England’s Hebrew Origins

As I study the tractate of Mishnah called Tevul Yom, I came upon the following passage:

The kadumim of Ashkelon that break, but their unkeli remain intact, can still become ritually impure (tamei).

(Tevul Yom 4:6)

Firstly, what are kadumim? The commentaries explain that these were a sort of pole with hooks extending from it which was used to suspend containers of water, or alternatively, to raise a bucket or other vessel from a well into which it had fallen. “Unkeli” are the hooks.

Seeing this, I remembered reading that a word meaning “hook” or “fishing hook” had been the origin of the name for England, and I noted the phonetic similarity between unkeli and England. With a bit of research I discovered that the Angles, one of the early tribes that settled what is now England, and for whom the land owes its name, came from the Angeln peninsula, which itself is believed to have been named for its “angular” shape, meaning bent, hooked or curved. The word “ankle” is believed to be derived from the same root.

Clearly, the unkeli hooks of this mishnah share the same linguistic root.

But can we trace this root even further back?

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, “angle” and “ankle” derive from a Proto-Indo-Europian ANG/ANK root. However, this neglects the L in both words.

According to this article at Edenics.org, these words actually derive from an AKL root, with the “n” having slipped in over time through a process called “nasalization,” in which “n” sounds creep into words. (Like how the Hebrew name Yaakov evolved into its nickname “Yankel.”)

If right, this word family derives from the Hebrew root עקל, meaning “crooked” or “bent.”

From here, one can even begin to detect to relationship to the word “hook,” which removes the nasalization and returns to the first two letters — עק — of the original Hebrew root.


One thought on “England’s Hebrew Origins

  1. Other possibly related words: Angle, Tangle, Knuckle (bends a finger into a hook), Uncle (his relationship on the family tree makes a “hook” to the right or left), Monk (when the bow from the waist, they look like a hook),

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