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Lehite GN 1. Hill, ca. 75 BC (Alma 32:4)
2. For the name in Alma 47:5, Onidah, see Oneidah.


ONIDAH could mean either “He attends (my) sorrow,” or “He knows (my) affliction,” or a permutation thereof. Also possible, though from a different initial etymon, is “He knows (my) strength.” Given that the hill in question was a gathering place for Zoramites, especially the “poor in heart because of their poverty” (Alma 32:4), a GN tied to “sorrow” or “affliction” would seem appropriate.

(It needs to be said here that this entry assumes there is a distinction between ONIDAH, which designates a hill in Alma 32:4, and ONIDAH in Alma 47:5, which designates “the place of arms.” Other than that the two GNs are spelled the same in the current editions of the Book of Mormon, and the relative temporal propinquity of the names, there are no compelling reasons to equate the two sites. There is however a good reason not to equate the two sites. The original manuscript and the printer’s manuscript of Alma 47:5 have the spelling Oneidah, while all printed editions of the Book of Mormon, 1830-2013, have the spelling Onidah. The difference in spelling between Onidah in Alma 32:4 and the spelling of Oneidah in the original manuscript and the printer's manuscript of Alma 47:5 (the only place in the Book of Mormon where this “place of arms” is mentioned) strongly suggests that these two GNs are not to be confused. Additionally, it may be significant that Alma 32:4 describes a geographic feature in Zoramite territory, while Alma 47:5 concerns a Lamanite place name. (For ONEIDAH and also ONIHAH, see their respective pages.)

The first element of ONIDAH could be derived from the Hebrew vocable, ʾōn (אֹן), which means “sorrow, mourning, affliction.” Alternatively, the similar in appearance but different etymon ʾôn (אוֹן), “vigor, strength, wealth,” deserves consideration. (RFS).

The second element of ONIDAH, -(i)dah, can be explained as coming from the Hebrew verb yādāʿ. Based on the example of two Old Testament names, the clan name Shemida (from Hebrew šĕmîdāʿ in Numbers 26:32) and the PN Abida (from ʾăbîdāʾ in Genesis 25:4), the /y/ of the verbal form yādāʿ, when preceded by the long vowel î, would elide to yield -îdāʿ. (Concerning šĕmîdāʿ, HALOT accepts as the original form of the name, “שֶמְיָדָע Shem [a theophoric element] has understood” and suggests that “ידע in personal names probably has a different meaning, to be concerned about.” Noth offers “to attend to” as a meaning in PNs. ) Thus, two additional permutations of the etymologies suggested above would yield “(He) is concerned about sorrow,” and “(He) attends to my strength.”

If the final element of ONIDAH is analogous to these two names in the King James translation, Shemida and Abida, it would suggest that the medial /i/ in ONIDAH is the remnant of the prefix vowel of yādāʿ. Alternatively, it can be explained as the conflation of the prefix vowel and the 1.c.s. possessive suffix , modifying ôn/ōn. Thus the parentheses in the suggestions above for this name.

Less convincing and less appropriate for a GN would be “strength of the assembly,” from Hebrew ʾôn plus the Hebrew word for “assembly, ʿēdâ (עדה). This latter suggestion, because of the vowel configuration and suitable meaning, would work better with ONEIDAH than with ONIDAH.

Plausible is “my strength is knowledge,” from ʾōnī, meaning “my strength” plus the noun form dēʿâ (דֵעָה) meaning “knowledge,” (as in Psalm 73:11). This proposal suffers from the fact that the noun dēʿâ would have to have been contracted to , an unlikely event, but not impossible: The consonant ʿayin in Hebrew is phonemic and would never elide in Hebrew orthography; English orthography on the other hand does not represent the ʿayin. Additionally, this etymology would seem to fit better as a meaning for ONEIDAH.

“Strength is scattered,” as suggested by Jan Wilson, would come from ʾôn plus niddâḥ, the niphal participle of נדח, meaning “be scattered” or “be seduced.” In a Hebrew vorlage, the /n/ and the /d/ would not be orthographically doubled. Thus, a Hebrew vorlage and an English transcription would have ʾonidaḥ and not ʾônniddâḥ. As a name for a Zoramite place of gathering to discuss issues, “strength is scattered” would seem to be the result of Alma’s preaching to the poorer class of Zoramites, i.e., the strength of the ruling class had been broken among the Zoramites.

Because the passage in Alma 32 repeatedly emphasizes that only the “poor” listened to Alma, the Hebrew etymon ʾānâ “to be suffering,” or “to be poor” naturally comes to mind. The m. s. participial form, ʾōneh, plus dēʿâ, “knowledge,” would yield the meaning, “destitute of knowledge.” While tempting, it would be difficult (but not impossible) to reconcile ONIDAH with ʾōneh, plus dēʿâ.

The Hebrew masculine participle ʿōneh means “does reply” in its verbal sense, and in its noun sense “responder” or “answerer.” Add the Hebrew noun dēʿâ, “knowledge,” and the meaning could be “responder of knowledge.” This meaning does not seem to make sense for a geographic location. And, it would be difficult (but not impossible) to reconcile ONIDAH with ʾōneh, plus dēʿâ.

Hypothetically, other possible Semitic roots include ʿnd and *ʾnd (the later not attested in any North-west Semitic language) or a compound composed of either etymon. However, both vocables pose significant issues. For instance, the feminine participle ʿōndâ from the root ʿnd, “to bind,” or “to tie,” does not account for the /i/ of ONIDAH.

While the Egyptian GN iwnw, which is rendered ʾōn in Hebrew (On in the King James translation and Heliopolis in Greek) is inviting, it leaves -idah without an interpretation (JH). Likewise the GN ʾônô (e.g., Ezra 2:33). Confer also Egyptian iwnt, “bow, bowman” and iwntyw, “tribesmen” (RFS). There is also wn-t3-, part of a canal name near the first cataract, and wnt as a district name in Budge, Book of the Dead, p. 975 (RFS).

Cf. Book of Mormon ONIDAH and ONEIDAH

See also Onitah in the Book of Abraham and its variant form On-i-tos in the Alphabet & Grammar (RFS).



Deseret Alphabet: 𐐄𐐤𐐌𐐔𐐂 (oʊnaɪdɑː)


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