Sumerian Lexicon

The following lexicon contains 1,255 Sumerian logogram words and 2,511 Sumerian compound words. A logogram is a reading of a cuneiform sign which represents a word in the spoken language. Sumerian scribes invented the practice of writing in cuneiform on clay tablets sometime around 3400 B.C. in the Uruk/Warka region in the south of ancient Iraq. [The etymology of ‚Iraq‘ may come from this region, biblical Erech. Medieval Arabic sources used the name ‚Iraq‘ as a geographical term for the area in the south and center of the modern republic.] The Sumerian language spoken by the inventors of writing is known to us through a large body of texts and through bilingual cuneiform dictionaries of Sumerian and Akkadian, the language of their Semitic successors, to which Sumerian is not related. These bilingual dictionaries date from the Old Babylonian period (1800-1600 B.C.), by which time Sumerian had ceased to be spoken, except by the scribes. The earliest and most important words in Sumerian had their own cuneiform signs, whose origins were pictographic, making an initial repertoire of about a thousand signs or logograms. Beyond these words, two-thirds of this lexicon now consists of words that are transparent compounds of separate logogram words. I have greatly expanded the section containing compounds in this version, but I know that many more compound words could be added.

Many cuneiform signs can be pronounced in more than one way and often two or more signs share the same pronunciation, in which case it is necessary to indicate in the transliteration which cuneiform sign is meant; Assyriologists have developed a system whereby the second homophone is marked by an acute accent (´), the third homophone by a grave accent (`), and the remainder by subscript numerals. The homophone numeration here follows the ‚BCE-System‘ developed by Borger, Civil, and Ellermeier. The ‚accents‘ and subscript numerals do not affect the pronunciation. The numeration system is a convention to inform Assyriologists which, for example, of the many cuneiform signs that have the reading du actually occurs on the tablet. A particular sign can often be transcribed in a long way, such as dug4, or in a short way, such as du11, because Sumerian was like French in omitting certain amissable final consonants except before a following vowel. Due to this lexicon’s etymological orientation, you will usually find a word listed under its fullest phonetic form. Transcriptions of texts often contain the short forms, however, because Sumerologists try to accurately represent the spoken language. Short forms are listed, but you are told where to confer.

The vowels may be pronounced as follows: a as in father, u as in pull, e as in peg, and i as in hip. Of the special consonants, gtilde is pronounced like ng in rang, h is pronounced like ch in German Buch or Scottish loch, and š is pronounced like sh in dash.

Following the definitions, the lexicon may indicate in a smaller font the constituent elements of words that in origin were compound words, if those elements were clear to me. Etymologies are a normal part of dictionary-making, but etymologies are also the most subject to speculation. It is possible that, in some cases, I have provided a Sumerian etymology for what is actually a loanword from another language. I encourage scholars to contact me with evidence from productive roots in other proto-languages when they have reason to believe that a Sumerian word is a loan from another language family. In light of the Sumerian propensity for forming new words through compounding in the period after they invented cuneiform signs, it should not be surprising to find this same propensity in words dating from before their invention of written signs. The structure and thinking behind the Sumerian vocabulary is to me a thing of beauty. We are fortunate to be able to look back into the minds of our prehistoric ancestors and see how they thought and lived via the words that they created.

The lexicon’s etymological orientation explains why the vocabulary is organized according to the phonetic structure of the words, with words sharing the same structure being listed together and alphabetically according to their final consonants and vowels, as this method best groups together related words. This principle has been abandoned after words of the structure CVC(V) in this version, as words that are phonetically more complex than this do not group together by meaning. The phonetically more complex words and the compound words are listed alphabetically simply by their initial letters.

