how to say “serenity” in Hebrew…


The Modern Hebrew letter ו (vahv) make a v sound when pronounced by most native speakers. In Biblical times, however, the letter made a w sound.

There are four Hebrew consonants pronounced, historically, at the lips: ב (b), מ (m), פ (p) and ו (w). Try it yourself. Linguists call these consonants bilabials

You all know the Hebrew word for peace – שָׁלוֹם (shah-LOHM). Here’s the word for tranquility or serenity: שַׁלְוָה (shahl-VAH). 

Now let’s look at the three-letter roots of these two words. The root of שלום is ש.ל.מ (sh.l.m.). The root of  שלוה is ש.ל.ו (sh.l.w). Two of the three letters in each of the two roots are identical: ש and ל. And the third letters – they’re pretty close, as they’re both pronounced at the lips. Such are many Hebrew synonyms. 



I write about this word because tonight I sat at the Western Wall with a couple of friends and sang in honor of one of them, who is getting married tomorrow. The first song we sang was יְהִי שָׁלוֹם בְּחֵילֵךְ, שַׁלְוָה בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָיִך (ye-HEE shah-LOHM be-kheh-LEKH, shahl-VAH be-ahr-meh-noh-TAH-yeekh) – May there be peace within your strongholds and tranquility within your palaces (Psalms 122).

May it be so.

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.

7 Comments

  • There was a time, presumably including the time of Greek influence in the area, when the vav had a PH- or F-sound. This explains how the Greek word phasis (phase of the moon) could become vav-samekh-sof in Hebrew.

    Israel "izzy" Cohen Reply
  • This is beautiful! The perfect word to use when meditating! Todah!

    Dvorah Joy Reply
  • אמן! ומזל טוב לחבר שלך. הייתי מקוה לשמוע את השיר הזה!

    rutimizrachi Reply
  • How do you say “fluid” in reference to a movement….that the movement flows, is not jerky, that you do the movement all together in one smoothe movement, not broken into its components?

    Asking that, is there a difference in the noun of fluid vs liquid in Hebrew?

    Anonymous Reply
  • fun.. used frequently in America

    Anonymous Reply
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