The Ge’ez word ድግድግ, dagdaga, has an extremely peculiar threefold meaning. First, ‘to be lean, be meager’; second, ‘to gird oneself’; and, finally, ‘to be early morning, get up early in the morning’. Further, there is also ደግደገ, dəgdəg, ‘chicken’.

Leslau suggests that dagdaga as ‘gird oneself’ could be reduplicated from dəgg, ‘belt’. He considers alternatively that it may be a development of ‘get up early’ – similar to how (interestingly) Hebrew שכמ ‘to rise early’ is thought to be denominative from שכמ ‘shoulder’. This latter seems like a stretch, though.

But Leslau also suggests that dagdaga as ‘be early morning, get up early in the morning’ may be a denominative from dəgdəg, chicken, “whose crowing,” of course, “indicates the early morning.”

Whence ‘to be lean, be meager’? In other branches of Ethiopic, the cognates of this mean ‘crush’ or ‘grind’. This is probably to be connected with cognates like Hebrew דכא. Although at first this may seem like the odd man out, it seems likely the connection is that crushing grain was mainly done in the morning. This is possibly being referred to in Jeremiah 25.10, “And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” Quoting Walton and Baker (2009:290), “The millsone [sic] and the lamp together symbolize domestic life in its regular cycle. The millstone is heard in the mornings and the lamp burns at night. The presence of both signals joy because normality prevails.”

If so, this constitutes a nice parallel with dagdaga as chicken – the connection mainly being one of *sounds* (in the morning).


Well, I had pretty much finished a post talking about how Takács, in an otherwise massive entry in his monumentally impressive dictionary of Egyptian, missed a crucial Semitic cognate for mr, ‘pyramid’ – “[o]ne of the most enigmatic words from an etymological viewpoint” – in Akkadian amaru, “pile of bricks.” This seemed pretty important, and I was excited to write about it. I even did a PDF search, just to make sure Takács hadn’t already covered it. As I’m finishing up my post, I was looking back through the discussion of mr, and somehow stumbled upon an entire section I had missed that indeed mentions amaru. No idea how I missed it, either…it was one of the very first sections.

Anyways, I don’t have much to add to this, other than the slightly interesting fact that ziggurats – the well-known Mesopotamian stepped pyramids – were made of baked mud bricks; whereas the Egyptian pyramids were limestone blocks. Thus, the Mesopotamian amaru and Egyptian mr are even more analogous than thought, in terms of basically meaning the same thing to the respective cultures (that is, Egyptian pyramids as “piles of stone blocks”).

Also, Takács cites Biberstein Kazimirski, Albright and others have appealed to another apparent Semitic cognate of amaru: Arabic ˀamārāt, either interpreted as “pierre qui indique la route” – that is, marker stones to indicate routes – or as “pyramidal heap of stones” (Albright). Although somewhat insightful, this is a contextually-dependent definition, Albright noting correctly that ˀamāra is “properly ‘mark, sign'” (Albright 1927: 218). But interestingly, in Genesis 31, Jacob makes a “heap” (גל) of stones as something of a stele – a boundary marker (31.52), and a sign of his “treaty” with Laban.