/hee"brooh/, n.
1. a member of the Semitic peoples inhabiting ancient Palestine and claiming descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; an Israelite.
2. a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic family, the language of the ancient Hebrews, which, although not in a vernacular use from 100 B.C. to the 20th century, was retained as the scholarly and liturgical language of Jews and is now the national language of Israel. Abbr.: Heb
3. Hebraic.
4. noting or pertaining to the script developed from the Aramaic and early Hebraic alphabets, used since about the 3rd century B.C. for the writing of Hebrew, and later for Yiddish, Ladino, and other languages.
[bef. 1000; ME Hebreu, var. (with H- < L) of Ebreu < OF < ML Ebreus for L Hebraeus < LGk Hebraîos < Aram 'Ibhraij; r. OE Ebreas (pl.) < ML Ebrei]

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(as used in expressions)

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      any member of an ancient northern Semitic people that were the ancestors of the Jews. Historians use the term Hebrews to designate the descendants of the patriarchs of the Old Testament (i.e., Abraham, Isaac, and so on) from that period until their conquest of Canaan (Palestine) in the late 2nd millennium BC. Thenceforth these people are referred to as Israelites until their return from the Babylonian Exile in the late 6th century BC, from which time on they became known as Jews.

      In the Bible the patriarch Abraham is referred to a single time as the ivri, which is the singular form of the Hebrew-language word for Hebrew (plural ivrim, or ibrim). But the term Hebrew almost always occurs in the Old Testament as a name given to the Israelites by other peoples, rather than one used by themselves. For that matter, the origins of the term Hebrew itself are uncertain. It could be derived from the word eber, or ever, a Hebrew word meaning the “other side” and conceivably referring again to Abraham, who crossed into the land of Canaan from the “other side” of the Euphrates or Jordan rivers. The name “Hebrew” could also be related to the seminomadic Habiru people, who are recorded in Egyptian inscriptions of the 13th and 12th centuries BC as having settled in Egypt.

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Universalium. 2010.

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