Babel (was Re: Dutch Treat (1885))

A. Maberry maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Thu Nov 7 22:15:02 UTC 2002

Hebrew root BLL, akkad. bal^alu. 1. moisten, mix 2. confound (of
languages) [apparently only used once in this sense in Gen 11.9] derived
forms: belil, tebel, tevalul, shavlul.
Hebrew root BBL {Bavel} akkad. B^ab-ilu "Gate of God".
There is a reduplicated Hebrew form bilbel, balbel "disarange" "mix up"
but it is Rabbinic not Biblical. There is also a parallel Arabic form
balbala "to mix up, confuse" as in tabalbul al-als[macron]an "confusion of

maberry at

On Thu, 7 Nov 2002, Alice Faber wrote:
> Unproven? In the Hebrew Bible, Babylon is /bavel/ (intervocalic
> spirantization...the earlier form would have been /babel/). There's
> also a root BL, often reduplicated to BLBL, with meanings associated
> with mumbling and confusion. My Hebrew dictionaries are all at home,
> so I can't check how old this root is. But I would think a
> folk-etymological "just so" story, of the sort the Hebrew Bible is
> rife with, would depend on the prior existence of such a root. This
> is a totally separate question from that of how the Mesopotamian
> place name got its Greek form. I honestly don't remember what the
> Assyrian or Babylonian forms of the place name were, but it wouldn't
> surprise me if the -on ending came from Greek.
> --
> ==============================================================================
> Alice Faber                                             faber at
> Haskins Laboratories                                  tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
> New Haven, CT 06511 USA                                     fax (203) 865-8963

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