Tag Archives: colours

Words for 'white'

The Hebrew word for white is laban — לבן. A figure with this name occurs in Genesis chapter 29 and onwards.
When Jacob was sent to Haran in search of a wife, it was not because a white one would be better, as we can see in chapter 28:

Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. — verses 6-9, ESV.

A related name is the place name Lebanon, commonly thought to refer to the whiteness of that snow-covered mountain range.
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Words for ‘black’

In an attempt to reduce disorder in the universe, let’s have an overview of the words that various languages use to name the colour black.
Hebrew: shechor- שחר > Aramaic chrthutha ‘darkness’ חרתותא
Galilean: ʔaikum איכום
The Syriac word for ink: dyw ܕܝܘ looks similar to Welsh du/tywyll ‘black’. I don’t know if they are relatives.
Greek: μέλαν
— Latvian: męlns ‘black’, mellene ‘blueberries’
— Lithuanian: mėlynas ‘blue’, mėlynė ‘blueberries’
— (?) Telugu: nallani (looks related but who knows)
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