[DWJ] In which I satisfy the curious (I hope!)

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Wed Sep 27 02:14:18 EDT 2006

Colin wrote:
>Actually, there's a point there: we regard -ah as an orthographic
>variant of -a, but in Arabic they're quite different. Abdullah ends with
>-ah because it contains the name Allah, but most names in -ah, in both
>Arabic and Hebrew, are feminine. But I rather think that Arabic names in
>-a are mostly masculine.

I think I understand what you mean - there's a great orthographical
difference between names ending with the letter heh and names ending with
the letter aleph/alif or names ending with the letter ayin/reyn, all three
of which could be parallel to "a" in English. but I don't think the English
transliteration is at all consistent. There are plenty of feminine Arabic
names ending in an "a" sound, that aren't necessarily spelled with an h:
Jamilla, Saeeda, Amina, Laila... all ending with a "heh". I think you'll
find that the vast majority of names ending with "a" in Hebrew and Arabic
end with the letter "heh". In Aramaic an aleph ending is more common. The
only Hebrew name I can think of that ends with aleph is "Asa" (masculine).
The only Hebrew name I can think of that ends with an ayin is "Netta",
meaning a sapling or newly planted tree, which is used as a name for both
genders though the noun itself is in masculine form (just though of another
one: Geva, masculine, meaning "hill"). ObDWJ: the Hebrew translator of
"Charmed Life" and "The Lives of Christopher Chant" is called Netta, she's a
woman (but there's a little boy named Netta in my son's kindergarten).

Names ending in "Allah" in Arabic are indeed equivalent to names ending in
"El" in Hebrew, but also to names ending in some truncated form of the
explicit name of the Lord, such as "ia" or "ja": Josia (Yehoshayahu), Elijah
(Eliyahu), Abiyah/Aviya, Hezekia/Ezekias (Hizkiyahu). The "s" at the end of
names like "Elias" or "Ezekias" is not from Hebrew at all, it's some result
of the transliteration; the "hu" which for some reason does not survive in
transliteration means roughly "he is", thus Elijah=Eliyahu=Eli+ya+hu=My God
Ya he is. Arabic Abdallah would be equivalent to Hebrew
Obadiah/Obadias/Ovadya. I think in this context Abd/Oved is more properly
translated "worshipper" rather than "slave".

And I concur, the name Abel is not Ab+el but rather Hevel, meaning breath or
vanity. But there are names such as Aviel and Eliav that mean roughly what
Sally thought Abel means.

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