Early Hebrew Lexicography
by Mark Filipas

To help determine any influence the Hebrew lexicon may have had upon the Marseilles pattern, we must examine lexicography contemporaneous to that pattern. The following lists identify some of the relevant Hebrew sources spanning the 10th through 17th centuries.

Bibliographies identifies some of the sources by which such works can be identified. The list of Lexicons and dictionaries identifies the relevant sources themselves. When known, each work’s location/date of origin appears in parenthesis. It should also be noted that the majority of lexical works below represent not one but multiple instances of that work, since these manuscripts were copied for circulation.


Amram, David

The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (London, 1962), a history and catalog of the first two centuries of Hebrew printing in Italy. Unlike the other sources listed here, Amram’s work excludes the subject of manuscripts pre-dating the printing press.

Azulai, Hayyim
Joseph David

Shem ha-Gedolim (Livorno, 1774-86), considered a bibliographical masterpiece.

Bartolocci, Giulio

Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica (Rome, 1675-93), a four-volume work considered a landmark of Hebrew bibliography. Written in Latin, it has not currently been translated into English.

Bass, Shebbetai

Siftei Yeshenim (1680), one of the pioneering works of Hebrew bibliography.

Buxtorf, Johannes

Bibiotheca Latina Hebraica (Rome, 1694), a catalog describing the hundreds of Hebrew works in his personal collection.


Collective catalogue of Hebrew manuscripts (France, 1989), a catalog of manuscripts, archived on 853 microfiches.

Deinard, Ephraim

Or Mayer (New York, 1896), a catalog of antique and rare Hebraica, many of which are now housed at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

De Rossi, Bernardo Giovanni

Dizionario Storico degli Autoi Ebrei d delle Loro Opere (Historical Dictionary of Hebrew Authors, Parma, 1802), translated into English by Marvin J. Heller. This work contains biographical sketches of just under 700 authors.

Mss. Codices hebraici biblioth. (Parma, 1803), de Rossi’s three-volume catalog, describing 1377 of the Hebrew manuscripts in his personal collection.

Annales hebraeo-typograpici sec. XV (Parma 1795), considered de Rossi’s most significant work on Hebrew bibliography. De Rossi also compiled additional bibliographies focusing specifically on Hebrew printing, Hebrew incunabula, anti-Christian polemics, among other topics.

Emmett Publishing

Montefiore collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the library of Jews' College (London, 1994), a collection of manuscripts archived on 1202 microfiches.

Wolf, Johann Christoff

Notitia Karĉorum (Hamburg 1714), a history of Hebrew lexicons.

Bibliotheca Hebraea (Hamburg 1715-33), a four-volume bibliography incorporating previous research, sources at the Oppenheim collection, and works from his own extensive library. Written in Latin, there is currently no English translation.

Yale University

Kaballah collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary, manuscripts and books from 1200-1925, archived on 65 reels of microform media. (Microform Reading Room, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale.)

Left: Meshal ha-Kadmoni, or Fable of the Ancient, a work which combined
science, allegory, and alphabetical puns
. Right: Melekhet ha-dikduk, showing
Latin terms listed in Hebrew alphabetical order (1524).

Lexicons and Dictionaries:

Almoli, Solomon

Hebrew Dictionary (Levant, early 1500s) which did not extend beyond the letter nun.

Badirasi, Abraham

Chotam Tochnit (1200s), a lexicon of Hebrew synonyms.

Also of note is Badirasi’s Prayer for Day of Atonement (1200s), every word of which contains the Hebrew letter lamed.

Caspe, Joseph Ibn

Sharsherot Kesef (France, mid-1300s), a Hebrew dictionary, manuscript copies of which exist at the Angelica at Rome, the Oratoire, the Escurial, and the Oppenheimer.

Chayug, Yehuda

Dictionary of the Sacred Tongue (11th-century), a popular Hebrew lexicon. Chayug was a renowned grammarian; Ibn Ezra called him “the Prince of Grammarians” and Kimchi says that “he enlightened all his successors.” Manuscript copies are housed in various European collections.

De Lara, David ben
Isaac Cohen

Keter Kehunnah (Corona Sacerdotii, Lexicon Thalmudico Rabbinicum, Hamburg, 1600s).
De Lara was a lexicographer, translator, and expert on classical literature. His
Keter Kehunnah, on which he worked for 40 years, is a Talmudic dictionary of words which do not appear in the earlier Arukh of Nathan Yechiel. The work extends only to the letter yod.

