The exact pronunciation of Sumerian can only be inferred from the way Sumerian words have been transliterated into other languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. Even as pertaining to Akkadian (and its Babylonian and Assyrian dialects), though it is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, there is still a great deal of debate among scholars as to how, or even if, certain phonemes (such as the ‘Ayin) were pronounced. I have taken the liberty to assume that the pronunciation of Babylonian Akkadian (in terms of such phonemes as the ‘Ayin, Qof, other gutturals, and the various emphatics) remained much closer to the older “proto-Semitic” and Arabic forms than is recognized by many scholars. I do this for the simple reason that Mesopotamia was the target of an almost constant influx of Semitic speakers from Arabia from the beginning of civilization in the fourth millennium B.C. (or even earlier) through the end of the Neo-Babylonian period in the mid-sixth century B.C., with the Khaldeans themselves being fairly recent immigrants from the standpoint of my novel’s time-frame. (That process of in-migration of Semitic speakers out of Arabia and into the land between the two rivers has continued right up to modern times, although the current difficulties in Iraq may have temporarily reversed that process).
Thus, I believe that this process (of immigration) would have mitigated against the loss of the ‘Ayin and the other “difficult” phonemes common to the traditional Semitic languages. The same goes for Hebrew. Modern Ashkanazi Hebrew has lost the ‘Ayin, pronouncing it like a glottal stop, pronounces the Qof like a “K,” and has merged several of the emphatics into one letter pronounced as “TZ.” Even the Ghain (sounds like gurgling without water) which was anciently written with the same alphabetic sign as the ‘Ayin in Hebrew was eventually also merged with the ‘Ayin in terms of pronunciation, and then dropped entirely as it too, came to be pronounced as nothing but a glottal stop. For example the ancient place name “Ghomorah” is pronounced in modern Hebrew as “’Amorah.” Modern Hebrew also often converts the “B” into a “V” and the “W” into a “V” and so on. I believe, however, that the pronunciation and phonology of pre-Exilic Hebrew was much closer that of Ugaritic and Arabic than it is to Modern Hebrew. I have therefore tied as best as possible, to render many of the Hebrew names in this novel based on the way they would have been pronounced in the mid-6th century B.C.
One of the problems encountered with regard to the transliteration of Akkadian words containing some of the above-mentioned “difficult” phonemes is that the Akkadians used the Sumerian cuneiform sign rendered as “E” by modern Assyriologists to represent several of their phonemes (all of which are consonants), and these are the glottal stop “alif,” or “hamza,” the “’Ayin,” the soft “h,” and the guttural “H” (which is the voiced counterpart to the ‘Ayin” and not to be confused with the very guttural “KH” sound (like the German “CH”) which was reflected differently in cuneiform. Thus, the Sumerian word that Assyriologist and Sumerologists write as “Ekal,” where “E” meant “house,” and “Kal,” or “Gal,” meant “large,” or “big,” could be pronounced either “’Igal,” “hay kal,” ‘Akal, or HeGal, or any combination thereof. Nonetheless, regardless of how the scholars like to render that word, we know it had to have been pronounced “haykal,” or “heikal,” for two reasons: 1. The word survives in Hebrew and Arabic and is pronounced “heikal/haykal.” 2. The Ancient Egyptian “Hait,” or “Hay,” which is the exact same word as the Sumerian “Hay,” meant “house,” just as it did in Sumerian. For example the Egytpian term “He-Gu-Ptah,” meaning something like “the house that the god PTAH built, gave us our modern term “Egypt.”
To add to the confusion, in Akkadian, the cuneiform sign rendered as “E” could also be pronounced “bayt,” since that was the Semitic word for “house.”
To sum up, Akkadian presents special problems because they adopted the writing system of the non-Semitic Sumerians and tried to force it to fit their Semitic language. As a result there was no way they could represent the various Semitic phonemes mentioned above. This is why there is so much confusion and debate among scholars as to the exact pronunciation of many of the Akkadian words that scholars transliterate using the vowel “E,” such as in the “Ekal” = “palace” example above.
Since it is most difficult to represent some of the Semitic phonemes on a western keyboard, the non-specialist reader should not worry too much about the phonology of the foreign words and names in this text, and just mentally pronounce them as they are spelled with the following caveats: An apostrophe prior to, or after, a letter indicates either an ‘Ayin (which is the sound you might make if you stuck your finger down your throat in an effort to make yourself upchuck), or the hamza, or glottal stop, which is just a slight catch in the throat, or the initiation of an exhalation of a breath of air. The gutteral “kh” will be represented by “kh,” and its voiced counterpart, the “ghain” (like gargling without water) will be represented by “gh.” A “q” will represent the “qoph,” (almost a “click” sound as if the back of your throat was stuck together after crawling across the desert with no water for several days). The “h” will represent both the soft “h” and the heavy, throaty “h.” Emphatic dentals and sibilants will not be distinguished from their softer counterpoints. As for stress, it generally falls on the next to the last syllable.
THE WORDS AND PHRASES:
AB(U) = the common Semitic word for “father.” It was also the fifth month of the Babylonian calendar corresponding roughly to our “August.” The Arabic cognate AB is still used for the modern month of “August.”
ABI = A common semitic term for “my father,” or “my Daddy.”
ABU HAYDUBBI (Akkadian). Literally meant “the father of the clay house,” but the intended meaning was “the headmaster of the school,” since writing was done on clay tablets.
ADDA HAYDUBBI (Summerian). The same meaning as for the Akkadian term above.
AB-ZU (Sumerian). Optional spellings include AB-SU and APSU. This term referred to the freshwater ocean, the unfathomable deep, or abyss, that underlies the saltwater ocean. This AB-ZU also provided the ancient civilization of Dilmun (Bahrain and Eastern Arabia) with its water. AB-ZU is the origin of the modern English words “abyss,” and “abysmal.” The Sumerian and Akkadian AB-ZU not only rested underneath the saltwater ocean, but also wrapped around the back side of the world and was thus the source of all rivers as well as being the source of all rainfall. So when the creation epic speaks about the “four rivers” coming from a single source they are not referring to an actual river you can locate on a map, but to the AB-ZU that underlies the saltwater ocean and wraps around the back side of the world. The same concept is used in the Genesis story of creation where the “four rivers” of “Eden” are mentioned as having come from the same source.
ADAMMATU (Sumerian and Akkadian) linguistically means “the country of Adam,” but historically refers to an ancient city in northern Arabia, called Dumat al-Jandal today.
AHL (Arabic) Means “family,” “clan,” “folk.”
AHL-YISHRA'EL (Old N.W. Semitic). This is an older term for “people of Israel.”
AHLAN! AHLAN! (Arabic). The literal meaning is “kinfolk,” “kinfolk,” and is a traditional Arabic greeting meaning that “you are welcome, you are among kinfolk.” In other words, even though we may not be related, we will treat you as “kinfolk.”
AHWEH (Hebrew, Phoenician, and old Arabic). This is the 1st person singular of the verb HWH “to exist.” This is the form of the verb that God uses when he first introduces himself to Moses in the land of Arabian Midan, or Midian, in Exodus 3:14. In other words, God calls himself AHWEH ASHER AHWEH, “I am that I am.” Only later does the 3rd person singular form of the verb HWH (i.e. Yahweh) come into play as the name for God.
