Esther means “star”, but also “hidden”.
Esther means “star”, but also “hidden”.
Esther meaning “star” & “hidden”
The name אסתר ˀstr Esther officially means “star” in Persian, but the very same spelling also means “hidden” & “secret” in Hebrew. That word is even very common in Hebrew & Aramaic, so it would be the first association made by Semitic speakers with the name Esther.
The root form for the word “hidden” is סתר str, but the Aleph-prefixed form אסתר ˀstr is also common, and occurs several times in the Bible, written exactly like Esther.
אסתר ˀstr : “star,” Ahasuerus’ queen who delivered Israel; Of Persian derivation: Persian stâra, star — Old Hebrew (Strong)
Hebrew str = hidden, secret
סתר str : to hide, conceal, cover, hide self, keep secret, hidden, undetected — Old Hebrew (Strong)
סתר str : to hide, conceal; hidden, concealed — Hebrew (Klein)
סתר str : to cover, hide; to conceal; to be hidden, protected; to hide one’s self; to retire under suspicious circumstances; secret things, mysteries; secret sins — Hebrew (Jastrow)
Aramaic str = hidden, secret
סתר str : to hide oneself; to conceal; to hide; to save, protect; to be concealed; to hide oneself; to hide oneself; to clothe oneself; to be saved; to be hidden — Aramaic (CAL)
סתירה styrh : hidden thing, secret — Aramaic (CAL)
סתירו styrw : obscurity — Aramaic (CAL)
סתר str : secret; protection; hidden place — Aramaic (CAL)
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
הן גרשת אתי היום מעל פני האדמה ומפניך אסתר והייתי נע ונד בארץ והיה כל מצאי יהרגני
Esther admitted to mean “disguise”, celebrated on Purim with masks
Regular people celebrate the Book of Esther with the Purim festival, by dressing up in costumes & masks. Because of this tradition, it is widely known that the name Esther puns with the word “hidden”, and that this includes the meaning of “disguise”. The relevance of the pun is officially explained with the story, in which the heroine Esther does not reveal her true identity. However, there are also a lot of allusions that there is much more to this.
So, while Esther is one of the Biblical puns that are more or less openly admitted, the truth about cryptocracy remains hidden.
So when the Talmud wants to know where in the Torah the miracle of Purim is referenced, one opinion suggests this verse: God says that when the Jews aren’t at their best, God will hide or Haster astir panay - הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי . The word for “hide” sounds a lot like…Esther! Just look at the Hebrew parallels: אֶסְתֵּר- אַסְתִּיר
In this reading, Esther is the embodiment of the hidden power of the divine in this world. Her name is a reminder that there’s always more to a situation than meets the eye.
Of course, there’s also a lot of literal disguising going on in the Purim story. Esther doesn’t reveal her identity as a Jew, Mordechai gets to dress up as royalty as a reward for saving the king’s life, and even Achashverosh is always throwing parties and putting extra finery around his palace. Dressing up on Purim reminds us of these characters adjusting their identities as circumstances warranted.
As we approach the feast of Purim, I continue to be intrigued by the Book of Esther, the book written in order to explain that holiday. The more I read it, the more I am convinced that – like everything else connected to Purim – there is more hidden than revealed, and that everything in it is in disguise and is not what it seems to be.
We are not the only ones who put on masks at Purim. The very Persian name of the heroine, Esther (Ishtar) in Hebrew means ‘hidden,’ and that is what she was. Hadassah hides herself as Esther, pretending to be what she is not.
Hiddenness and revelation are at the very foundation of the Book of Esther and the celebration of Purim. Indeed, Esther’s name itself is from the Hebrew root s-t-r meaning hidden. Furthermore, Esther is not called a “Book” but is more precisely referred to as “The Scroll of Esther” or Megillat Ester. Hidden in the word megillah is the root g-l-h that means “to reveal” and also “to exile.” Megillat Ester could then be translated as “The Revealing of the Hidden” or, alternatively, “The Exiling of the Hidden.”
