Balls in Hebrew have got nothing to do with a man’s crown jewels (those are eggs in the holy tongue, naturally), but you need to invoke the spherical object known as a kadur (ka-DOOR, with the second syllable pronounced like the “oo” in “pool" if you want to talk about pills, bullets, hot-air balloons or the Earth.
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The formal word for “pills” is glulot and for “bullets” is kli’im, but both are also regularly referred to as kadurim, the Hebrew plural for “balls” or “spheres.”
As for our planet, kadur ha’aretz, literally “ball of the land,” means both Earth and the circular map known as a globe (though the latter is often referred to as a globus). Similarly, a hemisphere is a hatzi kadur; the term in both English and Hebrew means “half a sphere.”
Though I’m not sure why one would want to promote the notion that the Earth is flat, the Hebrew term makes it quite tough for flat-Earthers to do that. You would have to say that the ball is flat, and that sounds dumb even if you really don’t like Pythagoras, Aristotle, Euclid or Ptolemy, all of whom wrote about the Earth as a sphere way before Columbus set sail, as Valerie Strauss points out in her Answer Sheet blog in The Washington Post.
As for the derivation, Avraham Even-Shoshan speculates that kadur may have come from the word dur, which means “circle” and comes, in turn, from the Akkadian word duru, meaning “wall that surrounds a city.” Ka is a shortened version of k’mo, meaning “like,” such that kadur means “like a circle.”The word is used in Isaiah: “And I will encamp against thee round about [kadur], and will lay siege against thee with a mound, and I will raise siege works against thee” (29:3).
As one might expect, kadur is a key component of kadur-sal (basketball), kadur-regel (football, a.k.a. soccer) and kadur-af, which refers to volleyball but literally means “flying ball.” It also comprises 50 percent of a kadur pore’ah, literally a “flowering ball” or, more to the point, a “flying-away ball,” otherwise known as a hot-air balloon.
The noun kadur, in the sense of “ball,” can also be used as a verb. Kidrur means dribbling the ball, whether with your hands, as in basketball, or your feet, as in soccer.
Whichever sport you might play or watch, the many forms that the Israeli ballcan take make it imperative that you heed what is perhaps the most basic of all sports rules: Always keep your eye on the kadur.
To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.