Word of the Day / Makhsanit

It's no coincidence that the English and Hebrew words for a gun's magazine are similar in form, both originating in the Middle East.

Although the Hebrew word for a gun’s magazine or a clip, makh-sa-NIT, is comparatively new, the word has its roots in the Bible.

Guns’ magazines in their modern form were invented in 1911, when John Browning built the first M1911. It became standard in firearms.

Browning himself didn’t call it a magazine. This name was given in 1915 when the U.S. Army issued a manual and used this word. Before that, a magazine was warehouse, especially, one for storing ammunition.

English adopted the word in this sense apparently in the late 16th century from over the channel in France, where it had been magasin. It was relatively new in French at the time, coming over the Alps from Italy, where it had been magazzino. Italian in turn adopted it from the Arabic makhzan, where it meant the same.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda's newspaper Ha-Zvi introduced the word makhsan into Hebrew in 1898, referring to a man's beard and mustache as a "warehouse of flax". The modern word, similar to and possibly taken from the Arabic term, takes its roots from Biblical Hebrew where it carried the meaning of storage: “And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord.” (Isaiah 23:18)

Building on this usage, Yaacov Dan came up with the word makh-sa-ni-YA. “The first makhsaniya I remember putting it in the gun well, the second and third, I think I remember...but the fourth I don’t think I remember at all.” (Haezrakh, 1930) He had apparently been aware of magazine’s etymology. The word was transformed to its current form “makhsanit” during World War II.

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