🏷  Semitic pun · symbol   —   by Gerry · Aug 2020 · 434 words

The donkey or ass is a pun with “veil”: It is called ḥmr in Arabic, which is similar to ḫmr for “veil”. In Hebrew & Aramaic, this word root appears as ḥmr / kmr, meaning “donkey” & “cover”.

The donkey is rarely used by the aristocratic spooks because it isn’t very impressive. It is definitely a spooky pun symbol though:

As for the etymology, the words are likely related: The fuzzy word root ḫmr / ḥmr / kmr seems to have the general meaning of piling things on top of something, to keep it warm and fermenting. It covers otherwise unrelated meanings such as “pile”, “burden”, “brewing”, “wine”, “asphalt”, “donkey”. My guess is that the donkey is derived from “piling” things on top, because it is a beast of “burden”, as suggested by Jastrow. (Klein derives it from the red asphalt.) The veil might describe a type of veil where several layers of cloth are “piled” on top of each other, or it might be derived from the general “covering”.

Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic ḫmr, ḥmr, kmr = veil, cover, hide, pile on

خِمَار ḫmˀr ḵimār : veil, cover of women — Arabic (Wikt)

خمار ḫmˀr khimar : a woman’s veil or head-dress — Arabic (Catafago)

تخامر tḫmr takhammur : veiling one’s self; wearing a veil — Arabic (Catafago)

تَخَامَرَ tḫˀmr taḵāmara : to conspire, to plot, to collude, to scheme — Arabic (Wikt)

تَخَمَّرَ tḫmr taḵammara : to veil the head and face; to ferment, to rise (of dough) — Arabic (Wikt)

خَمَرَ ḫmr ḵamara : to cover, to hide, to conceal; to brew to ferment, to leaven, to cause to rise chemically — Arabic (Wikt)

חמר ḥmr : to cover with asphalt — Hebrew (Klein)

כמר kmr : to pile on, do again; to cover something to keep it hot; to hide, keep safe; to do something again and again; to be turned around; to be returned; to have compassion — Aramaic (CAL)

כמר kmr : to hide, keep warm; to shrink, be wrinkled; to feel compassion — Hebrew (Jastrow)

Arabic, Hebrew ḥmr = donkey

حِمَار ḥmr ḥimār : donkey, ass — Arabic (Wikt)

חמור ḥmwr : ass, donkey — Hebrew (Klein)

🏷  Semitic pun · symbol