Click here for the lexicon in pdf

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The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary

The CAD (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary) project was initiated in the early 1920s, not long after James Henry Breasted founded the Oriental Institute in 1919, and barely one hundred years after the decipherment of the cuneiform script. This initial decipherment, and the soon-to-follow achievements in understanding the languages in which the hundreds of thousands of clay tablets were inscribed, opened an unsuspected treasure-house for the study and appreciation of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary was conceived to provide more than lexical information alone, more than a one-to-one equivalent between Akkadian and English words. By presenting each word in a meaningful context, usually with a full and idiomatic translation, it recreates the cultural milieu and thus in many ways assumes the function of an encyclopedia. Its source material ranges in time from the third millennium B.C. to the first century A.D., and in geographic area from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Zagros Mountains in the east.

Completed in 2010, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary has become an invaluable source for the study of the civilizations of the ancient Near East, their political and cultural history, their achievements in the sciences of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, linguistics, and the timeless beauty of their poetry.

You can donlowd or visit the website of the dictionary HERE

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The complete archive of Akleel Al-ward magazine by the Dominican fathers in Mosul


Schlagwörter: ,

Akleel Al-ward is the first Iraqi non-governmental magazine, published in Mosul between 1902 and 1908. It was published in 3 languages (Arabic, Syriac and French), each language had different subjects, but the main line of the magazine was religious and cultural.

The complete archive of Akleel Al-ward 1902-1908

History of the magazine

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Allaf

It is not rare or strange that the people of Mosul established a newspaper, a magazine, a modern school or a modern press regarding the Arabic renaissance movement between the late 19th and early 20th century.

History of Mosul records that the first press in Iraq was the stone press of the Dominican Fathers that was established in Mosul in 1858. Soon they started to enlarge their press by adding Arabic, Syriac and French letters to it bought at the people’s press in Paris. They also added a forging technique for new letters and a department for book gilding and binding.

Many other presses followed, in 1863 Rafael Mazgi started the Chaldean press and  in 1910 Isa Mahfouz and Fathullah Sarsam established together the press of Nineveh. And so we find many presses in Mosul in early 20th century that participated in flourishing journalism that empowered the Arab renaissance.

“The Mosul Newspaper”, that started in June 1885, was the first newspaper in the city, followed by “Nineveh Newspaper” in July 1909 and “Al-Najah Newspaper” in November 1910. There was also a comic newspaper in Mosul called “Jeke-Baz” that started in June 1911. In this atmosphere the Dominican fathers started their “Akleel Al-ward” magazine in 1902, to be the first Iraqi magazine. The first edition had 20 pages that soon raised to 24-28 pages in (18 x 11.5 cm).

I was able to see the complete archive of the magazine at the monastery of Mar Bahnam in Mosul as I was writing my Master’s degree. The magazine was published in three languages, Arabic (650 editions), French (400 editions) and Syriac (350 editions). The Arabic, Syriac and French additions were not merely a translation of each other but each addition had different topics and articles.

Many editors contributed to the magazine, including Father Abdulahad Gourgi, Father Basil Bshouri and the writer Farajullah Kesbu. The articles varied between health, politics, social and cultural topics. They were interested in educating and counseling their readers, including the deployment of humanitarian character stories or publish words and wisdom aphorisms, e.g. (Do not delay the work of today to tomorrow) or (Do not use third parties to accomplish work that you can do by yourself) and (Don’t buy what you don’t need even if it was cheap) or (Don’t spend your share before it could be collected) and (count from 1 to 100 before you speak, if you were angry).

The magazine also published book reviews, like the review of (Answers to Grammatical questions) by Salim Hasson in February 1907and the review of the French novel (the death of Theseus) in March 1903.

The magazine was also concerned of presenting scientific topics to the readers, in November 1907, it wrote about the Daniel Comet, and a long article in October 1909 about the newest inventions says: (our time is the time of renaissance and innovations like the Telegraph, the Automobile, the Baloon or the new bicycles). The magazine wrote also about Oil and it`s importance and about journalism in France in which it said (in France there are 6866 newspapers in 1900, but many of them are not good from the ethical point of view).

The magazine had standard pages, like health, current news, and others for economic and political topics. The magazine appeared regularly for six years, the last edition was in December 1909.

