Leviathan: A WHALE of a discovery!

I’m a Pokémon fan. To an extent. I love the concept, even though it’s basically a glorified form of cock fighting, Ash is still ten years old after all these years, there’s no real continuance to the story, and Pokémon have become pretty-pretty plushies.

So, I read a dorkly article about the origins of certain Pokémon, and discovered that Kyogre is most likely based on the Hebrew/biblical legend of the leviathan mentioned in the book of Job. Many scholars agree is the oldest book the Bible, so this legend is pretty old!

Leviathan / לויתן

Leviathan / לויתן

The dorkly article goes on to say, “Leviathan is a large creature (‘whale’ in modern Hebrew) that can churn the oceans and”…

Wait… whale?!

Kyogre (カイオーガ) does look like a whale, huh?

Kyogre (カイオーガ) does look like a whale, huh?

So, I went to Morfix (my go-to Hebrew dictionary) and found this:

WHALE

That Hebrew word (לויתן) is identical to the word I see in Wikipedia’s article on Leviathan.

I shared it with my Israeli friend ‘Y’, who’s a linguist, and she said that there are other words like that in English that have Hebrew origins, yet have come to mean something else:

  • Armageddon, from הר מגידו (Har Hegido, the Hill of Megiddo)
  • Gallery, from גליל (Galil, Galilee) (the proof is right here!)*
  • Alphabet, from אלפבית (alefbet)

That last one surprised me, actually. I thought that English got the word “alphabet” from the Greek letters “alpha” (Α, α) and “beta” (Β, β), but she told me that Hebrew had “alef” (א) and “bet” (ב) before the Greeks, and that they got those letter names from Hebrew!

It does make sense since we got the word “Armageddon” (Ἁρμαγεδών) from Greek, too. It only appears once in the the New Testament (Rev 16:16) to refer to the location, and yet has taken on the meaning of “end of the world” in English.

Like English words “whale”, and “leviathan” (לויתן, livyatan) can also be used in Hebrew to refer to something really big.

That was fun to learn! Wonder how you said “whale” in ancient Hebrew… Or if there even was a word for it…?


*Why? Well, Y shared with me a bit of history. Galilee is, of course, known as a place where Jesus Christ did a lot of his work. When churches started being built in Europe, they had somewhere on the second floor where they’d hang pictures of Jesus. It became known as “Galilee”. From this practise, we got our modern word of “gallery”; a place of art.

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