Glossary – dictionary of terms, subjects, names

  This page provides an A-Z lookup of terms, names, subjects that are commonly used and referred in

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This page is provides an alphabetic dictionary of terms, names, and subjects that appear throughout the pages of The terms are also linked to the web pages for further reading.

This list is constantly updated.

A to Z:

   Click on a letter to get to a specific word.

  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



AD – Anno Domini – In Latin: In the year of the Lord. Note that the reference year “0”  was when Jesus was about 4 years old. The years after “year 0” are counted as year xxx AD, where the years before “year 0” are counted as year xxx BC.

Al-  In Arabic, a prefix meaning “the”.

Anglicans – A worldwide branch of the Protestant church led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ashlar – An architecture definition of a worked out (hewn) rectangular block of stone which is the building block of ancient houses. Note that in earlier times the building blocks were rough (unhewn) stones. In Hebrew: Gazit.


BC, BCE – Before Common Era, Before Christ – See also “AD”. The years before “year 0” are counted as year xxx BC, while the years after “year 0” are counted as year xxx AD.

Bedouin – An Arabic group, mostly desert Nomads, but many settled in Israel.

Bible – the canonical collections of the Holy books of Judaism and Christianity, also known as the “old’ and “new” Testaments (see below).

Benedict – Latin for Holy man. First famous clergy man is St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy (480-547 AD),  a monk who established the Benedictine monastic order. Many Popes were named after him, from Benedict I (575-79) until Benedict XVI (2005-).


Calcolithic – A prehistoric period, 4,500BC to 3,150BC. This period marked the spread of fortified cities and cultures in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

   The name was derived from:   Chalcos – “copper” in Greek, which was the material of  the new type of tools.

Cubit – ancient length measurement; 1 Roman cubit unit is about 44cm.

Ca – abbreviation of Circa (Latin: About, Around)


Dunam – 0.1 Hectares.

Druze – an Arab small religious community, offshoot of Islam.


Epi-Paleolithic period – A prehistoric period, 16,000BC to 8,300BC, that followed the Paleolithic period (old stone age) . This period highlights: end of the last ice age, and the last period of cave dwelling.

Epi – “After”. Epi-Paleolithic- after the “old stone” (Paleolithic) period.

Evangelism – means preaching the gospel , or sharing the good news (Greek:  euangelion, later: evangelion) of Jesus.



Gospel – means “good-news”, from old English “God-Spell”, and in Greek:  evangelion. The good news refers to spreading the news of Jesus. In the new Testament, the books of the Gospels refers to the four canonical Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke  and John.


Hellenistic – Greek

Hewn – Architecture definition of a cut rock.

Hummus – chickpea based paste, eaten with Pita bread (read more)

Hectares – 10 Dunam.


IAA – Israel Antiquities Authority


Josephus Flavius – the commander of the Galilee forces during the Jewish revolt against the Romans (66-70 AD), also known as Joseph Ben Matityahu. After surrendering to the Romans, he became the historian of the early Roman period, and covered with his books the story of the Jewish revolt, one of the best documents from that period.

Jehoshaphat – from Hebrew: Yeho (Jeho) – God, Shafat – judged. Thus the name means: ” God has judged”.


Kefar, Kfar – in Hebrew – village. Many villages or cities have such prefix, such as: Kefar Hannania and Kfar-Nachum (Capernaum).

Khan – Hostel in Arabic. In Hebrew the root word, “Khana”, means stayed over, and so both languages share common roots.

Khirbet – Ruined site in Arabic;

Khurvah  (Horvah, Horbah )- Ruined site in Hebrew; Khirbet in Arabic. Biblical references: Leviticus 26,31: “And I will make your cities waste,…”. Isaiah 44, 26: “…and I will raise up the decayed places thereof.

Kibbutz – (in Hebrew – “together”) a collective community, where most of the property is shared by the community, and many of its services are done locally by its members . This is a successful  Israeli perfection of communism, and is gradually becoming more private in recent years. Degania, south of the Sea of Galilee, was the first Kibbutz (1909). There are about 250 Kibbutzim (a plural form)  in Israel, in different grades of privatization.

