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The word אֶת /et/ is used with the following meanings:

  • In Biblical Hebrew, it means "with". In modern Hebrew it survives, but only with a complement-of-the-preposition pronoun suffix: "with me", "with you", etc.
  • In Biblical and modern Hebrew (and points in between), it's the direct-object preposition (no translation in English).
  • Afaict newly in modern Hebrew, it's used between partners' names in business names, like משה את דוד (given names) or כהן את לוי (surnames).

My question is about the latter sense: in particular, about its etymology. Does it come from the Biblical "with" sense, from Latin/Romance et ("and"), or from where?

  • -at is a feminizing suffix in semic (or even afro asiatic). I could see it marking the wives name as in Slavic (Ivan-ka; sorry if I'm raiding that horse to death without much understanding of it). Tres cavalier, the wifes name comes first (if not, ignore this). – vectory Feb 3 at 12:28
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    @vectory no; you would expect single taw suffixed to the first name for that to work. – Keelan Feb 3 at 12:38
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    Such a basic word is unlikely to be borrowed. Remember too that biblical Hebrew predates the founding of Rome. There can't have been much cultural contact. The Hebrew word has no obvious cognate in Arabic. – Bert Barrois Feb 3 at 17:05
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    @Bert thanks for your input. I'm asking about a modern Hebrew sense, from long after Rome, and a very specific one at that, used only (afaik) in company names, so I wouldn't call it "such a basic word". – msh210 Feb 3 at 17:45
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    @Keelan ampersand is commonly encountered with names, and it is a ligature of "et". – Anixx Feb 3 at 20:38
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To give a much more global picture abstracting from the history of the Hebrew language: The change of a commitative adposition "with" to a coordinating conjunction "and" is not unusual and often seen in the languages of the world. There are lots of languages that don't have different words for the two functions, for a high level overview see WALS chapter 63.

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