Translatable but Debatable - המחיש himkheesh

by Mark L. Levinson

They say that in a popularity war between synonyms, the synonym that has an additional meaning tends to lose.  Only in the dictionary did I find out there’s a Hebrew adjective mukhash (מוחש) that’s synonymous, or nearly synonymous, with mukhashi (מוחשי)I suppose that people prefer mukhashi because mukhash has the additional, differently derived meaning of “speeded up.” 

Where mukhash has to do not with speed but with being apparent to the senses, I don’t know why some dictionaries don’t define it exactly the same as mukhashi.   I found exactly the same definition for both words at (tangible, concrete, perceptible) but not in the three-volume Alkalay, the four-volume Galil, the venerable paperback Ben-Yehuda, or the paperback Oxford.  Maybe they pondered each word separately, without realizing they could ponder just once and copy.  Or maybe they’re pointing to a distinction that’s too subtle for me.

The only English word listed both for mukhash and for mukhashi in all those dictionaries is “tangible.”  Two dictionaries list “real” for mukhashi but not for mukhash.  One lists it for mukhash but not for mukhashi.

A chart showing where the dictionaries coincide and differ might make the whole trivial issue clearer.  It would be a means of hamkhashah (המחשה), a related word that itself isn’t easy to translate.  Alkalay calls it a “materialization, realization, embodiment, illustration.”  Like the word “illustration” in English, hamkhashah can refer to the sort of real-life manifestation that nobody can deny, such as waving a flashlight in a darkened room to demonstrate persistence of vision, or it can refer to a way of making something clearer to the senses without proving it at all — such as a diagram, a skit, or a picture in a story book.

The Galil dictionary has an entry for אמצעי המחשה (means of hamkhashah), saying they are “aids to the imagination (in teaching infants — clay, marbles etc.).”  Sort of a shuttle from imagination to reality and back.  Recently in a translation concerning education, I found myself rendering hamkhashah as “reinforcement.” 

Galil defines the corresponding verb, himkheesh (המחיש), as “illustrate, make more realistic (by means of examples), lend reality to; actualize, substantiate.”  Alkalay says “make perceptible, demonstrate, materialize, give concrete form to.”  Oxford says “make real, bring home (figurative).”  Haim Shachter's Yavne dictionary has "exemplify."

Various translations in various contexts seem to be increasingly available at  The site is not particularly rich in Hebrew yet, but it does provide some interesting citations.  It can happen that a hamkhashah is a visualization, a depiction, an analogy, or a visual aid.  (Actually, Reverso cites “visual aide,” which is misspelled.  Like Google, Reverso is only as good as the undisciplined corpus it cites.)

Reverso mentions one interesting translation from the Dexter television series — so this one isn’t Hebrew-to-English, it’s English-to-Hebrew.  Apparently a corpse is found at the Miami shoreline, buoyed by an inner tube, and the dialog is this:

— I don't know what kind of idiot thinks an inner tube is gonna get him over 90 miles of open ocean.

— If you ask me, man, it's Darwin's theory at work.

The Hebrew translation turns “at work” into hamkhashah:

אם תשאל אותי, יש לנו פה המחשה לתיאוריה של דרווין.

Your thoughts about hamkhashah and the rest of its word family are welcome in the space below.  If you’d like to suggest another word or phrase to be brought up for discussion here, please write to .