Ezra, Ibn

Moznayim (Rome, 1100s), a Hebrew grammar, of which several manuscript and printed copies exist in various collections.

Sapha Berurah (Rome, 1167), a grammatical work.

Ganach, Jonah Ibn

Sepher ha-Shorashim (Spain, 11th-century), a dictionary of the Hebrew language, of which there were multiple manuscript copies.

Sepher ha-Rikma (Spain, 11th-century), a grammar of the Hebrew language.

Hanover, Nata
Nathan ben Moses

Safa Berurah (Italy, 1600s), a dictionary of the Hebrew, German, Latin and Italian languages.

Hayyuj, David

Various lexicographical works (Cordoba, 10th century). Although they were written in Arabic, most of his writings dealt with Hebrew grammar. Hayyuj defined the Hebrew triliteral (three letter) root system, providing the foundation Hebrew grammatical studies.

Isaac Nathan

Meir Netib (1437–1445), Isaac’s translation into Hebrew of Arlotto’s Latin concordance.

Kimchi, Moses

Mahalak Shebile ha-Daat (France, 12th–13th centuries), a Hebrew grammar.

Kimchi, David

Sefer Michlol (France, 12th–13th centuries), a longer and more involved Hebrew grammar than that of his brother Moses.

Sefer ha-Shorashim, a renowned and much circulated Hebrew dictionary. De Rossi calls it “the best and most complete of which the Jewish nation can boast, whence the ablest of our lexicographers have borrowed, and which has opened new sources for the explanation of words.”

Lara, David Cohen

Keter Kehunah (Hamburg, 1667), a Talmudical and Rabbinical dictionary which extends only to the letter yod.

Levita, Elijah

Sefer ha-Harkavah (Venice, early 1500s), which examines the grammar of every foreign and irregular word in the Bible, listed in alphabetical order.

Meturgaman (Venice, early 1500s), a Chaldaic and Rabbinical dictionary.

Tishbi (Venice, early 1500s), a lexicon which defines 712 Aramaic and foreign words used by the Rabbins, and which are unexplained by previous lexicographers.

Levita was a Hebrew philologist, grammarian and lexicographer, renowned among Christian Hebraists of the sixteenth century.

Modena, Leon da

Gelut Yehudah (Venice, 1612), a Hebrew-Italian dictionary. Modena was the Chief Rabbi of Venice.

Oliveyra, Solomon

Hebrew-Portuguese Dictionary (Amsterdam, late 1600s).

Etz Chayim (Amsterdam, late 1600s), also called Treasury of the Holy Language, a work containing all the biblical word roots in Hebrew and Portuguese.

Parchon, Solomon

Machberet (mid 12th-century), a complete lexicon of the Hebrew language, compiled from the works of Chayug, Jonah ben Gannach, Solomon Gabirol, and the compiler’s own notes. Parchon, born in Calatayud, was a renowned grammarian and a student of Ibn Ezra’s.

Pigo, Moses

Zichron Todat Mosheh (mid 1500s), an alphabetical index of the Talmud.

Pomis, David de’

Zemah David (Venice, 1587), a trilingual Hebrew, Latin, and Italian dictionary. This, de’ Pomis’ most famous work, was dedicated to Pope Sixtus V.

Menachem ben

Mahberet (10th century), also known as Leshon Limudim, a Hebrew dictionary which included word roots. Saruk, a Jewish lexicographer and poet, was the first to compose a Hebrew-language dictionary; earlier biblical dictionaries were written in Arabic and translated into Hebrew. The Mahberet was an instant classic, and manuscript copies of it were soon distributed among European Jewish and Christian circles.

Urbino, Solomon

Ohel Moed (1480), a dictionary of Hebrew synonyms.

Yechieli, Nathan

Aruk (Rome, 11th-century), a monumental dictionary of Talmudic and Midrashic terms, serving as the basis for many later mystical speculations. It included etymologies as well as foreign words from the Aramaic, Latin, Greek, and Arabic languages.




Continue to Early Hebrew Mysticism
sources contemporaneous to the early Tarot


Back to the Index


· De Rossi, Bernardo Giovanni, Dizionario Storico degli Autoi Ebrei d delle Loro Opere, Parma, 1802.

· Roth, Cecil, The World History of the Jewish People, Israel, 1966.

· Amram, David, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, London, 1962.

Copyright İ 2002 Mark Filipas – 3/17/02