Even the special scroll we read, Megillat Esther is a pun of sorts. Megillah comes from the word Megaleh which means to reveal and Esther is related to the word – nistar or hester which means hidden.
Hadassah as a pun with htḥzh for “disguising”
In the story, Esther’s Hebrew name is given as הדסה hdsh Hadassah meaning “myrtle”.
הדסה hdsh : Hadassah: “myrtle,” Esther’s Jewish name — Old Hebrew (Strong)
This name seems totally unrelated to the “star” & “hidden” meanings of her Persian name. But it may be a pun with התחזה htḥzh hathazah, which is a reflexive Hitpa‘el form meaning “making oneself appear”, “disguising oneself”, “pretending”. In modern Hebrew, it explicitly means “impersonating” & “sham” and defines crimes. (The basic form is חזה hzh for “appearing” & “showing”.)
Since the names Esther & Hadassah are unrelated in their official meanings, but both mean “disguise”, we can be sure that this is the intended spook meaning.
Hebrew htḥzh, htḥzwt, mtḥzh = disguising, pretending, impersonating
התחזות htḥzwt : disguising oneself, pretending; Verbal noun of התחזה, Hith. of חזה. For the ending see suff. ות. — Hebrew (Klein)
התחזות htḥzwt : impersonating; false self-presentation that helps a person remain anonymous. — Hebrew (Wikt)
מתחזה mtḥzh : impersonator; pretender; a person who falsely presents himself to others, disguises himself. — Hebrew (Wikt)
Impersonation is a false self-presentation, with or without criminal intent, used by the impostor (the person making the impersonation) to remain anonymous, to achieve goals that would be difficult or unattainable to achieve with truthful self-presentation, or simply for enter.
התחזות היא הצגה עצמית בצורה כוזבת, עם או בלי כוונה פלילית, המשמשת למתחזה (האדם המבצע התחזות ) כדי להישאר אנונימי, להשיג מטרות שקשות יותר או בלתי ניתנות להשגה בהצגה עצמית אמיתית או לשם מהתלה.
The “impersonation of soldiers” section of the Military Jurisdiction provides a three-year prison sentence for any civilian who impersonates a soldier. The “impersonation” section of that law adds and imposes a one-year prison sentence for a soldier masquerading as having no rank, position or decoration.
סעיף “ התחזות כחייל” לחוק השיפוט הצבאי קובע עונש מאסר שלוש שנים לאדם שאינו חייל והתחזה כחייל. סעיף “ התחזות “ לאותו חוק מוסיף וקובע עונש מאסר של שנה לחייל המתחזה כבעל דרגה, תפקיד או עיטור שאינם שלו.
He impersonated a Junker (German knight class) named Georg and began working on translating the New Testament from Greek Koine.
הוא התחזה ליונקר (מעמד אבירים גרמני) בשם גיאורג והחל לעבוד על תרגום הברית החדשה מהשפה היוונית קוינה
Esther derived from Persian str for “veil”
It’s no coincidence that Esther’s Persian name means “star” & “hidden”. In Persian, both words are related: The common meaning is “veil”, because stars are the veil of the sky. The Persian meaning “veil” is even more explicitly a “disguise” than the Hebrew meaning “hidden”. This explains why it’s interpreted by spooks not as “hiding somewhere”, but as “disguising themselves as commoners”.
For the full derivation, see the star entry.
Persian str = veil, cover, hidden, concealed
ستر satr : covering, veiling, concealing; the privities; sitr: a covering, curtain, veil, screen; fear; shame; satar: a shield — Persian (Steingass)
ستر satr : covering, concealing; veiling — Persian (Sulayman)
ستر setr : a veil; a covering; a curtain; a screen — Persian (Sulayman)
استتار istitār : being hid; concealing oneself; concealment — Persian (Steingass)
تستر tasattur : being hidden, veiled, or covered — Persian (Steingass)
سترة sutrat : anything which covers or defends, as a veil, awning, shield, wall, and the like — Persian (Steingass)
ستار setar : the veiler, the concealer (of sins), i.e. God; a porter; one who keeps the curtain — Persian (Sulayman)