AKITU (Akkadian). The annual New Year’s eleven-day ritual and ceremony during which the entire ENUMA 'ALISH, or creation epic, was recited and performed by actors and musicians, the gods were paraded around the city, and the king was temporarily dethroned so that Marduk could re-establish kingship in the land. The annual performance of these rituals and ceremonies were considered to be necessary to assure the fertility of the land, the flocks, and the women of Mesopotamia. The word was taken from the original Sumerian A-KI-TI-SHE-GUR-KU.
AMURRU(m) (Akkadian). This word seems to have originally meant “West,” but it also referred to groups of Semitic tribes that lived to the “west” and “south” of Mesopotamia. This word is also the origin of the Biblical term “Amorites.” Scholars usually apply the term “Amorite” to early, semi-nomadic, “pre-Canaanite” speakers of North-West Semitic, who came out of the Syrian desert “west” of Babylonia to settle along the Euphrates, and from which Hammurabi the law-giver descended (C. 1800 B.C.). However, Babylonians, particularly during the Neo-Babylonian era, considered everything in North Arabia as far east as ADAMMATU, and as far south as TAYMA and DEDAN, to be AMURRI land along with Edom and Mo’ab.
ANKH (Ancient Egyptian). “Life.” In Egyptian hieroglyphics it was symbolized by a cross with a loop on the top. This symbol was also in popular use as an amulet and in jewelry throughout the Ancient Near East.
ANSHAN (originally Elamite). This city in the southern reaches of the Zagros mountains was once the capital of the Elamite kingdom during the 3rd and 2nd millenniums B.C. During the 7th century B.C. the Indo-European Persians took it over ruling the area as vassals to the greater Mede Empire. The fact that the Persians were centered in what was once the Elamite capital caused the Babylonians to often call the Persians “Elamites,” just as modern Anglo-Saxons in London (whose ancestors came from Germany) might be called “British,” even though that is a term more correctly applied to the pre-Anglo Celtic population of Britain.
ANZAL! (Arabic). Command form meaning “kneel!” “get down!” or “dismount!”
AN-ZU (Sumerian). The original Sumerian name for the moon god. The name meant “the Lord of Knowledge.” (The Akkadians switched the syllables to pronounce it ZU-AN, or SUEN. In modern literature the scholars spell this word as SIN with a diacritical mark over the “i” to represent a long syllable, or the diphthong that was originally there).
ARAHSAMNU (Akkadian). The name for the eighth month of the Babylonian calendar, roughly equivalent to our November.
ARMY OF SUMER AND AKKAD. This, phrase, like The King of Akkad and Sumer, was a euphemism that Babylonian kings liked to use to define their own armies (and rule). They seemed to think that it gave them more credibility by linking them back to Mesopotamia’s first and most ancient civilizations.
ASHLU (Akkadian). A unit of measurement for distance equal to 157 ½ feet.
ASTARTE (Phoenician). fertility goddess, same as Babylonian Ishtar.
ATHTAR (South Arabic/Sabaean). This was linguistically the same term as the Babylonian “Ishtar,” which became “ASTAR” in some dialects, and then “ATHTAR" in south Arabic, and “ATTAR” in other areas of Arabia. In all cases this was the name of the planet Venus, and the Goddess of love. The Sabaean ATHTAR was identical in all respects with the Babylonian “Ishtar.”
AWDIYYAH (Arabic). Plural of wadi, meaning “valleys,” or “rivulets,” or “arroyos.”
AWILU(m) (Akkadian). Means “man,” or “a man.” Usually refers to the property owning classes.
AYYARU(m) (Akkadian). The second month in the Babylonian calendar, roughly equivalent to our May. It is cognate with the modern Arabic AYYAR meaning “May.”
AYYOUB (Arabic and Hebrew). Means “I repent.” AYYOUB, used as a name, is the name of the protagonist in the “Job” stories found in both the Old Testament and the Qur’an, and who is a character in this trilogy.
AZARU(m) (Akkadian). The eleventh month of the Babylonian Calendar, roughly equivalent to our month of March. It is cognate with the modern Arabic AZAR, meaning the month of “March.”
AZRAQ (Arabic). Means “Blue.”
'AZZOUM (Hebrew). The first letter (phoneme) is an ‘ayin, and the double “zz” represents the emphatic sibilant ZHA which is no longer pronounced in modern Hebrew. The ancient pronunciation would have sounded much like our modern English word “awesome” which is exactly what it means. It is also cognate with the Arabic “’AZHEEM.”
BAB ILII (Akkadian). “Gateway of the Gods.” The term became “Babel” in Hebrew, and Babylon in English.
BAB ILII DANNU (Akkadian). “Babylon is strong,” or “Strong Babylon.”
BABA (Akkadian). Equivalent to our “papa.”
BAHIRUU (nom.) BAHIRII (acc. And gen.) (Akkadian). “Recruiters” for the army.
BA'L (Akkadian, Arabic, Phoenician, Uqaritic). Means “Lord,” or “master.” It was also a term for a specific in Phoenician. Often written as “bel” by Assyriologists because Akkadian cuneiform, having been adopted from Sumerian, had no way to denote the phoneme ‘ayin.
BA'L ABUSI (Akkadian). The literal meaning is “Lord of armaments,” but referred more specifically to the king’s personal armorer.
BA'LI (Akkadian and Phoenician). “My Lord,” or “my master.” An honorific title.
BA'LATI (Akkadian and Phoenician). “My Lady,” a very honorific title.
BAYT (Common to all Semitic languages). Means house. Often written as “bit” in textbooks, and “beit,” and “beth,” in modern Hebrew.
BAYT HA-KENNESET (Hebrew). “House of gathering,” called a “synagogue” today.
BAYT SHAR BAB ILII (Akkadian). Means “the house of the king of Babylon” and referred specifically to the palace near the Shamash gate in “new city” that served as the city’s royal palace during the days of Assyrian over-lordship. It was later used by Belshazzar as an administrative building for his business dealings after his father became king and moved into the royal palace.
BAYT TUBBI (Akkadian). The literal meaning is “house of clay,” but the implied meaning was “school house,” because in the schools, the students all wrote on clay. The term was derived from the Sumerian HAY-DUB.
BERU (Akkadian). A measure of distance, equal to about 5 ¼ miles.
BERU (Akkadian). As a unit of measure of an area was equal to 15 acres.
BESHUKIR (Arabic). “Thanks,” or “with much gratitude.”
BILTU (Akkadian). A unit for measuring weight. One biltu was equal to 60 mina, or about 67 lbs.
BLACK-HEADED PEOPLE. A term used by the Sumerians to describe themselves. It was subsequently used by Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians as a generic term for all Mesopotamians.
CARTHAGE = A Phoenician seaport, trading colony on the coast of what is today Tunisia. (See also under QARYAT HADASHAH).
DAMU (Akkadian). “Blood.” It is cognate with the Hebrew and Arabic dam.
