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Etymology of the word “Amen”

Thursday 21 June 2007, by Djaafar Messaoudi

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The word “Amen” (Hebrew: אָמֵן , Arabic: آمين ) is found in three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is usually uttered at the end of a prayer to confirm what has been said before, meaning therefore “so be it”, “truly”, “let it be so”. But what is its origin, linguistically speaking?

The word is commonly said to be of a Hebrew origin. It is the Greecian theologians who introduced it in Western languages after the translation of the Bible. Then, it is adopted by the Arabs as it is used in the Koran revealed to their prophet in Arabic. But the problem is that in none of these languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Greek) can be found contemporarily the least trace of the word “Amen”. The only language – and we never thought of it though it is as ancient as the two first ones – which offers us a clear explanation and confirms the meaning of “Amen” as it is stated above, is the Berber language.

In Kabyle (one of the various dialects of Berber), there is the phrase “am-in” that means synchronically, in common speech, “like that”. However, if we put “am-in” in the context of a prayer, it will clearly mean “so be it”; with “it” referring here to what has been said before. Notice the following example: “ad ig Rebbi yedder! Am-in” (May he live! Amen; i.e. may what has been said come true).

The Berber term “in”, meaning the one who/which, is attested in today’s Touareg dialects which are well-known for their preservation of the most ancient phenomena related to the Berber language. It is the allomorph of the Kabyle non-annexed form “win”.

Links to sites dealing with the word “Amen”:

Written by: D.Messaoudi

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12 Forum messages

  • Etymology of the word “Amen”

    21 June 00:43, by Hmiducc

    Now then… I am surprise you did not think of the berber (kabyle) verb AMEN which simply means To BELIEVE.

    Amen simply meaning to believe in Kabyle.

    This make me think of a text I read along time ago about the exchange of words between Greek and Berber as well as between Latin and Berber.

    Most linguists fail to realize that the exchange can go both ways.

    Another word that comes to mind is SEMANTIC always refering its origin as greek (semantikos). Actualy the Greeks may have borrowed the berber word SEM (as in ISEM-ik? = Your NAME?) which simply means NAME.

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  • Etymology of the word “Amen”

    21 June 22:39, by Tifirelest

    What about the origine of the world ILEW and ILAT.

    When we say “ANECT ILAT” in Kabylian, do we mean “AS GREAT AS GOD”, knowing that the word “ILU” means GOD in Aramaic language.

    And what does “Ilew” mean in Kabylian?

    Can some one of you tell me more about this???

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    • Etymology of the word “Amen” 23 June 00:05, by hmiducc

      ILEW and ILAT.

      I knew the word Ilu which means ELEPHANT

      Incidently, I always thought that A nect ilat means As large as Elephants

      I’am positive: ILU means ELEPHANT and since we never had a fixed way of writing while using latin caracters, I am wondering if if there is no confusion of the two words: ILU and ILEW.

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      • Etymology of the word “Amen” 23 June 02:14, by Tifirelest

        Okay, thank you.

        To be clearer: I didn’t ask for ILU because I didn’t know this world. Thank you for your teachings. In fact, I asked for ILEW with the sound “W” at the end of the word.

        But ILAT remains unexplained then…

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      • Etymology of the word “Amen” 23 June 02:20, by Tifirelest

        May be people in the past used to worship the elephant and called it God, ILU in aramaic???

        I think ILU and ILAT have then the same meaning because Elephant is big-Great and God was believed to be big or Great.

        ANECT ILAT would mean as great as God or as the elephant knowing that both the elephant and God refer to GREATNESS.

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        • Etymology of the word “Amen” 23 June 10:39, by hmiducc

          But ILAT remains unexplained then…

          Hi: I lik to stand corrected, because I erred:

          Elephant is Ilu and its plural form is ILUTEN I checked with my older siter (I am old, but she is older and speaks ONLY Kabyle, therefore more knowledgeable) and I learned this:

          A nect Ilat is actually (according to her) what must thus be understood:

          ILA-T means It was (ILA wit negh = He was with us) A nect = How big (or As big as: a nect iw = My size = as big as I am)

          So A nect ilat would be a question (ACCORDING to HER)

          which means HOW BIG IS IT (OR WHAT WAS or is ITS SIZE)

          Always according to my sister, when in Kabyle we wish to express AWE because of the size we would use:

           A nect LBHER (as big as the ocean)
           A nect IGENI (as big as the Sky) and yes some people (the new generation) would even says:
           A NECT REBBI (As big as GOD)

          Cheers (We learn everyday!)

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          • Etymology of the word “Amen” 23 June 16:46, by Tifirelest

            Dear my friend,

            Than you for your explanations. I am convinced that ILAT comes from the verb ILA (to be).

            But LBHAR is in arabic. The name of the sea in Berber is AGAWAR or AGAWER (I don’t really know how to speel it but the sounds are there).

            thank you,

            Take care

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          • Azul fellawen,

            I think that there is a mistake somewhere . Elephant have desepeard from Tamaz&a round the 2nd centry. and today, there is no name for that animal in the Kabyle version, and i think that there is no name in the other variants of Tamazi&t. So please, from where your sibling had this information?


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      • Etymology of the word “Amen” 27 June 10:52, by D.M.

        The word “ilew” (elephant) derives from the verb “ilaw” (to be large) both attested in present dialects of Touareg. I have got a big French-Touareg dictionary that helps me.

        As for “annect-ilat” or may be “annect ila-t”, it can be an interrogative phrase meaning (how bi is it?) or declarative phrase meaning (as big as “ilat”); this last word is attested as a pre-islamic devinity in the Middle East with which the Berbers have had commercial and conflictual relations. Before Islam, the Arabs believe in many gods, amongst them the dual “ilat w-alazza”.

        Don’t take it for granted; this is just a thesis.

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  • Etymology of the word “Amen”

    25 September 21:32, by Roland Kubler
    I recall Paramahansa Yogananda drawing in his book ’autobiography of a yogi’ the etymological root vice versa from the sanskrit term ’OM’-or ’AUM’- via the arabic ’AMIN’ to ’AMEN’. He also draws attention to the gospel of John, ’ in the beginning there was the word and the word was with god and the word was god’ -pardon if i did not quote perfectly- and claims that the ’word’ imply the very sound ’OM’. Interestingly in the Talmud ’amen’ is said to be an acronym for ’god’. It would be interesting to find out if the possible link back to SANSKRIT can be sustained from other sources - RK

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