kab·ba·lah or kab·ba·la or ka·ba·la also ca·ba·la or qa·ba·la or qa·ba·lah (kăbə-lə, kə-bälə)
1. often Kabbalah A body of mystical teachings of rabbinical origin, often based on an esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
2. A secret doctrine resembling these teachings.
[Medieval Latin cabala, from Hebrew qabbālâ, received doctrine, tradition, from qibbēl, to receive; see qbl in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]
Usage Note: There are no less than two dozen variant spellings of kabbalah, the most common of which include kabbalah, kabala, kabalah, qabalah, qabala, cabala, cabbala, kaballah, kabbala, kaballah, and qabbalah. This sort of confusion is frequently seen with Hebrew and Arabic words borrowed into English because there exist several different systems of romanizing the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets. Often a more exact or scholarly transliteration, such as Qur'an, will coexist alongside a spelling that has been heavily Anglicized (Koran). The fact that the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets do not as a rule indicate short vowels or the doubling of consonants compounds the difficulties. Spellings of kabbalah with one or two b's are equally "correct," insofar as the single b accurately reproduces the spelling of the Hebrew, while the double b represents that it was once pronounced with a double b.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendicies
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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