Common English Words That Are Actually Hebrew

August 12, 2016

2 min read

As the Bible testifies, the world was originally populated by people all speaking one language: “And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” (Genesis 11:1). In Jewish tradition, that language was Hebrew, as the sages state that God “looked into the Torah [written in Hebrew] and created the world”.

However, after the Great Flood, pride got the better of the new generation. The people used their unified speech to turn against God. They strove to build a tower in order to reach heaven and make them “equal to God”.

One characteristic of man which God most abhors is arrogance. Therefore, He destroyed their ability to understand one another by splitting them into seventy different nations with seventy different languages.

Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:7)

It is interesting that there are many words in English whose roots lie in Hebrew. This is a possible throwback to the time of the Tower of Babel story when everyone spoke Hebrew.

Here are just a few examples:


Commonly used by magicians to make things appear or disappear, the word is likely derived from Hebrew or Aramaic (a Semitic language related to Hebrew). It is comprised of abra (אברא) and c’dabra (כדברא) which loosely translates as, “I create as I speak.”


When a baby speaks indiscernible gibberish, we say that he is babbling. The source of this word is the Biblical Tower of Babel story, as is says in Genesis 11:9, “That is why it was called Babel (בבל)—because there the Lord confused [bavel] the language of the whole world.”


This word most likely stems from the Hebrew baruch ha’ba (ברוך הבא), which means “blessed is he who comes” as a brouhaha is an excited public situation usually caused by someone attending a sensational event.


A maven is someone who understands or is an expert in something. The word stems from the Hebrew mevin (מבין) which means “understanding”.


The one who we all wait for to anoint the world with peace. The word comes from the Hebrew mashiach (משיח) which means “anointed”.


In this overly busy day and age, we all crave a sabbatical, a time of rest. The word stems from Shabbat (שׁבת) which is mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, the first being in Genesis 2:3, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested (Shabbat) from all his work that he had done in creation.”

“With today’s technical advancements, people all over the world are able to communicate in the same language,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for eTeacher Online Language Academy, to Breaking Israel News.

A new way to learn, eTeacher provides online lessons in languages via a virtual classroom made up of students from all over the world.

“People are particularly keen on learning the language of the Bible from a native Hebrew speaker. It’s kind of like returning to our ancient roots, only this time we’ll learn from our past mistakes,” she said with a smile.

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