Word of the Day Bursa: You Can Invest in This Word

Little do the world's hyperactive stock traders know the word for their exchange originated with a 13th-century Dutch family.

David Sarna Galdi.
David Sarna Galdi
David Sarna Galdi.
David Sarna Galdi

In Israel, when you hear the word "bursa" it most likely refers to a stock exchange, the complete term being, "bursa le niyarot erekh" (market for "valuable papers" - i.e., securities).

In Tel Aviv, "the bursa" could also refer to the neighborhood where the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is actually located.

"Bursa" was transplanted into Hebrew after a long European history. It comes from the ancient Greek word "birsa," meaning "leather."

This word, later in time, became the Greek term for a leather bag used to carry coins. In Hebrew, the word "bursekai," (tanner), which comes from the same Greek origin, is part of the title of 10th century Saint Simon the Tanner, whose house in Jaffa was the place where Saint Peter had a famous vision (Acts 9) and still stands today.

In the 13th century, the ancient Greek word made its way into Flemish trading circles.

According to tradition, the famous "van der Buerze" trading family of Bruges got its name from its coat of arms, gloriously colored in red and gold and featuring leather money bags, which in Flemish were called "buerzen."

When in 1276 the family hung a sign on the door of their house (some claim it was in Antwerp), bearing an illustration of money bags and their name - traders gathering there naturally called the place "Ter Beurze."

When an official trading floor was later built in Antwerp, in 1531, the name "beurs," stuck (in several languages: French: bourse, Danish: bors, Italian: borsa, German: borse).

Shoshana Kordova is on leave. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

Illustration of the Antwerp beurs.Credit: Maxime Lalanne
Little do the traders on the NYSE know the word "bourse" originates with a 12th-century Dutch trading family.Credit: AP

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