how to say “number” in Hebrew

מִסְפָּר

If you’ve got some basic Hebrew under your belt, you probably know the word for numberמספר .

For example:

מה מספר הטלפון שלך?

What’s your (a female’s) phone number?

But you may not have realized that מספר is related to storytellingסיפור סיפורים . Unlike אבטיח – watermelon and ביטחון – security (see yesterday’s dose), the common root in מספר and סיפור means the same thing: something like a declaration, calling something by its name or number, labeling it with human understanding. The connection is apparent even in English: look at the verbs to count and to recount.

מספר originally meant a counting – the simple verb לספור came before the noun, perhaps most famously in Genesis 15:5:

וַיּוֹצֵא אֹתוֹ הַחוּצָה, וַיֹּאמֶר הַבֶּט-נָא הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וּסְפֹר הַכּוֹכָבִים–אִם-תּוּכַל, לִסְפֹּר אֹתָם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ

And He took him outside, and said, Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if you can count them at all; and He said to him, thus will be your offspring.

מספר also works to mean a number of things, as in:

יש פה מספר פרצופים מוכרים.

There are a number of familiar faces here.

After having studied literature and linguistics on the bachelors level and psychology on the masters, Ami decided to draw upon his hobby of learning languages, his understanding of human thought processes and his skill of explaining complex ideas in simple terms, to found a program that enables people to speak Hebrew with confidence.

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