Category:Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Language/Hebraisms/Cognates

Cognates in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Language/Hebraisms

Hebrew influence on Book of Mormon text: Cognates

John A. Tvedtnes:

Cognates are related words that come from the same root. For example, the English noun student is cognate to the verb study and the adjective studious. In Hebrew, a verb is sometimes followed by a noun that is a cognate, such as "wrote upon it a writing" (Exodus 39:30) and "she vowed a vow" (1 Samuel 1:11). In English, cognates are used much less often. Using such cognates is often considered an awkward or inelegant style in English. Someone writing in English would be more likely to use "she vowed" or "she made a vow." Even in translation from the Hebrew, the King James Bible sometimes avoids using cognates. In Genesis 1:11, a literal translation of the Hebrew would be "Let the earth grass grass," but the English translation reads "Let the earth bring forth grass."

The Book of Mormon uses cognates much more often than we would expect if the book had originally been written in English. These cognates show the Hebrew influence of the original. One of the best-known examples is "I have dreamed a dream" (1 Nephi 8:2). That is exactly the way that the same idea is expressed in literal translation of the Old Testament Hebrew (see Genesis 37:5; 41:11).

Here are some other examples of the use of cognates in the Book of Mormon, each followed by the more normal expression for English:

"work all manner of fine work" (Mosiah 11:10) instead of work well
"and he did judge righteous judgments" (Mosiah 29:43) instead of judge righteously or make righteous judgments
"build buildings" (2 Nephi 5:15; Mosiah 23:5) instead of erect buildings or simply build
"this was the desire which I desired of him" (Enos 1:13) instead of what I desired
"I will work a great and a marvelous work" (1 Nephi 14:7) instead of perform a great and marvelous work
"taxed with a tax" (Mosiah 7:15) instead of taxed
"cursed with a sore cursing " (2 Nephi 1:22; Jacob 3:3) instead of cursed sorely[1]

Cognate Accusative

Donald W. Parry:

The cognate accusative is a direct object noun that shares the same root as the preceding verb, as in Joseph "dreamed a dream" (Genesis 37:5) instead of the more customary English rendering "Joseph had a dream." The Hebrew Bible contains numerous ex-amples of the cognate accusative (e.g., Genesis 1:11; 9:14; Numbers 11:4; Psalms 14:5; 144:6; {{b||Isaiah 35:2; {{b||Joel 3:1), although literal representations of this form is generally not used in translation.

The Book of Mormon contains many instances of the cognate accusative, including "I will curse them even with a sore curse" ({{s|1|Nephi|2:23; see {{s|2|Nephi|1:22; Jacob 3:3), "Behold I have dreamed a dream" (1 Nephi 3:2; 1 Nephi 8:2), "yoketh them with a yoke" (1 Nephi 13:5), "I will work a great and a marvelous work" (1 Nephi 14:7), "build buildings" (2 Nephi 5:15; Mosiah 23:5), "this was the desire which I desired of him" (Enos 1:13), "succor those that stand in need of your succor" (Mosiah 4:16), "taxed with a tax" (Mosiah 7:15), "work all manner of fine work" (Mosiah 11:10; Ether 10:23), "judge righteous judgments" (Mosiah 29:29,43), "sing the song" (Alma 5:26), and "fear exceedingly, with fear" (Alma 18:5).[2]

Video: Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon


  1. John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 8.
  2. Donald W. Parry, "Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 7, references silently removed—consult original for citations.

Pages in category "Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Language/Hebraisms/Cognates"

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