In Arabic, the root S-L-M (س ل م) has a general meaning of "Peace", but can also be used for "Submission" (such as in the words Islam/Muslim). Given the close relation between Hebrew and Arabic, I'm curious to know whether the Hebrew Sh-L-M (ש ל ם) can be similarly interpreted thus.

In particular, was this root ever used to refer to those who whole-heartedly submitted themselves to the Mosaic Law (and thus to G-D's authority)? If not, was a different term (with similar meaning) used for these people, in order to distinguish them as the best followers among the children of Israel?

I got following Hebrew terms from a Wikipedia article:

  • Mushlam (מושלם) — perfect
  • Shalem (שלם) — whole, complete

Have these concepts ever been extended to perfect (Mushalam) followers or complete (Shalem) submission in any literature and can root ש ל ם be used to mean “Submission” ?


Would also be interested to know the answer for other related languages like Aramaic or any ancient biblical period languages?

  • 3
    Another way to phrase this and keep it within the realm of linguistics is "Is the sense 'submission' common to the Semitic root S-L-M or was it acquired by Arabic alone after it and Hebrew split from their common Semitic ancestor?" Feb 21, 2013 at 13:18
  • 1
    It could also be worth comparing other related languages like Amharic, Aramaic, Somali, or Syriac. (I would assume Maltese is much too closely related to be of any help of course.) Feb 25, 2013 at 9:41
  • 1
    It turns out that there's a very good Wikipedia article on this root: S-L-M Feb 25, 2013 at 9:45
  • the article was already referenced in the question @hippietrail thanks for the suggestion , I would also be very much interested in Aramaic and other ancient biblical languages
    – lingo101
    Feb 25, 2013 at 14:32
  • @hippietrail hope you saw above comment
    – lingo101
    Feb 25, 2013 at 17:05

3 Answers 3


Lson's response was not comprehensive. the wikitionary entry for שלם says:


Aramaic Etymology from above:

From Proto-Semitic:

*šalām-. Verb


to be whole, to be complete

to follow, to agree

to obey

Hebrew Etymology

From Proto-Semitic *šalām-. Pronunciation

שׁלם / shâlam / shaw-lam'

Verb שלם

to be safe (in mind, body or estate); figuratively to be (causatively make) completed; by implication to be friendly; by extension to reciprocate (in various applications): - make amends, (make an) end, finish, full, give again, make good, (re-) pay (again), (make) (to) (be at) peace (-able), that is perfect, perform, (make) prosper (-ous), recompense, render, requite, make restitution, restore, reward, X surely.

all the meaning between asterisks have a close meaning to submit and/or follow

the word kni'a exists in arabic too and it is khono'e (with the root khaf,nun and ayn just like in hebrew)

  • 2
    Modern Hebrew although useful is not practical when one tries to find the whole set of meaning a word bears in biblical Hebrew
    – Averroes
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:31
  • Good answer , Do you know hebrew? Can the word Islam be a Hebrew word too with the usual meaning "Submission"
    – lingo101
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:47
  • 1
    A bit I wouldn't claim being native though my level is something between an advanced beginner and intermediate. but speaking arabic as a mother tongue proves very helpful when comparing meanings notably as classical arabic continues to carry some old meanings that have disappeared in modern Hebrew and neo Aramaic dialects.
    – Averroes
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:51
  • Can the word Islam be a Hebrew word too with the usual meaning "Submission"?
    – lingo101
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:52
  • the wazn if3al from which islam comes from does not exist in Hebrew per se. although Jewish grammarians have brought the whole binyan thing from Arabic. Islam being the infinitive form of aslama then you just need the infinitive form with an additional 'lamed' to the root of the verb to express the same idea.
    – Averroes
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:54

As a native Hebrew speaker i have ever heard the root שׂ.ל.מ (s.l.m), or any of it conjugations used in the context of submission. Neither does the root שׁ.ל.מ (Sh.l.m). The word שלם (shalem) means, as the Wikipedia article states, whole (and all its derived meanings like perfect or or complete) or peace.

Here is the Wiktionary entry on the root and its various meanings.

The Hebrew word for submission (not necessarily religious) is כְּנִיעה (kni'a), and devoted can be translated as מָסוּר (masur, literaly- to give yourself) from the root מ.ס.ר. But there is no particular word with this meaning in a religious context.

I suspect the extra meaning for the root, in Arabic, came from the religious context, as the name of the religion Islam and the word for submission إسلام (ʾIslām), and one who submits is is translated مسلم‎ (muslim), also the name for an Islamic man.

Although the Hebrew and Arabic are close, I think this word in particular got its meaning after the two languages split.

  • Thanks for the answer, does root occur in Hebrew for followers of God's commandments? Like Mushalim,Mushalam, Mushalom ...?
    – lingo101
    Feb 24, 2013 at 15:36
  • @Ali - What do you meant by "root occur"? Do you mean exist? In Hebrew a root is 3/4 consonants from which verbs are created.
    – Lson
    Feb 25, 2013 at 0:13
  • does this root Sh-L-M occur in Hebrew for followers of God's commandments? Like Mushalim,Mushalam, Mushalom
    – lingo101
    Feb 25, 2013 at 4:11
  • 3
    @Ali - As i said, i never saw it being used with that meaning, I really doubt it.
    – Lson
    Feb 25, 2013 at 9:26

Yes, it does,in the hif'il verb conjugation with the word 'im עם (with) following it: להשלים עם - l'hŜLiM 'im (lehashlim im) meaning resigning oneself to a situation, not full submission as such, but quite close. Note: without the addition of 'im, lehashlim means: to complete, from the root Ŝ(sh) L M (shalem meaning complete and mushlam meaning perfect in modern usage).

  • can it also mean "to close a deal" or to fullfill obligations (of said deal)?
    – vectory
    Nov 4, 2023 at 13:21
  • By the way, welcome to SE. If you posted from a guest-account, consider signing up and ask on meta.SE to get them merged.
    – vectory
    Nov 4, 2023 at 13:22

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