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  • Yaniv Berman

Think you know what "Shahid" means?

People often tell me: a translator is simply someone who knows well two languages. Is that so? Take for example the word "Shahid" and its variety of meanings:


The Arabic word "Shahid" (شهيد) has a rich and complex history, with meanings that have evolved over time to reflect the changing needs of its speakers. The term has its roots in Islamic religious texts, where it is used to refer to individuals who have died while in service to their faith. In this context, the term emphasizes the sacrifice and devotion of these individuals, and their willingness to give their lives for a higher cause.


But the usage of the term has expanded beyond the religious realm and has come to be used in a variety of contexts. In many Arab countries, a "Shahid" may refer to a soldier who died while fighting for his country. In this sense, the term emphasizes the bravery and patriotism of these soldiers.

The term "Shahid" is also used in the context of resistance against an enemy. The term is commonly used in the Palestinian territories, for example, to refer to individuals who have died while fighting against Israel. In this context, speakers use the term to describe what they perceive as courage and sacrifice.


The use of the term "Shahid" in these contexts highlights the deep connection between language and identity, as well as the powerful role that language can play in shaping our perceptions of

ourselves and others.


But the usage of the term "Shahid" is not limited to these contexts alone. In many Arab countries, a "Shahid" may refer to a person who has died in a tragic accident or as a result of illness. In this context, the term is used to honor the memory of the deceased and to acknowledge their contributions to their community. The use of the term "shahid" in such situations underscores the importance of remembrance and the ways in which language can help us honor the legacies of those who have passed away.


"Shahid" is also used in a legal context, where it refers to a witness who testifies in court. In this sense, the term emphasizes the importance of truth and justice, and the role that witnesses play in upholding these values.


In conclusion, "Shahid" is a versatile term with a rich history and multiple meanings. Its usage reflects the changing needs of its speakers, and underscores the importance of language in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and others. Whether used in religious, military, legal, or civilian contexts, the term emphasizes values such as sacrifice, courage, remembrance, and justice, and highlights the role that language can play in promoting these values.


Now that we are aware of the wide range of meanings that each word may have, we can begin to understand the complexity of the translator's work. Translators must demonstrate deep understanding of the source language, and in many cases they need to consult with experts from different fields to be able to grasp the precise meaning of the text they are working on.

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