Kiryah – In Hebrew: Kiryah is a city. Appears 12 times in the old testament. For example: Deuteronomy 3,4: “And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan”. The 2nd city in this sentence is in Hebrew “Kiryah”, but was translated as “city”.

KKL-JNF – Keren Kayemet Le-Israel – Jewish National Fund – Since 1901, the agency has been developing the land of Israel



Mishna – 2nd C AD books of Jewish practices. It is composed of 6 parts or orders (Sidrei Misaha). It was compiled at about 200AD by Yehuda Hannaasi and was based on the oral traditions and customs. For the Jews the Mishna was as important as the Holy Bible, and provided guidance to the daily life.

Mamluks – they were  initially soldier slaves for the Abbasids. Later, they gained power and captured Egypt and Israel (1250-1517AD). The word in Arabic is “owned”, since they were slaves.

Moshav (in Hebrew: “settlement”) – an agriculture village, where the property is privately held (as opposed to the Kibbutz where the property is shared by the community) but some of the the resources and labor is shared, including collective investments. There are different grades of Moshav. Nahallal was the first Moshav (1921), and located near Tell Shimron. There are about 450 Moshavim (a plural form).


Neolithic period – A prehistoric period, from 8,300  BC to 4,500BC. This period marked a leap in the civilization: start of cities, ceramics, agriculture. The name is derived from Greek, and means: “new” stone age (neo=new, Lithos- stone).



Paleolithic period A prehistoric period, 150,000 to 16,000 BC, with 3 subdivisions (early, middle, upper). This was the period of the cave dwelling. The name is from Greek: Paleolithic=old stone period (Paleos – “old” in Greek, “Lithos” – stone in Greek).

Protoevangelium – Proto means first, evangelium means gospel; the comined word means first-gospel.

Protoevangelium of James A holy book from 2nd century AD, accepted by the orthodox Christians, and tells the story of Mary.

PPNA, PPNB: Pre Pottery Neolithic A/B




Sanhedrin – the religious and administrative Jewish leadership in the Roman and Byzantine period


Talmud – the 5th CAD books of religious practices, an extension and interpretation of the earlier texts of the Mishna (which compiled the oral traditions in about 200AD). The extension is called Gemara.

Tell – Mound, heap. The ruins of a historical layered city. Most of the biblical cities evolved into Tells. For more information, see a comprehensive review of this term.

Temple – the holy shrine of the Israelites in Jerusalem.

Testament – a treaty, covenant, alliance – between God and his chosen people. The “old” and “new” testaments refer to the Bibles, a collection of Holy books. The “old” testament started to be compiled from the Israeli period up to the Hellenistic period, and are sacred for both Judaism and Christianity. The “new” testament was written in the early Christian period – the first 2 Centuries AD, compiled over the next centuries, and is sacred for Christianity.

Tribes – The 12 tribes of Israel. For more information, see a comprehensive review of this term.


Unhewn stone– A rough, natural, rock.  These were the common building blocks of houses in ancient times (which eventually evolved into fine, cut rocks – ashlars). In Hebrew: Gevil.


Via Maris – The main ancient “International highway” between North (Syria, Asia minor) and South (Egypt). In the Bible, it is called “Derech Hayam”, the road of the sea. Many of the large Biblical cities, such as Megiddo, are located on its route. Biblical reference (Isaiah 9,1): “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations”.


Wadi – Valley in Arabic




Zion – As a place, Zion is the name of the hill where the Temple was built (Mount Zion). It later was one of the names of Jerusalem, and then extended to refer to the whole land of Israel.  (Biblical text: Samuel II, 5: 7 “…David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David”).


Links and References:

* External:

Archaeological glossary –

* Internal:

You can also look up external dictionaries that listed in our references page. – walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land

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This page was last updated on Aug 29, 2023 (add IAA)


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