DILMUN (Akkadian and Sumerian). In Mesopotamian mythology this was the primeval paradise, or a proto-type garden of “Eden” where “the ITTIDU bird uttereth not the cry of the ITTIDU bird, and the lion snatcheth not the lamb.” It was a land where people never grew old, and everything was perfect for all eternity. It was conceived not only as a higher plane of existence for mankind at some point in the distant past, but was also conceived as a sort of “heaven,” or a place to aspire to after death. Because of this belief, during neo-Assyrian times those who could afford it had themselves buried in physical Dilmun believing that this would grant them an eternal life in the mythical Dilmun. (As a result modern Bahrain is literally blanketed with coffins and tombs from the Neo-Assyrian era). This physical Dilmun, geographically, was just the island of Bahrain during Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian times, however earliest Dilmun included also much of what is now eastern Saudi Arabia at least as far inland as modern day Riyadh and extending northward almost to Mesopotamia. This earlier Dilmun was the source of the Sumerian mythology about Dilmun, and according to this mythology, was the source of all aspects of civilization. The word “Dilmun” used as an adjective also implied a product of highest quality—even if it was not produced in Dilmun. For example “Dilmun sandals,” would mean “sandals of Dilmun quality,” even though they were produced in Babylon. Dilmun pearls, however, were invariably from Dilmun, as modern Bahrain is still a major source of pearls.
EA (Akkadian). This was the Akkadian term for the Sumerian god ENKI, which meant “god of the earth” in Sumerian, but was also thought to be the god of the subterranean freshwater ocean (ABZU) that surrounded the earth and underlay the salt water ocean.
EL (Hebrew and Canaanite). A common West Semitic word for “God.” Also appears as ELOH and ELOHEEM (pl.) in Hebrew, and as ALAH or ALLAH in Arabic.
ELAM = An ancient non-Iranian civilization in southern Iran contemporary with early Sumer and Akkad, and lasting until late Assyrian times. They were superseded by the Iranian-speaking Persians. However, Babylonians, even as late as Nabu Na’id’s day, still liked to call any power from that region (i.e. the Persians) by the term “Elam,” even though they had no ethnic, linguistic, or genetic connections with “Elam.”
ELECTRUM = A composite metal made of gold and silver together, used throughout the ancient world for jewelry, musical instruments, and household items.
EMMI (Hebrew). “My mother, “mommy.” Cognate with the Arabic UMMI.
ENKIDU (Sumerian and Akkadian). A legendary hero of the Gilgamesh Epic (see below). He was the original “noble savage” and was created by the gods from a pinch of clay tossed into the wilderness. He was shaggy haired like an animal, ate grasses with the gazelles, and wrestled the semi-divine Gilgamesh to a near draw. Enkidu’s role and description in the Gilgamesh Epic served as the prototype, or origin, for several of our favorite Biblical myth-stories. Like “Adam” he was created from clay and placed in a pristine (i.e. innocent) situation, and like “Adam,” was tempted by a female which led to his losing his innocence. Like “Esau,” he was shaggy haired like an animal. Like “Jacob,” he wrestled a divine or semi-divine being, and like “Jacob” he received a crook (or bend) in his knees (or thigh) for his efforts. We also see in this story the origin of part of the Book of Daniel myth where “Nebuchadnezzar” is supposed to have grazed with the animals and grown “hairy” or “feathery.”
ENLIL (Sumerian). The literal meaning is “Lord of the Wind.” ENLIL was one of the chief gods in the Sumerian pantheon. Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians pronounced the name as ELLIL which may have been the origin of the word ALLAH, ELOH, and EL in Arabic, Hebrew, and old Canaanite.
ENTU (Akkadian feminine of the Sumerian AN). AN in Sumerian meant “Heaven,” “God,” and “sky.” ENTU, in the Akkadian sense, as the feminine counterpart to AN meant also “high,” and “sacred.” ENTU usually referred to the highest form, or highest level, of sanctified priestess, and was used as the title for specifically the high priestess of the moon god’s temple at Ur. Most priestesses were assigned to female deities such as Ishtar and Erishkigal, but the ENTU was an exception, being the title of the high priestess at the moon god’s temple in Ur. This was an ancient title, function, and temple which had fallen out of use during the 2nd millennium B.C. but which were revived (restored) by Nabu Na’id in the mid 6th century B.C. He appointed his daughter Ningaldinanna to this position in September of 554 B.C. The ENTU priestess could not marry and was supposed to remain chaste. However, there are records of ENTU priestesses having offspring, but in these cases, the love trysts were in secret and they had to give birth in secret. Linguistically ENTU is the same word as the Northwest Semitic ANAT, a term used for female deity.
ENUMA 'ALISH (Akkadian). Spelled enuma elish in textbooks, it meant “When upon high” and is the opening line in the great Babylonian creation epic, which carries that phrase as its title.
ESHEK (Akkadian/Hebrew). “Testicle
ESHKAN (Akkadian). “Testicles” (dual)
FIRDOUS (Persian). “Paradise/Garden.” Origin of our word for “paradise.” The Zorastrian concept of the worthy souls going to “firdous” after the day of judgment was the origin of the Christian and Islamic ideas of a future “heavenly” reward for the righteous after the day of judgment. Additionally, just as in Zoroastrianism where the worthy who died prior to the “last days” got an express trip to “paradise” without having to wait for the day of judgment, martyrs in Islam, like the righteous in Zoroastrianism, go straight to “paradise” without having to wait for the great resurrection of the dead and the day of judgment.
GALLU(m) (Akkadian). A class of slave, generally considered to be below that of the WARDU slave.
GALOUT (Arabic and Hebrew). The name of the “Philistine” giant (called “Goliath” in English) that fought “David” in the Biblical story.
GANZIR (Akkadian and Sumerian). GANZIR was the dwelling place of Erishkigal, the guardian goddess and overseer of the underworld. The concept of GANZIR influenced the development of the concept of “hell” in Christian theology, though it wasn’t pictured as unpleasant a place as our Christian “hell.”
GILGAMESH (Sumerian and Akkadian). A legendary hero. He is listed as one of the kings of Uruk (C. 2700 B.C.) in the Sumerian king lists. He is best known to western audiences for his legendary fight with the wild man Enkidu (see above), for killing, with a little help from his new-found friend Enkiku, the monster Humbaba who guards the cedar forests (see below), and for seeking the keys to eternal life after his long-time companion Enkidu died.
GHOTRAH, pl. GHOTRAAT (Arabic). Refers to the long, flowing head-dress worn in the Arabian peninsula and held in place by the 'IQAL. In Ancient Hebrew GHOTRAH meant “halo,” and thus referred to the 'IQAL rather than the head-dress itself. (See below under “HALAH”) .
GUBLA (pan semitic). This was the Semitic name for the city that the Greeks called “Byblos.” It was the Phoenician traders from Gubla/Byblos from whom the Greeks learned about the alphabet. Thus, many words in Greek (and transferred into English from the Greek) having to do with books contain the Greek form of the word Gubla/Byblos such as “Bible,” and “bibliography.”
GUR (Sumerian). GUR also spelled KUR was a Sumerian measure of volume equal to about 33 gallons, or 4 1/10 bushels. This term continued to be used as a unit of measurement throughout Mesopotamian history.
