Week fifty-eight: ACELDAMA (probability 28241), by David Sutton

ACELDAMA comes to us from the Aramaic via Greek, and means 'field of blood'. Specifically, it was the name given to the potter's field purchased by the priests with the money Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus. 'And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.' The loss of capitalisation seems to be due to the American sources.

This is one of those words with a specifically Biblical flavour. Another such word is AKEDAH, which refers to the sacrificial binding of Isaac by Abraham in Genesis 22. Then we have PYGARG, a kind of antelope, possibly an addax; the name comes from the Greek pyge, rump plus argos, white.

THYINE is a Biblical adjective that refers to the wood of the thuya. ALGUM or ALMUG also refer to a wood imported into ancient Palestine, probably red sandalwood. BDELLIUM is a kind of gum: 'And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone (Genesis 2.12). EBENEZER refers to a memorial stoneset up by Samuel after the victory of Mizpeh (Samuel 7.12).

NIMROD was the son of Cush, renowned as a hunter; the name can now be used generically for any great hunter. Finally, RACA is another Biblical adjective meaning worthless; this come from the Chaldaic reka, a term of reproach.


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