Hebrew words that have at least two meanings?


Has any person compiled a list of Hebrew and Greek words that have double meanings.

Please forgive me for using English examples: breath and form.



I don’t know if anyone has ever compiled a list, but I can thing of a couple examples. Kabod means both “weight” and "glory, and DBR (don’t remember the vowels) means both “word” and “matter/issue,” among other things. (The b’s in both of these words are pronounced as v’s; I chose to go with correct spelling rather than phonetic spelling.)


We have a start!


Actually practically all Biblical Hebrew and Greek words have multiple meanings.

Hebrew contains words that are “terse,” or layered with meaning. Which meaning comes to the fore depends on the context.

For example, “Adonai” which is generally rendered as “Lord” actually means “my lord” or “my master,” and even “owner.” It is actually in the plural as well, so it can also mean “lords” or “masters” or “owners.”

But when used in reference to God, the plural means what it does when a king speaks of himself in the plural: “We are doing fine, thanks for asking about us.” In such a case it means that God is majestic and is to be viewed as royalty.

The same is true with koine Greek words. Koine Greek is an inflectional language which allows words to change with meaning not only due to context but via the addition of prefixes and suffixes.

“Logos,” for example, which is found at John 1:1 and translated as “Word” can mean “representative,” “spokesman,” a literal “word” such as an utterance, and even have the meaning of a “reason,” “expectation” or “a ground” (such as in “a basis”) and even a “plea.” It can also mean a “discourse” or stand for the divine providence that governs the universe.

To limit Hebrew and Greek words to just “two” meanings is therefore impossible.





Many Hebrew words can mean the **opposite **of their plain, primary meaning. Here are some examples from Aron Pinker:

ברך (curse – bless); חסד (kindness – disgrace); רנן (shout for joy – moan (Lam 2:19)); מרזח (revelry (Am 6:7) – lamentation (Jer 16:5)); נבל (distinguished, Arab. (2Sam 25:20) – despicable); קלס (mock – praise), in the Bible and Ben Sira 11:4 only “mock” but in post-biblical Hebrew and Syriac “praise”; רגע (disturb – be at rest); בוקק (luxuriant (Hos 10:1) – empty, waste (Isa 24:3)); מתאב (despise (Am 6:8) – desire); עזב (leave, forsake – assist, strengthen), both meanings in Ex 23:5; פסח (leap – limp); etc. Cf. R. Gordis, “Studies in Hebrew Roots of Contrasting Meanings,” JQR 27 (1936), XXX.

There are many words also that are spelled the same but are completely different–and sometimes pronounced differently. One example is Bet Shin Resh which in Exodus 12:8 refers to the flesh of the Passover lamb “בָּשָׂר” basar, but the same spelling is used in Isaiah 61:1 בַשֵּׂר -said vasser, and there it means “good news” or “gospel”–interestingly BOTH these sections of scripture are alluded to as fulfilled by Jesus.




There is so much to learn!



Any more ideas?



I am not knowledgeable about the Hebrew language but I remember reading that the Hebrew word for camel was a homonym with the word ‘rope’.

So the phrase

‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven’

would be better translated as

‘it is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.’


When I was studying Arabic, we students used to have a running joke: Arabic has 10 words for every meaning, and 10 meanings for every word. Ancient Hebrew actually had a very limited vocabulary; Strong’s Concordance lists only 8,675 vocabulary items for the entire Old Testament, including proper names (of which there are many), so “10 words for every meaning” would not apply, but the case for “10 meanings for every word” would certainly be strengthened.




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