Word of the Day / Ofanoa - Motorcycle

As the Bible didn't have a word for the Harley Hog and its ilk, it was up to Ben Yehuda the Younger to rectify the situation.

Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad
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Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the great reviver of the Hebrew language, coined a word for bicycle – ofanaim. But he didn't come up with a word for a motorcycle. This was left to his son Itamar, who filled in the lexical gap two decades later.

Thus it was Ben-Yehuda the Younger who came up with of-a-no-A in 1931, in an article appearing in his newspaper Doar Hayom (“Daily Mail”).

The article described the Prince of Wales visiting Buenos Aires. The prince, according to the article, appeared in a motorcycle suit - kha-li-fat of-a-no-A.

A few months later the same paper mentioned the ofanoa again, in an article actually describing motorcycles. According to this article a group of motorcyclists belonging to the Zionist labor movement’s sports association Hapoel arrived in Haifa after a tour in Europe. They entered British Mandate Palestine from Lebanon through the Rosh Hanikra border, says the article. A reception was held for them in Haifa, after which the group rode on to Tel Aviv.

The word itself - ofanoa - is a concatenation of two words: the Biblical Hebrew word o-FUN (wheel) and no-A (moving). Literally the word means "moving wheel".

A motorcycle rider is an of-no-AN, which is the word ofanoa with the suffix usually used for professions -“an”. Apparently, the word first appeared in print in 1938, in the Hebrew daily newspaper “Davar” in an article about a French motorcycle racer.

A word had been sorely needed. Not only is the Middle Eastern climate ideal for riding: it also solves that perennial problem in modern Israel – finding parking. But do note, ye ofnoanim, that appearances to the contrary, it's illegal to park on the sidewalk.

Motorcycle racing.Credit: Wikipedia
This is a motorcycle. In Hebrew it is called "ofanoa" - "moving wheel".Credit: Ronen Topelberg