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September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
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In Hebrew: ‘Propaganda’

A daily dose of Hebrew.
propaganda

תַּעֲמוּלָה According the Online Etymological Dictionary, the English word propaganda is related to propagation – basically, getting the word out there. Indeed, propaganda is intellectual material meant for mass public consumption, including ideas about whom to vote for. But propaganda is also about agitating or getting people riled up around a particular goal, and here Hebrew takes a different spin on the word from English. The Hebrew word forpropaganda is תַּעֲמוּלָה, of the root ע.מ.ל (a.m.l) meaning labor and effort.

The Academy of the Hebrew Language cites an early usage of the term. A Zionist newspaper editor in Czarist Russia wrote:

“אָגִיטַצְיָה הִיא הֶעָרָה לְאֵיזֶה עָמָל נָחוּץ, לָכֵן תִּקָּרֵא הַיּוֹם בַּשֵּׁם ‘תַּעֲמוּלָה'”. Agitation (propaganda) is an indication of which effort (עמל) is necessary; thus it shall be called today, ‘תעמולה’.” In other words, תעמולה, in the Hebrew sense, is, more than anything else, a call to action.

For example:

יֵשׁ תַּעֲמוּלָה שֶׁהִיא מֻתֶּרֶת עַל פִּי חֹק, וְיֵשׁ תַּעֲמוּלָה שֶׁאֲסוּרָה.
There is propaganda that is permitted by law, and there is propaganda that is forbidden.
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About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.

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One Response to “In Hebrew: ‘Propaganda’”

  1. This is a wonderful way for me to improve my Hebrew. Thanks, Jewish press.

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