GUTI (Sumerian, Akkadian, etc.). This is a term applied to a horse-culture based Indo-European people who poured into Mesopotamia from the Eurasian steppes around 2200 B.C. They ruled in Sumer for awhile, but found they were not suited for ruling in cities and ended up settling in lands just to the east of Sumer, on the Persian side of the Tigris river and were subsequently called GUTI(um) by Akkadian speakers. Interestingly this GUTI (without the case ending) is the exact term, and spelling, that the Romans applied to the Germanic tribe that invaded Italy during the last decades of the Roman Empire, whom we today term as “Goths.” Not coincidentally, the “Goths” are reputed to have originally come from the same general area as did the more ancient “guti.”
HABIBI, fm. HABIBITI (pan Semitic). = My love.
HADDIYAH (Arabic). “Gift.” Used here as the gift a man’s parents gives to their son upon his marriage.
HALAH, pl. HALAAT (Arabic). “Halo.” This is the origin of our modern English word for “halo,” and was derived from the Arabic HILAL (pl. HALAALIL), referring to the crescent moon, and the new moon (not from HWL as some believe). The Arabic in turn was derived from the earlier Sumerian and Akkadian HUL HUL "to be joyous” which in turn, was associated with the “new moon” and the moon god Nanna-Suen.
HARRANU (Akkadian). “Journey,” “business journey,” “trading partnership,” and “joint stock company,” are all possible meanings. The term appears to have been derived from the name of the important city “Harran” in northern Syria, which was a major destination for merchants traveling out of Akkad and Sumer (and later, Babylonia)—hence the association with commerce and with travel.
HARIMTU (Akkadian). This term meant “whore,” “common prostitute,” and “hooker,” as differentiated from the QADISHTU class of “sacred prostitutes” attached to temples who were held in high regard. Compare with the Arabic HAREEM meaning “women,” “wife,” “female members of the family,” and “a sacred inviolable place.”
HAY (Sumerian). Means house, or building. Usually written as “E” by Assyriologists.
HAYDUBBI (Akkadian and Sumerain). Literally meant “house of the clay,” but became the common word for “school” because the school houses all used clay tablets.
HAYDUBBI SHAR KINNI (Akkadian). Literally “The clay house of the true king,” but specifically meant the famous Sargon Academy of Sippar. This school was allegedly begun by the founder of the Akkadian Empire, Sargon I, “the great,” and soon came to be recognized as the finest school in Mesopotamia, if not in the entire world, for nearly two thousand years.
HAYY (all Semitic languages). This term meant “life,” “to live,” or could be used in salutation as in “have a long life.” Not to be confused with HAY, the Sumerian word for “house” in which the initial “h” is a weak “h” similar to our “h” in “hat” or “house.” The initial “H” in the Semitic HAYY was a heavier, more guttural sound as if one were trying to say “hello,” “Hugh,” or “Juan Jiminez” after drinking too much tequila.
HAY-GAL or HAY-KAL (Sumerian). Meant “large building,” then more specifically a “palace” or a “temple.” The expression became HAIKAL in Hebrew meaning temple. HAIKAL in Arabic came to mean “skeleton,” “framework,” and “structure” because many of the ancient ruins of palaces and temples in the middle east have only the columns sticking up and from a distance look like the skeletal remains of some giant prehistoric monster.
HAY-HULHUL (Sumerian and Akkadian). The literal meaning is “The house of joyfulness,” but it specifically referred to the moon god Nanna-Suen’s most sacred temple in Harran. The verb HULHUL, meaning “to be joyous,” in honor of the moon god’s resurrection every month after the three days and three nights in the tomb, is the origin of our modern “English” word “halleluyah,” where Yahweh and Jesus Christ take the place of Nanna-Suen. HULHUL was also the origin of the modern Arabic HALALA, meaning “to appear,” or “to shine forth,” as in the first appearance (resurrection) of the new moon. The form II Arabic verb HALLALA means “to shout with joy,” and “rejoice,” just as it did in Ancient Mesopotamia in honor of the moon god. It is also a euphemism for expressing the TAHLEEL, or the uttering of LA ILLAH ILLA ALLAH (There is no God but Allah). (See also ILU HALLULA below).
HAY-SAGILA (Sumerian and Akkadian). Refers to the main temple of Marduk in Babylonia. Located on the processional way just to the south of the great Ziggurat.
HAY TEMENU ANKI (Sumerian and Akkadian). All of three of these words are Sumerian but were adopted by Akkadian speakers with the meaning of “the house of the foundation of Heaven and Earth,” or “the house of the axis where Heaven and Earth meet” and referred to the great Ziggurat in Babylon.
HEAVENLY WRITING. A term Babylonians used to define what we call “cuneiform” (wedge-shaped) writing. Not only did they believe that the science of writing was given to them from heaven by the gods, but their symbols etched on clay tablets often looked like the stars of the heavens. As a corollary to that they also believed that the fates and the will of the gods could be read in the stars—not in the modern astrological sense, but in the sense that the heavens represented a clay tablet and the stars speckled throughout were the “cuneiform” symbols etched onto that canvas indicating the will of the gods and the fate of nations. If only we knew how to read them.
HUMBABA (Akkadian), HUWAWA (Sumerian). A mythical human-bodied figure with lion’s claws, and a monstrous face resembling a maze. He also had long hair, and long whiskers. He guarded the cedar forests of the Lebanon mountains for the god Enlil until he was killed by the two adventurers Gilgamesh and Enkidu (see above).
IBN KALB (Arabic). The literal meaning is “son of a dog,” but it is used as a swear phrase exactly as our English expression of “son of a bitch!”
ILU HALLULA (Akkadian). Meant “Radiant God.” This was another name Nabu Na’id gave to the moon God.
'IQAL, pl. ‘UGL (Arabic). This refers to the circular band of rope, or corded material, that fits on a man’s head to hold the GHOTRAH in place. In ancient times these ‘UQL were usually gold colored, and from a distance when sunlight or moonlight shone on them, they resembled what we today would call a “halo.” That is why the Ancient Hebrew word GHOTRAH meant “halo,” and was interchangeable with HILA. (See also above under GHOTRAH and under HALAH).
ITTIDU BIRD (Sumerian and Akkadian). The Assyriologists are not sure what the ITTIDU bird was, though some have equated it with the “wild hen.” However, the way the term is used in the Epic of Enki and Ninhursag leads me to believe that it referred to something rather negative such as a vulture or a crow. It had to have been something that made an ugly sound.
KAHENNU (Akkadian). “Priest.” Cognate with Arabic KAHEN and Hebrew KOHEN.
KALB (Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician). Meant “Dog.” Yet, for some strange reason it turns up as a component in personal names now and then in many Semitic cultures.
KALBATU (Akkadian). The feminine form of KALB, also meaning “bitch.”
KHABIRU (Akkadian). “Brigands.” This term is often incorrectly thought to be the origin of our word for “Hebrew.” The meaning of “brigand” was probably an acquired meaning based on the presence of numerous semi-nomadic tribes in the region of the Khabur river in western Mesopotamia. Ironically, portions of some of the tribes considered to be part of the “Khabiru” such as the "mare yamin" (banu Yemen i.e. Benjamin), may well have become a part of the much later Israelite confederation. However, our term for “Hebrew” was derived from the Israelite designation of themselves as 'IBRI which means “Hebrew” in Hebrew and Arabic. This term, 'IBRI, carries the connotation of “crossing” and is associated with place names in southern Arabia. Linguistically it is close in form to the Egyptian term 'APIRU which they (the Egyptians) applied to semi-nomadic tribes that raided some of the settled communities of southern Canaan during the Late Bronze Age and which is recorded in the so-called Amarna letters addressed to the Pharaoh Akhenaton and his immediate successors.
