Other Posts By Adel Bishtawi
If you believe in the sanctity of “spirit” don’t read this
If you believe in the sanctity of “spirit” don’t read this, seriously!Wikipedia tells us, “The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath”, but also “spirit, soul, courage, vigor”, ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)peis.
The interent has over 600 quotations about “spirit”, one even starts with this: “I consider myself a stained-glass window”!
Two more sensible ones are these:
1- “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” ― Albert Einstein
2- “My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” ― Mary (mother of Jesus), Holy Bible: King James Version
Somebody is claimed to have asked: “What is Spirit” (with a capital letter), the answer: The soul and the spirit are the two primary immaterial aspects that Scripture ascribes to humanity. It can be confusing to attempt to discern the precise differences between the two. The word “spirit” refers only to the immaterial facet of humanity. Human beings have a spirit, but we are not spirits. However, in Scripture, only believers are said to be spiritually alive (1 Corinthians 2:11;Hebrews 4:12;James 2:26), while unbelievers are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5;Colossians 2:13). In Paul’s writing, the spiritual was pivotal to the life of the believer (1 Corinthians 2:14;3:1;Ephesians 1:3;5:19;Colossians 1:9;3:16). The spirit is the element in humanity which gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God. Whenever the word “spirit” is used, it refers to the immaterial part of humanity that “connects” with God, who Himself is spirit (John 4:24).
The Quran views “spirit’ in more or less the same way. Also in it is “Holy spirit” which nobody seems able to define acceptably.
So, what says etymology about the “spirit”?
Three bilaterals (not mono syllabic root morphemes, the two are not the same) are presented here, one of them is more likely than the other two to be the root for “spirit”. To identify the oldest “concept” of “spirit”, we have to look for a “natural” meaning, i.e. a meaning of something that existed in nature. If one thinks of the history of communicative languages in terms of 24 hour day, metaphysics would have surfaced in the hour 22:08 (50,000 yr/24/5000 yr, or 10%).
The words we should identify include, ‘riḥ’ “wind, smell”; ‘ruḥ’ “go, travel to”; ‘rii’ “to water, irrigate, quench thirst”. These words are not in Akkadian, as far as we can tell, so they must be in what is called “northern Arabic”, which makes sense because this branch has most of the “metaphysical” or non-natural spiritual concepts.
The roots are:
1- *RW “to water, irrigate, quench thirst”. The ‘w’ is changeable by its very nature, so a suffixed specifier extension (*RW+ḥ) would produce ‘rooḥ’ “spirit”. Why so? Because our prehistoric ancestors associated life with water, as explained in another post. It is very possible that the same root could produce ”riḥ’ “wind, smell”. The connections? 1-Wind carries smell; 2- Prior to rain, the air becomes heavy with moisture. The perception here is that the moist air heralds life. For people close to dying of thirst, the arrival of moist air is a sign of life renewed.
2- *RḤ “go, travel to, departed”. This root has the meaning of movement, like the wind, but it doesn’t have meanings that can be associated with life.
3- ‘Ḥ “water” but more specifically rain water because we think the tribe that invented this word lived in a desert in south east Arabia. ‘Rooḥ’ “spirit” would be a prefixed, not suffixed, specifier extension (r+‘Ḥ). The assumption here is that as long as there is water there is life.
These are the only sources for “spirit”. You make up your mind. I don’t want to be sent to the stake by angry Dominicans. I have enough trouble with my own Islamic Inquisition.
And here is something we at the Etymology Workshop remembered just minutes after sending the post to Google, may Allah the Almighty give them patience. A very common expression for Syrians when fresh air wafts in their direction is: “This is a breeze that returns the soul” (نسمة بترد الروح). These people know. Their dialect is an amazing mix of ancient Arabian, Amorite, Phenician (Canaanite) and Akkadian.
Image: “Rom, Vatikan, Basilika St. Peter, Die Taube des Heiligen Geistes (Cathedra Petri, Bernini)” by Dnalor 01 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 at via Wikimedia Commons –http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rom,_Vatikan,_Basilika_St._Peter,_Die_Taube_des_Heiligen_Geistes_(Cathedra_Petri,_Bernini).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Rom,_Vatikan,_Basilika_St._Peter,_Die_Taube_des_Heiligen_Geistes_(Cathedra_Petri,_Bernini).jpg