A proposed new etymology for in northwest semitic" (2017). Faculty Publications. 901.