KHAMSHEEM, pl. KHAMSHEMEEM (Phoenician). The literal meaning was “fifty” and “fifties” respectively, refers also to a swift, sleek warship having a single deck of fifty rowers (25 to a side). The Greek and Roman counterpart was the penteconter.
KHURG (Arabic). Refers to the saddlebag draped over the saddle horn on a camel saddle. KHURGAN/KHURGAIN refers to two saddlebags using the two case endings for the dual form. KHIRAGAH is the plural form.
KHURUSHU (Akkadian and Persian). Meant “shepherd” in Persian and was the name for “Cyrus" II (the great) as it appears in all Near Eastern languages.
KILIKIA. A region in S.E. Anatolia. Rendered as “Cilicia” in modern maps after the Roman spelling. But the Romans pronounced the “C” as “hard” “C” (or K) as in “cat,” so Kilikia would be the proper pronunciation. In Akkadian it was KILIKKU (in the nominative case).
KIMAH (Hebrew/Aramaic/Babylonian). “The Pleiades.” More specifically it referred to the nine brightest stars in this constellation that could be seen with the naked eye during ancient times. Often called the “nine holy ones” by the Ancients, and was the model for Babylon being constructed with nine gates.
KIMA SHITTER SHAMA' (Akkadian). Means “just like the heavenly writing.” This was a phrase used to describe something that would be as beautiful as the heavens.
KISI (Sumerian). “Chamber pot.”
KISLIMU (Akkadian). The ninth month of the Babylonian calendar, roughly equivalent to our December.
KISWAH (Arabic). Basic meaning is garment. In this trilogy it refers to an outer robe-like, ankle length dress women wore over a smaller shift or tunic. In modern Arabic it refers to the black shroud that the Muslims drape over the Kaaba in Mecca. KISAWIIN = plural of kiswah.
KOHEN (Hebrew). “Priest.” Kahana (Arabic) = To predict the future.
KUR (Sumerian). 33 gallons. See under GUR.
LAMASSU (Akkadian, the Sumerian form was LAMA). This was a beneficial, protective female deity, corresponding to the “angel” in Christian lore. The LAMASSU was always depicted in human form wearing a long, flounced skirt. In Mesopotamian art they were often shown introducing human supplicants to one or another of the greater deities.
LAMASHTU (Akkadian). LAMASHTU was an evil demon goddess who took delight in preying on pregnant women and newborn babies. She was also the bringer of disease to the general population. She was pictured as having the head of a lion, the teeth of a donkey, a hairy body, naked breasts, and hands stained with blood from which extended long fingers and fingernails, and feet that ended in bird talons.
L-SHANNAH HABA' B'URU SHALEM (Hebrew). Means “until next year in Jerusalem.” Throughout history this phrase, with a slight modification in pronunciation, has been the rallying cry, and the toast, and the prayer, of every “Jew” in exile who dreamed of returning to the ancestral homeland.
LIPIYA (Akkadian). The literal meaning was “my little heart,” and was derived from an original LUBIYA. It was used as an affectionate term for “grandson.”
LOWER SEA. Refered to the Arab/Persian Gulf because it was downriver from the cities of Babylonia. See also “upper sea.”
MADA (Akkadian). This was the Babylonian and Assyrian term for the land of the Medes.
MAGALLATU(m) (Akkadian). Referred to scrolls, tablets, documents, files, dossiers, and anything written down, or any piece of writing in general. In Arabic the word became "MAGALLAH," or "MAGALLAT(un)” in more formal Arabic, which now means “magazine,” and is the origin of our modern English word for “magazine.” (Our other “magazine” meaning “arms depot” or “canister” of shells, is derived from the Arabic noun of place "makhzan," pl. "makhazeen," meaning “place where things are stored.”
MAHAD AZH-ZHAHAB (Arabic). Means “cradle of gold” and refers to a specific mine, or group of mines, about 160 km due southeast from Medina (ancient Yathrib). Long recognized as the richest deposits of gold in the Old World it has been mined continuously for over three millennia and will likely still be providing Arabia with yellow gold long after they have run out of black gold.
MALIK = “King” in all Semitic languages except Akkadian, where the term SHARRU was preferred.
MAR (Akkadian). Means “son” or “son of” when in construct with a following personal name, or noun in the genitive. The word survives today in modern Arabic as MAR' and IMRA' meaning “man,” or “person.”
MARSHARRI (Akkadian). Means “the son of the king,” or “Crown Prince.” May also appear as MARSHARRU as a compound word in the nominative case.
MARTU (Akkadian). Means “daughter.” MARAT is the idhafa construct form meaning “daughter of” when followed by a personal name or a noun in the genitive. Thus, MARAT LUBIYYA means “daughter of my heart,” but MARTI means “my daughter.” The word survives in modern Arabic as IMRA'AT(un) meaning “woman,” or “wife.” MARTU SIT LUBIYYA was another way to express “daughter of my heart” in Akkadian.
MAR BANI (Akkadian). Meant “free citizen,” as opposed to being a slave.
MARDUK (Akkadian). The principal God and patron deity of Babylon. Often depicted as a dragon. Marduk was also co-equated with the sun and also identified with the planet Jupiter.
MELEK QURYAH (Phoenician). The literal meaning was “King of the City.” In western languages this was corrupted to “Melkart.” The Greeks equated their hero “Herakles” with a mythical Phoenician “Melkart,” because the Greek word “Herakles” was derived from the Phoenician “ha-Rokel,” meaning “the traveler,” “the gadabout,” which was a good description of Phoenician mariners—and of the idol, or city god (i.e. MELEK QURYAH) that they always took with them on board ship. (It was also a good description of the Greek’s mythical “Herakles”). The “Pillars of Hercules/Herakles” thus referred to an area (i.e. the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, and the opposite coast of North Africa) where the Phoenicians had a long-standing interest and had established colonies.
MESHLOUSHA, pl. MESHLOUSHEEM (Phoenician). The literal meaning was “triplet” or “of three,” but specifically referred to warships having three decks of oars stacked one on top of each other in which the three oarsmen acted as one unit, or “triplet,” out of the 57 “triplets” for each ship. The Greek and Roman navies copied the same design and called it a “trireme” in their western tongues.
MIDAN (Arabic). “Plaza,” “square,” “field.” The land of “Midian” mentioned in the Book of Exodus where Moses was first introduced to the deity Yahweh referred to the plains of northern Arabia stretching from the north coast of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba eastward to near the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and from Tayma in the south to roughly where the current Saudi-Iraqi border is, hence “Midian,” from “midan” “plains.” This approximate area was also once called the BAYT YAQIN by the Assyrians, and the home of the “Sealanders,” or Khaldeans, by the Babylonians. However, by the 6th century B.C., the time of this novel, there were no more Khaldeans, or “Sealanders” out in the plains of Arabia, as most of them had by that time settled in and around Babylonia and Sumer.
