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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777
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In Hebrew: ‘Wild Animals’

A daily dose of Hebrew.

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Wild Animals

Photo Credit: Yori Yanover



חַיּוֹת בַּר My recent reading and watching of Life of Pi leaves me inspired to share with you a piece on the Hebrew expression for wild animals: חַיּוֹת בַּר. In Rabbinic literature, חַיָּה (coming from the word חָיmeaning living) refers specifically to a non-domesticated animal, while בְּהֵמָה refers to a domesticated animal. But in Modern Hebrew, חיה is the generic word for animal.

A specifically wild animal is a חַיַּת בַּר, where the ה (h) in חיה becomes a ת (t) in this “of” (construct-סְמִיכוּת) relationship – literally, an animal of the wild. And ברmeans wild.

A synonym of חיית בר is חַיַּת פֶּרֶא – also wild animal.

בר has other meanings too, as this page will show you. Israeli model Bar Refaeli’s first name refers to the third item on that list, though perhaps the connotation expresses in today’s dose is an intended secondary meaning. You’d have to ask her parents.

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Ami Steinberger

About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.

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