Translatable but Debatable: זיקה (zika)

Translatable but Debatable: זיקה

“Meteors frequently fall to this earth during earthquakes,” remarked Charles Fort the great compiler of oddities, “but that may be only by coincidence, just as offsprings so often appear after marriage...”

Hebrew provides a wondrously noncommittal word, זיקה, that Fort might have liked, because, keeping tongue in cheek, he goes on to remark that the appearance of children may be “indicating nothing exclusively of relationships, inasmuch as we have heard of cases of alleged independent reproduction.” calls a זיקה an affinity, attachment, bond, propensity, or linkage among other things, but while in some cases it can have a specific legal meaning, a זיקה can also be less specific than any of those concepts.  There is an apparent tendency for earthquakes to be accompanied by meteors more often than we would intuitively expect; that’s enough to be called a זיקה. 

A relative clause in Hebrew is a משפט זיקה; in a way, such terminology hints that זיקה covers just about any way one thing can be partnered with another.

The word זיק can refer to a comet in Hebrew, or to a spark, or to a firebrand as in Proverbs 26:18: “a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death.”  Rightly or wrongly, when I hear of a זיקה I think figuratively of a sort of beam or ray across an invisible dimension.  After all, the word has a Z and a K like kazam.

When your child has a זיקה for astronomy it can be a disposition (one of the definitions in Babylon).  The Signet paperback dictionary by Dov Ben Abba lists connection, attachment, sympathy, bond; relation; requirement.  I suspect that sympathy, as used in English, doesn’t exactly belong on the list and Ben Abba was influenced by the French sympathique, the Hebrew סימפתי, or something similar.

If you feel an affinity for this topic, you are invited to comment below.  Suggestions for other words worthy of discussion are welcome at, and suggestions that are used will be credited.


Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.