Even if the magazine had some Christian standards and religious topics but it was a real mirror reflected news and events from the Iraqi society in a period were journalism was still crawling in Iraq.

Many thanks to all the people who established and published Akleel Al-ward for all their contribution to Iraqi culture and the city of Mosul.

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The Syrian Goddess

The Syrian Goddess

De Dea Syria, by Lucian of Samosata

by Herbert A. Strong and John Garstang


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Lucian of Samosata’s De Dea Syria, (the Syrian Goddess) is one of the most ’notorious‘ classical writings. Not only does it acknowledge that at one time a paramount Goddess was worshipped in regions of the Ancient Near East, it goes into details of the practices of her devotees which later generations considered reprehensible. Nonetheless De Dea played an important role in the development of modern Neopaganism; Robert Graves cited it as one of the few actual accounts of ancient Goddess-worship.

Lucian recounts his personal observations of the worship of the Goddess Atargatis (a form of Isthar or Astarte) at the temple of Hierapolis, in what is today Turkey. Lucian writes in the style of Herodotus, and, remarkably, in Herodotus‘ dialect of Greek, which at that time was over five hundred years old. Lucian describes huge phalliform idols, cross-dressing priests who castrated themselves, ritual prostitution of female worshippers, and occasional infant human sacrifice. Unlike most of the other writings of Lucian, he is not being explicitly satirical or ironic, nor is he writing fiction. Strong and Garstang claim that this was largely a historically valid description, supported by other ancient writers, texts, and archaeology. Among other passages of interest, there is a variant account of the Greek flood myth of Deucalion which is here blended with pre-biblical Ancient Near Eastern deluge accounts.

Victorian and early 20th century scholars found this text difficult to process. It is conspicuously absent from the expurgated Fowler and Fowler translation of Lucian’s Works of 1905. While A.M. Harmon included De Dea in volume four of the Loeb Classics Library Lucian in 1925, he rendered it in middle English! Harmon’s rationale was that Lucian wrote De Dea in an archaic dialect of Greek, so this was an attempt to convey the experience of a contemporary of Lucian reading this. But it is not helpful for the modern non-academic reader. Fortunately, Strong had translated De Dea into clear modern English in 1913, and so this is the edition which I used. However, the Strong translation has never been reprinted and used copies are almost impossible to come by. I had to obtain a copy of this book by interlibrary loan from a small college in Pennsylvania. Even still, Strong and Garstang wreathe the translation in a thick nimbus of apparatus, which gives the appearance of a scholarly distancing tactic. This tendency has continued into the 21st century: a recent academic edition ran to 600 pages–all for a text about the length of a short magazine article. (Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess, J.L. Lightfoot, Oxford University Press [2003])

Lucian’s authorship of De Dea has been questioned. One issue is the archaic dialect. In addition, his other works are quite cynical about religion. And where is Lucian’s relentless humor? The effect is like watching Robin Williams do a completely straight reading of the Gettysburg Address. Is he being absurdist by affecting not only a different dialect, but a pious attitude, as some have suggested? Or is he being serious, for once? There is one clue: in a personal note at the end, Lucian says that a lock of his youthful hair was dedicated to the Goddess at this temple. This may hold the key to why he wrote this piece.

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Sumerian Mythology, Kramer

Sumerian Mythology

By: Samuel Noah Kramer

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The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who lived in southern Babylonia from 4000-3000 B.C.E. They invented cunieform writing, and their spiritual beliefs influenced all successive Near Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They produced an extensive body of literature, among the oldest in the world. Samuel Noah Kramer spent most of his life studying this literature, by piecing together clay tablets in far-flung museums. This short work gives translations or summaries of the most important Sumerian myths.

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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

The Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by: Donald A. Mackenzie (1915) Read online

This book is a decent introduction and reference work for the religion, culture, history and general background of the ancient Near East, and well worth studying by anyone interested in the topic.


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