Biblical Hebrew Homeschool Curriculum

Hebrew Words in English

Some Hebrew words, like amen and Sabbath, have come purposefully and directly into English because there was no good translation for a Biblical concept.

Others snuck in through the twists and turns of history. Here are a few.

milk canisters
nanny goat


The prophet Anna in Luke 2:36 really had the same name as Hannah, Samuel's mother, but it was through Biblical Greek that the name became wildly popular in France and England as Anne or Ann. So popular, in fact, that Anne became a term for a female: an ann goat was a girl goat, and from there easily arose the term nanny goat. But how did girl goats come to mean mother's helpers? By the fact that giving children milk is one of a mother's important roles.

mary cassatt

tom turkey


The Hebrew for twin sounds a lot like Tom. The apostle Thomas may have been a twin, or perhaps he just looked a lot like Jesus, and so earned his nickname Tom, the Greek version of which is Thomas. Just as with Anne, Tom became such a popular name that it came to mean a male, as in tom turkeys, tomcats, and tomboys.


Jacket, Jockey, Jackass, Yankee

The Hebrew name Yochanan became Jacques, John, Jan, Johann, Jock, Jack, and Juan. Like Ann and Tom, John was such a standard for boys' names that it came to mean a man, as in lumberjack or jack of all trades. The jacqutte was an everyman's garment, from which comes jacket.

The jackass is the male donkey.

The Dutch for Johnny is Janke, with the J pronounced as a Y. The Dutch settled New York, where they came to be called Yankees.



The Hebrew word for reed is kaneh. Through Greek and Latin, kaneh came as can to name many round, hollow things like canning jars, the milk canisters at the top of the page, trash cans, cannons, channels, canals, and canes of bamboo or sugar.

A reed was also used as a measuring stick. Thus kaneh also became canon, a standard by which to judge.



The Phoenicians, so famous as traveling merchants, manufactured a cheap, coarse cloth for transporting goods: sack. Repentant folks in the Bible sometimes dress in sack (see Jonah). Because sack was made into bags, the bags came to be called sacks, and the word travelled with the packaging. Variations include sac, satchel, and sachet. We say that soldiers sack a city because they pack up the booty in bags and carry it away.

bean sack


Meet more fascinating Hebrew words you already knew in Biblical Hebrew: Annotations and Answers and in Biblical Hebrew 2.

So long! (which is one of them)


copyright 2022 Alef Press

Images: milk cans courtesy Simon Howden,; goat courtesy Kantapat Putthiprasitkul,; turkey courtesy papaija2008,; bamboo courtesy kai4107,; beans courtesy zole4,; scallions courtesy Grant Cochrane,; painting by Mary Cassatt is in the public domain in the U.S.