18

According to Wiktionary, שלמה (pronounced /ʃloˈmo/ in Modern Hebrew) is the Hebrew version of Solomon. The pronunciation seems to follow reasonably well from the spelling, and as far as I can tell, it was spelled the same way in Biblical Hebrew.

The descendants look quite a bit different from the Hebrew pronunciation:

Ancient Greek: Σολομών (Solomṓn), Σαλομών (Salomṓn), Σαλωμών (Salōmṓn), Σολομῶν (Solomôn), Σολωμών (Solōmṓn)
    → Gothic: 𐍃𐌰𐌿𐌻𐌰𐌿𐌼𐍉𐌽 (saulaumōn)
    Greek: Σολομών (Solomón)
    → Latin: Solomon
        → English: Solomon
Classical Syriac: ܫܠܝܡܘܢ‎ (šlemūn)
    Arabic: سليمان‎ (Sulaymān)
        → English: Suleiman
        → Turkish: Süleyman

It seems reasonable to me that the /ʃ/ shifted to a /s/, and most of the languages added a vowel between the /s/ and the /l/, and that Syriac and Arabic changed the vowels.

However, I don't understand where the /n/ at the end came from. I'm not aware of any other Biblical names that ended in an open vowel in Hebrew and shifted toward having an n.

4

Our friend Draconis has given a very good answer, especially for the final /n/. I have only a few words about the Aramaic and Arabic forms.

The Syriac form šlīmōn seems to be a re-Semitisation of the Greek Σαλωμων (Σολωμων etc.), apparently attached by folk etymology with Aramaic šallīm “complete, perfect”. Arabic Sulaymān is borrowed from Syriac or another Aramaic language, but revocalised to more closely resemble typical Arabic patterns.

38

For the vowels, pay close attention to the nəquddoth (vowel dots)! Between the shin and the lamedh is a shəwa mark; sometimes this indicates an extra-short vowel, sometimes no vowel at all. But historically, shəwa was always pronounced (shəwa na) if it came after the first consonant in the word. So at the time of the Septuagint, the name was pronounced something like Shəlōmō.

When Greek-speakers tried to transcribe this word for the LXX, they ran into some difficulties. Ancient Greek didn't have [ʃ], only [s]. So they wrote the first letter as a plain sigma ("s").

Similarly, Ancient Greek didn't have any extra-short vowels corresponding to shəwa na, so they made do with the letters they had: in this case, it was sometimes transcribed with a short alpha ("a"), sometimes with an omicron ("o"). You'll also sometimes see shəwa transcribed with epsilon ("e"), depending on the word; this is closer to the modern pronunciation.

Finally, in Ancient Greek, it was extremely rare for names to end in . It was much more common for them to end in -ōn (Glaucōn, Cleōn, Zēnōn). So the translators stuck a nu ("n") on the end to make the name look more like a name. This is also why English "Moses" ends in "s" when the Hebrew Mōshe (מֹשֶׁה) doesn't: is a feminine ending in Greek, not a masculine one, so the translators changed it to the very common and masculine -ēs (Achillēs, Sōcratēs, Diogēnēs), and this version persisted.

One might expect the Latin of the Vulgate to then remove this -n again, since the same "type" of name in Latin ended in plain -o (Cicero, Scipio, Piso). That's why we now talk about "Zeno's Paradox" instead of "Zenon's", even though he was Greek and spelled his own name with an -n. But the Vulgate tends to follow the Greek with extreme precision where names are concerned, so "Solomon" (and "Moses") persisted.

P.S. Chromium fails beautifully when it tries to render the question title… enter image description here

  • 1
    Do you think the Classical Syriac version ending in -n was influenced by the Greek, or was because of a native Syriac process? – mic Jul 2 at 1:51
  • @MiCl I unfortunately speak no Syriac, but I'm guessing it was a separate process. – Draconis Jul 2 at 3:01
  • It was (of course) not "the Greeks" who produced the LXX, but Hellenised Jews. – fdb Jul 2 at 10:37
  • Nor was it "the Romans" who produced the Vulgate, – fdb Jul 2 at 10:38
  • 1
    @rosends For the final -n? Pretty much. – Draconis Aug 18 at 19:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.