MINA (Akkadian and Sumerian). A unit of weight measurement equal to 60 shiqli, or about 18 oz.
MISWAK (Arabic). Refers to a stick that is used for cleaning the teeth by first chewing, or beating, the end of it causing it to release certain chemicals. The preferred MISAWEEK (pl.) come from a certain type of plant found in Arabia, that when chewed or sucked on gives off chemicals found to be protective of teeth. These “teeth-cleaning” sticks are still used by the Bedu in Saudi Arabia today.
MUSHKENNU (Akkadian). Referred to lower class free citizens who owned no property. Compare Arabic MUSKIIN “poor person,” “beggar,” “miserable,” etc.
NABI (Arabic and Hebrew). “Prophet.” (Compare with NABU the Babylonian god of writing and wisdom).
NAHARAIN (Arabic). Means “the two rivers” and always refers to Mesopotamia, “the land between the two rivers.”
NANNAR (Sumerian). Another name for the mood god. In Sumerian it meant “the illuminator.” This term was shortened to “Nanna” in Akkadian.
NARRAM UMISHU (Akkadian). “Beloved of his mother.” This was one of the titles ascribed to Nabu Na’id.
NAR TENISHITI (Akkadian). Another name for Nanna-Suen, the moon god. It meant “the illuminator of mankind,” or “the light of mankind.”
PAITISHAHYA (Old Persian). Referred to the Festival of Bringing in the Grain.
PAZUZU (Akkadian). Pazuzu was an Assyrian and Babylonian demon god who was usually regarded as an evil underworld demon, but he could also play a beneficial role as a protector against bad winds, or against the female demon Lamashtu. He was usually depicted with a canine face, bulging eyes, a scaly body, the talons of a bird, wings, and a snake-headed penis. Pregnant women often wore amulets of Pazuzu around their necks as an anecdote to ward off the greater evil of Lamashtu.
PELESHTU (Ancient Egyptian). One of the tribes of Mykenaean Greek-speaking “sea peoples” that invaded Egypt around 1200 B.C. After failing to gain a foothold in Egypt, they settled along the southern Canaanite coast and came to be called “the Philistines” in English language Bibles.
QA (Sumerian). A unit of measure equal to approximately 1 ½ pints used throughout the ancient near east.
QADIR (Phoenician). Means “the capable one,” and refers to the Phoenician colony in what is now southern Spain, and is today called “Cadiz.”
QARYAT (Phoenician). Meant “town,” or “city.”
QARYAT HADASHAH (Phoenician). Meant “New City,” and referred specifically to Tyre’s major colony in what is now Tunisia, and which has been corrupted into the modern English “Carthage.”
QASRU(m). A common pan-Semitic term for “castle” or “palace.” The Romans, not being able to pronounce either the “qof,” or the emphatic “S” altered the word to “castra” and “castellum,” from which our English word for “castle” is derived. (Compare also Akkadian "kisallu/qisallu" meaning “palace,” “house,” or “forecourt of a temple.”)
RAB QASRI (Akkadian). The literal meaning was “Lord of the Castle,” but usually meant the majordomo.
QUM! (Arabic). A command form meaning “rise!”
RAB (all Semitic languages). RAB, like BA’L, meant “Lord” or “Master,” but it could also mean “great” as in SHARRU RABU “great king.” It could also be used as part of an honorific title as in RABETI “my lady” (RABTI is a shorter, more colloquial form of RABETI). In RABTIYA the “ya” ending is an affectionate diminutive, or a form of endearment, as in “my sweet lady,” or “my dearest lady.”
RAB AWILII (Akkadian). Means “Lord of Men.” Used as a high title.
RAB MAGI (Akkadian). Scholars are unsure what this means, but it was a title ascribed to the general Nergal-Shar-Usur at the time he destroyed Uru Shalem/“Jerusalem” in 585 B.C. I am thus assuming it to mean something akin to the modern Arabic “al-Mushir,” or field marshal, and would have been the highest military title, or position, below the King and crown prince.
RAB SHAR RESHI (Akkadian). This is another military title. The Assyriologists are not quite sure what it means, but logically, it would have to be a very high position since a literal translation would mean something like “Head Lord King.” I am assuming that RAB MAGI (see above) is the highest of military titles, therefore RAB SHAR RESHI must be the very next position down in the pecking order perhaps equivalent to our “brigadier general.” There are a couple of inscriptions in Lihyanite Arabic near Tayma, Arabia that ascribe this title to Nabu Na’id, even though he was king at the time. The Lihyanite spelling of this term was RAB SARIS. The inscription was dictated by a person named Merdan, who claimed to be a friend of the king and apparently had known Nabu Na’id at a time when he was indeed a RAB SHAR RESHI.
RESHU(m) (Akkadian). “Head,” “top,” “principal,” “chief” etc. This word is cognate with modern Arabic “Ra’s,” and Hebrew “Ro’sh.”
RESH SHANTI (Akkadian). Literally means “head of the year,” but more specifically means “the New Year.” It is cognate with the modern Arabic "ra’s as-sanah" and the Hebrew "ro’sh ha-shanah."
SABAEANS = People living in the kingdom of Saba’ (Sheba in Hebrew) in S.W. Arabia (modern day Yemen). Ra’amah was their capital city. The Sabaean kingdom reached its height between 1500 B.C. and the time of Christ. They had developed their own alphabet at the same time alphabets appeared in Canaan. They were the first people to build what we would call skyscrapers. Pliny the elder marveled at their 100 ft. high apartment buildings. They were building dams and practicing irrigation agriculture by 3200 B.C., or a good 600 years before the pyramids of Egypt were built.
SATRAP (Mede/Old Persian). “Governor.” A SATRAPY was a governorate, or province.
SAYYID (Arabic). Means “sir,” or “mister.” SAYYIDI means “my sir,” and is used as an honorific.
SEALANDER = A term Mesopotamians used to define a group of people (from the "Khaldi" tribe) who settled along the N.W. coast of the “lower sea” (what we today call the Persian Gulf). Early Assyrian accounts have these people stretching from what is now Kuwait westward to the gulf of Aqaba. Over time they moved into southern Mesopotamia and as the Khaldeans (as they were called) dominated it. The Neo-Babylonian dynasty beginning with Nabopolasser descended from that group.
SHABAT (Hebrew), SBT or SABATA (Arabic). In both Arabic and Hebrew it means “rest.” The word may be etymologically descended from the pan-Semitic SHEBA' (SB') sheba’ (sb’) meaning “seven.” Thus, in Hebrew usage YOM HA-SHABAT meant both “the seventh day” and “the day of rest.” SHABAT “rest” is not to be confused with SHUBAAT the Semitic name for the month of February.
SHAH YE SHAH (Persian). King of Kings. The term “Shah” continued to be used by Iranian monarchs up until the 1979 “Islamic” revolution. (This term may have been derived from the Akkadian SHARU(m).
SHALAMU(m) (Akkadian). To be peaceful.
SHALAAM ILKUM (Akkadian). Meant “Peace be upon you.” This is a common greeting still used in the Middle East today in its Arabic form of “salaam ‘alikum” and the Hebrew form of “Shalom ‘alikom.”
SHAR (Akkadian). As a unit of measurement of an area was equal to 25 and 1/3 square miles.
