Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch22:6:Mimation and Nunation

Book of Mormon Names—Mimation and Nunation

Book of Mormon Names—Mimation and Nunation

Jirku has shown that mimation was still current in the Semitic dialects of Palestine and Syria between 2100 and 1800 B.C., when the nominative case still ended in -m. From Egyptian and Hittite records it is now clear that the dialects of Palestine and Syria dropped this mimation in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and it is preserved in the Bible only in a few pre-Hebraic words used in very ancient incantations and spells, and in the mysterious and archaic words Urim and Thummim, which it now appears are not Hebrew plurals at all.16 This is significant, since the Book of Mormon favors -m endings for Jaredite names. The Jaredites must have taken mimation with them some time before 2000 B.C., when the change to nunation occurred. Nunation itself, however, which is extremely common in the Book of Mormon proper names, is an old-fashioned thing which in Lehi's day was a sign of conservatism and most frequently found among the desert people. It turns up in old Hebrew genealogies in which "the nomenclature is largely un-Hebraic, with peculiar antique formations in -an, -on, and in some cases of particular Arabian origin."17 This nunation or ending in -n has left traces in all Semitic languages, but mostly among the desert people, being retained completely in classical Arabic.

In Lehi in the Desert, we wrote: "Since the Old Testament was available to Joseph Smith, there is no point in listing Hebrew names, but their Book of Mormon forms are significant. The strong tendency to end in -iah is very striking, since the vast majority of Hebrew names found at Lachish [i.e., from records contemporary with Lehi] end the same way, indicating that -iah names were very fashionable in Lehi's time." Since that was written our view has been confirmed by a study made by D. W. Thomas, who noted that a "striking" peculiarity of Hebrew names in the age of Jeremiah is "the many personal names which end in -iahu."18 Thus Reifenberg lists from the ancient Hebrew seals of the time such names as Jekamjahu (Jekamiah), Shepatjahu son of Asjahu, Jaazanjahu, Gadjahu (cf. Book of Mormon Gadiandi, Giddianhi), Hilkjahu, Gealjahu, Alijahu, etc.19 This -iahu ending (German -jahu) is our biblical -iah, -ijah, and by a common metathesis also becomes the extremely common Book of Mormon name ending -ihah.[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.