Hebrew Language Blog

Hebrew Grammar: Diseases Posted by on Feb 4, 2019 in Grammar

The Hebrew language consists of patterns: verbs (called בנינים) and nouns (called משקלים).

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Those fixed patterns – בניינים and משקלים – form a frame to the numerous Hebrew roots. The prefixes and/or suffixes of the patterns are permanent, and the root just integrated into it. Some of the patterns also attribute meaning to the word.

A pattern like this we’ve already learned is the pattern for languages: ___ יׅת . Almost all of the languages’ names in Hebrew follow this pattern. For example: Hebrew = עִבְרִית, English = אַנְגְּלִית, Hungarian = הוּנְגָּרִית, Portuguese = פּוֹרְטוּגֶזִית, Chinese = סִינִית, and so on.

Another fixed pattern in Hebrew is קַטֶּלֶת. Many nouns are conjugated according to this pattern. Fall of autumn leaves (שַׁלֶּכֶת), pipeline (צַנֶּרֶת), hump of a camel (דַּבֶּשֶׁת), just to name a few. But most of the words following this pattern are disease names and different ailments, thus it’s received the nickname “the diseases’ pattern” (מׅשְׁקַל הַמַּחֲלוֺת), although the word disease itself – מַחֲלָה (ma-ha-la) – belongs to another pattern.

For example (in Aleph-Bet order):

Obesity = אַבֶּסֶת (a-be-set)

Rubella = אַדֶּמֶת (a-de-met)

Edema = בַּצֶּקֶת (ba-tze-ket)

Impetigo = גַּלֶּדֶת (ga-le-det)

Scabies = גָּרֶדֶת (ga-re-det)

Inflammation = דַּלֶּקֶת (da-le-ket)

Celiac disease = דַּגֶּנֶת (da-ge-net)

  • Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. In the past, celiac Hebrew name was כָּרֶסֶת – a combination of the word כָּרֵס, meaning “potbelly”, into the diseases’ pattern. Most of the classic symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, but Israelis who suffer from celiac found this Hebrew name offensive. For years, they refused to use it, and eventually the Academy of the Hebrew Language accepted their request and invented a new word for celiac disease – דַּגֶּנֶת (from the word דָּגָן, meaning “grain”).

Lupus = זָאֶבֶת (za-e-vet)

Mumps = חַזֶּרֶת (ha-ze-ret)

Acne = חַטֶּטֶת (ha-te-tet)

Jet lag = יַעֶפֶת (ya-e-fet)

  • Modern life requires new words. During the 90’s, the Academy of the Hebrew Language (an institution with legislated authority to study, guard, and guide the development of the Hebrew language) decided to use the diseases’ pattern to the new word for jet lag and created the word יַעֶפֶת.

Rabies = כַּלֶּבֶת (ka-le-vet)

Runny nose = נַזֶּלֶת (na-ze-let)

Diabetes = סֻכֶּרֶת (su-ke-ret)

  • A useful video in Hebrew with saddening facts about the growth of diabetes in Israel:

Syphilis = עַגֶּבֶת (a-ge-vet)

Scoliosis = עַקֶּמֶת (a-ke-met)

Thrombosis = פַּקֶּקֶת (pa-ke-ket)

Hepatitis = צַהֶבֶת (tza-e-vet)

Scar = צַלֶּקֶת (tza-le-ket)

Tetanus = צַפֶּדֶת (tza-pe-det)

Allergy = רַגֶּשֶׁת (ra-ge-shet)

  • Another new word the Academy of the Hebrew Language invented this century (though it wasn’t a technology progression requirement) was the Hebrew word for allergy. For years, Israelis use a phonetic translation of the English word allergy – אָלֶרְגְּיָה. For example:

אֲנׅי אָלֶרְגׅי לְבּוֺטְנׅים.

I’m allergic to peanuts.

In 2006 a new word was approved instead of אָלֶרְגְּיָה – רַגֶּשֶׁת. But Israelis

haven’t quite got used to the new word, and most of them still use the old word

and its conjugations.

Tuberculosis = שַׁחֶפֶת (sha-he-fet)

Pertussis = שַׁעֶלֶת (sha-e-let)

Diseases’ roots that their third letter is guttural – the letters ח, ע, ר – change the diseases’ pattern punctuation. The last two vowels of the word alter from “e” sound to “a” sound. For example:

Schizophrenia = שַׁסַּעַת (sha-sa-at)

Flu = שַׁפַּעַת (sha-pa-at)

  • A funny commercial for a flu shot in Hebrew (with Hebrew subtitles):

Leprosy = צָרַעַת (tza-ra-at)

Fever = קַדַּחַת (ka-da-hat)

Keep warm and stay safe!


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