SHARRU(m) (Akkadian). Means “king,” or “the king.”
SHARRU DANNU (Akkadian). Means “strong king,” or “the strong king.”
SHARRU HAYY! (Akkadian) “Long live the king!”
SHARRU KINNU (Akkadian). Means “the true king.” This is a title that the founder of the first Akkadian state assumed for himself when he became king in C. 2350 B.C. Scholars believe that his assuming this name indicates that he was probably a usurper. History books call him Sargon I.
SHARRU RABU (Akkadian). Means “Great king,” and was a title ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar.
SHATT AL-ARAB (Arabic). Literally means “the Arab coast,” but actually refers to the single waterway that the Tigris and Euphrates empty into and that conveys their waters to the Arab/Persian gulf.
SHEDU (Akkadian). A male protective spirit, corresponding to "lama" the female version mentioned above.
SHESHGALLU (Akkadian). The “highest” of the high priests of the Marduk temple.
SHIBIR (Akkadian). SHIBIR is the origin of our word “scepter,” which is what it meant. Nabu Na’id used a long ringed staff as his scepter. Egyptian kings used a miniature imitation of a shepherd’s staff with a crook. All scepters were intended to be symbolic of the shepherd’s staff since the king is the shepherd of his people. This custom indicates that the earliest monarchies were most likely established by people who had once been semi-nomadic pastoralists.
SHIBITU (Akkadian). Council of elders. When written with a double vowel at the end, it refers to the plural of the “elders” themselves, rather than to the council itself which is singular. Compare the Arabic root SHEIB meaning to grow old, white-haired, grey.
SHIKARU (Akkadian). “Beer.” Cognate with the Arabic SAKARA “to be drunk” and SAKKARA “to sprinkle sugar on something,” and the Hebrew SHEKAR “beer” and to get drunk.” It is the origin of our word for “sugar.”
SHIQLU(m) (Akkadian). Originally derived from SHAQALU a verb meaning “to weigh” it came to refer to a set amount of silver (approximately 3/10 of an ounce) and was used as a medium of exchange in commerce. Compare Hebrew SHAQAL “to weigh,” and SHEQEL/SHEKEL, and also the Arabic equivalent THAQALA “to weigh.”
SHITTIR (Akkadian). A term meaning “writing.” It is cognate with the Arabic SATTAR meaning “to draw lines,” “to jot down,” “to record.”
SHOFAT (Hebrew and Phoenician). Means "Judge," but this was a position in both Hebrew and Phoenician culture which also implied some form of administrative rule similar to a mayor, governor, president, or CEO of a company.
SHUBAAT (Akkadian and Arabic). Was the eleventh month of the Babylonian calendar, roughly equivalent to our February. It is cognate with the modern Arabic month of SHUBAAT "February."
SIMANU (Akkadian) = The third month of the Babylonian calendar, roughly equal to the month of June.
SIPRU(m) (Akkadian). Another term meaning "writting." As a verb, it meant “to write,” and is either the origin of, or derived from, the Mesopotamian place name “Sippar,” where the ancient world’s best scribal schools were located. It is also the origin of the Hebrew word “SAYFER,” meaning book, scroll, and other meanings related to writing, enumerating, and enciphering. It is also the source of our modern English words “cipher,” and “encipherment.”
SIPRU DILMUNI (Akkadian) = Writing of Dilmun."
SISTRUM/SISTRA = An Egyptian percussive instrument composed of bronze or brass. It had a "U" shape with a handle and three metal bars that fit along the "U" shape. When shaken like a tambourine, the metal bars made a heavy "rustling" sound.
SITTING SESSION = MAJLIS in Arabic. This term is still used in the Middle East today and can refer to the room where these “sitting sessions” take place, as well as the session itself. A "majlis," or "sitting session," could be a group of men sitting down to discuss an issue, either formally, or informally, or it could also mean a session whereby a king, or tribal Shaykh, holds a session whereby his subjects can gain an audience with him to present their petitions and/or express their grieviances. In modern usage, it can also mean someone's living room in their home.
TAMKARU(m) (Akkadian). Referred to a joint business operation, or joint stock company.
TAMUZU (Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew). The fourth month of the Babylonian calendar, TAMUZU was roughly equivalent to our July. It is sometimes spelled DU'UZU (for some strange reason) by some Assyriologists. It is cognate with the modern Arabic TAMUZ (July).
TEBETU (Akkadian). The tenth month of the Babylonian calendar, roughly equivalent to our month of January.
TEMENNU (Sumerian and Akkadian). Meant “foundation,” and usually referred to the floor of the most sacred room of a temple.
TIHAMAT (Akkadian). Sometimes spelled “Tiamat.” A primeval goddess who personified the saltwater sea. She mated with ABZU (see above), the personification of the freshwater sea (i.e. the giant east Arabian aquifer that supported the Dilmun civilization). TIHAMAT also was equated with the chaos of original creation out of which the god Qinqu was created. It was Qinqu who was sacrificed so his blood could be used to create mankind. Some scholars believe that the word TI'AMAT, or TIHAMAT, was most likely derived from the Sumerian TI “life,” and (H)AMA “mother.” Other scholars see TIHAMAT as the earlier form, as opposed to TIAMAT, a derived form, since TIHAMAT would be cognate with Old Akkadian TAHAMTU, meaning “sea.” Compare also Hebrew TEHOM “the deep, abyss,” of Genesis 1:2, and the Ugaritic THMT. Some scholars consider TI'AMAT and TIHAMAT to be the source of the Old Greek term THALATTE “sea” which became THALASSA in later Greek.
TILL (Akkadian). The original literal meaning was “hill” or “mound” but came also to refer to ruins of ancient cities because they tended to form up into mounds of rubble covered by mounds of dirt, dust, and mud making them look like a normal “hill” to the untrained eye. Cognate with Hebrew TELL and Arabic TALL.
TIN ISLES. This was the name for the British isles among the ancients.
TISHRIN (Akkadian). Optional spellings are TISHRINTU which then became TISHRITTU, and even TISHRI. This was the seventh month in the Babylonian calendar and is roughly equivalent to our October. It survives today in the Arabic calendar as TISHRIN AL-AWWAL (October), and TISHRIN ATH-THANI (November).
TUB(bum). (Sumerian and Akkadian). (Alternate spelling TUP(pum) The original meaning was “clay” or “mud” but then came to mean items made out of clay, such as writing tablets, or mud bricks. The word survives in modern Arabic today as TUUB meaning “brick.”
TUBBISHAR/TUPPISHAR (Akkadian). Scribe. The word originated from the old Sumerian word for clay, or clay brick (TUP, or TOB) to which was appended the Akkadian word for “king” or “master.” Since scribes originally wrote only in clay, “clay master,” or “clay king,” was an apt description.
TUBSHAR HAYKALI (Akkadian). A term for a “palace scribe.”
UBANU (Akkadian). Means “finger” and was used as a unit of measurement taking the width of a man’s index finger, or about 2/3 of an inch.
ULULU (Akkadian). Name of the 6th month of the Babylonian calander roughly corresponding to our September, and survives today in Arabic calendars as AILOUL “September.”
UMMI (Arabic). Could mean either “my mother,” or the affectionate “mommy.”
