ABISH

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ABISH

Lehite PN		Queen’s maid in the land of Ishmael (hence perhaps an Ishmaelitess), 				ca. 90 BC (Alma 19:16)

The name can best be understood as ab-iš, with the meaning “father is a man,” or “father of man.” The first element could be the common Semitic word for 
“father,” ʾb. The second element could well be the West Semitic word for “man,” ʾš. Compare the Hebrew names with the element, ʾš bʿl Esh-baal “Man of the 
Lord/Baal” in 1 Chronicles 8:33, ʾš bšt Ishbosheth (the same person as Esh-baal, but with disphemism*), and ʾš yhw Eshyahu “Man of Yahweh” (AI, pp. 32–34). 

The second element could also be ʾš, “there is/are.” The name would then mean “father exists.” (RFS)

Lest objection be made that a woman would not bear a name containing the masculine element “father,” see the biblical PNs for women Abigail and Abishag.

Notes
 Cf. Ebla iš-a-bu, “a man is the father,” and iš-i-lum, “a man is El” (G. Pettinato, “The Royal Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla,” BA 39 [1976], p. 50) (RFS). JAT 
notes the Ebla PNs abašu and abùsi' (Pettinato, “Archives”). 

Much less likely is a hypocoristicon from a name like Abishag, Abishai, Abishua, and Abishur, all known from the Bible. Cf. Akkadian abuša-laidu, “her father 
she did not know” (JH). PYH and JAT object to the suggestion of etymologies which necessitate the breaking up of roots to yield hypocoristic meanings for Book 
of Mormon names. Hypocoristic elements usually are made by substituting a short form, such as ℵ, for the full name of a god. Hypocoristic elements are not 
made by dropping some phonemes from a morpheme, as the suggestion above would require.

Much less likely are linguistically mixed names: If from Hebrew ʾb, and Egyptian 3bi, “desire, want,” then Abish would be ʾāb-ʾîš “man’s desire” (RFS); possibly 
Hebrew-Akkadianʿabiš, “cloudy, cloud-like,” from ʿab, “cloud” + iš, dative-adverbial case ending in Akkadian (RFS). Other suggestions include possibly Hebrew 
bīš with degenerate definite article, (h)ab-bīš, “the bad one, the unholy one” (RFS); and perhaps from the Hebrew root ʿbš, “shrivel,” though an unlikely name 
unless it describes the woman’s physical appearance (JAT).