UMMI (Sumerian). In Sumerian, this word meant “expert,” or someone who was very well educated. Interestingly, UMMI in Arabic can also mean “illiterate.”
UPPER SEA. The Mesopotamians always referred to the Mediterranean as the “upper sea,” because one reached it by going up river along the Euphrates before cutting across northern Syria to the sea. See also “lower sea.”
UR/URU (Sumerian). “City.” The same term was used in Akkadian for “city.” “Ur” was also the name of a specific city in lower Mesopotamia during Sumerian times. The term became “Eir” ('Ayin Yod Rosh) in Hebrew.
URU SHALAM (Akkadian/Old Hebrew/Canaanite). “City of Peace.” By the 1st century A.D. it was called YERUSHALIM HA-QADISHAH “Jerusalem the Holy.”
UTA NAFISHTIM (Akkadian). (Sometimes spelled UTA NAPHISHTIM). The literal meaning is “he found (his) soul,” or, more properly, “he found life,” but is also used as the name of a person in the Gilgamesh epic account of the flood story. In this story, “uta nafishtim” was the Akkadian “Noah” who survived the great flood and found eternal life, thus UTA NAFISHTIM. He was the persona that Gilgamesh sought out in order to learn the secrets of immortal life. The only problem was that he lived under the sea near Bahrain, so perhaps he didn’t escape the “flood” after all. He was a possible prototype for the Roman god of the sea “NePTune.
UTICA (see next entry)
'UTIQAH (Phoenician). Means “The ancient one” and refers to the oldest Phoenician colony on the North African Coast—just to the north of QARYAT HADASHAH (Carthage). Spelled "Utica" in modern languages, 'UTIQAH is the origin of our word for “antique,” and is derived from the pan-Semitic 'ATAQA (‘Ayin, tah, Qof) meaning “to be old, to be ancient.”
WADI, pl. AWDIYYAH (Arabic). Means “valley,” or “stream bed,” or “canyon.” In Ayyoub’s situation it refers to a very broad valley in western Arabia.
WARDU(m). A higher class of slave, usually one who worked for the palace or a temple. Often "wardu" slaves were highly skilled in a craft of some sort which afforded them a degree of respect.
WAZIR (Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician, etc.). This is the correct term for a “minister of state,” or an administrative assistant to the king. This term is commonly misspelled in western languages as “vizier,” probably due to Persian influence switching the “W” to a “V.” It would never have been pronounced “vizier” by any ancient Semite.
WIND TOWER. A primitive form of air conditioning still used in remote parts of Arabia today. It was based on the physical law that cool air flows downward, so by having the tower extend above the height of the rest of the building it could funnel air into the rooms below. This structure is the probable origin of the minaret seen in conjunction with mosques.
YA (Akkadian). The "ya" ending on words in Akkadian were a form of endearment, or type of diminutive form, such as KALBIYYA “my little doggie,” or “puppy,” and should not be confused with the YAH and YAHU endings attached to Hebrew names which were a shortened form of the name for the yahudi-Hebrew God YAHWEH.
YA (Arabic). As a stand-alone word in Arabic it is used as a vocative roughly equivalent to “oh!” or “Hey!” or “you don’t say,” depending upon context.
YAHUD (Hebrew, Arabic, Akkadian, etc.). Refers to the tribe of people we call “Judah.”
YAHUDAH refers to the nation-state, or kingdom of “Judah.” YAHUDI refers to a person from the ethnic group we call “Jewish.” YAHUDEEM and YAHUDUU are plurals in Hebrew and Akkadian respectively meaning “Jews.” The final vowels in Akkadian (and Arabic) may change depending upon the grammatical function of the word in a sentence (i.e. nominative, genitive, etc.).
YAHWEH (Hebrew, early Arabic). Means “He exists.” This term is the third person singular of the verb HAWAH (HWH) “to exist.” The third person singular form came to be used to identify the solitary, unseen deity of the "yahudeem," and seems to have appeared in usage first in Northern Arabia (see AHWEH above). In Biblical theology YAHWEN was later merged with the Canaanite EL during the first millennium B.C. Compare the modern Arabic term "hawiyyah" (from the same root) meaning “identity.”
YAWAN (Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician). YAWAN was the original Semitic term for Greece, and the Greek inhabited portions of the West Anatolia coastline and the islands in between. YAWANEEM (Hebrew/Phoenician) and YAWANUU (Akkadian) meant “the Greeks.” From this term we get the word “Ionian” in western languages. In the English translations of the Bible yawan is misspelled as “Javan.”
YISHRA'IL (Hebrew). This is an older form of the proper name of “Israel.” It was derived from an original YASHAR-'IL meaning “God is upright.” In Eblaite cuneiform the name appears as YISHRA-'IL (as the name of a person) as early as 2500 B.C. showing a slight alteration in the voweling from the original. Then, sometime between the time of the name’s origin and the writing of the Bible over two thousand years later, the name was modified even further. The later Biblical writers took the verb YASHAR meaning “to be upright/straight/righteous” in its infinitive form an exchanged it for the verb SAR meaning “to wrestle,” and then converted it to the 3rd person singular imperfect YISAR, and then, following the same transposition of the final vowel as in the Eblaite example, YISAR became YISRA so that the name, as it appears in Biblical texts, became YISRA'EL. This new, much modified (and incorrect) pronunciation then meant “he wrestles with God,” rather than the original “God is righteous.” New myths then had to be invented to explain the origin of the strange name, since who in their right mind would “wrestle with God?” Therefore the story of “Jacob” wrestling with the “angel” was invented, borrowing on Mesopotamian Epics, particularly the Gilgamesh story where Gilgamesh wrestled Enkidu and hurt his leg, to explain how “Jacob’s” name was changed to “Israel.”
YOM (Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician). “Day.”
YOM HA-SHABAT (Hebrew). This term referred to what we today call the "Sabbath," (the seventh day, the day of "rest"): and always was, and still is, Saturday (and never on Sunday), from Friday at sundown, until Saturday at sundown.
ZAGHAREED (Arabic). This term refers to the shrill, trilling cries of joy (or ululation) made by Arab Women at weddings and other joyous occasions. The sound is produced by trilling the tongue while shrieking.
ZARDOSHT (Persian). This is the Persian pronunciation for their prophet called "Zoroaster" in English and "Zarathustra" in German.
ZEDIQIYYAH (Hebrew). The literal meaning is “YAH(WEH) is just.” This was the name of a king of Judah who ruled from 596 to 586 B.C.
ZEFAF (Arabic). The literal meaning is “wedding,” or “wedding ceremony,” and is derived from the verb ZAFAFA (ZFF) meaning “to conduct in solemn procession. SI'R ZEFAF (pl. AS'AR ZEFAF) refers to the “bridal price,” or the amount money and/or goods that the groom’s family pays to the bride’s family as part of the marriage contract.
ZURVAN (Old Persian). Meant “Time.” Among pre-Zoroastrian Iranians, ZURVAN not only meant “time” but was also a deity—i.e. “time” itself was a deity. “Zurvanites” believed that “time” was not only a framework in which the world’s historical events unfolded, but was a sentient being that actually controlled the unfolding of events. In some passages of the Zoroastrian Avesta ZURVAN is considered to be a minor divinity in an apparent concession to the Zurvanites.