English Hebrew


1. To destroy the self-confidence, self-possession or poise of (any one); to put out of countenance, confound, discomfit, or disconcert. Make ashamed or embarrassed; bring confusion from surprise; (to abash someone by sneering).

2. To stand dumb with confusion or astonishment; to lose self-possession or confidence; to flinch or recoil with surprise, shame, or sense of humiliation.



בּשׁׁ bosh, ashamed, Je 48:13;

בֹּשְׁתִּי boshtee, ashamed, Je 31:19 + 25 times.

בּוּשָׁה booshaw, shame  ψ 89:45, Mi 7:10, Ez 7:18, Ho 10:6.

1. abs. feel shame Je 6:15 + 16 times, Is 19:9; 23:4; 37:27 Is 2 45:16 + 14 times Ez 16:63 Mi 7:16 Jo 2:26, 27 2 K 19:26 Ez 9:6 Jb 6:20 ψ 6:11 ( + 24 times, chiefly in late Psalms).

2.  be ashamed of, i.e. disconcerted, disappointed by reason of: Je 2:36; 12:13; 48:13 Is 1:29; 20:5 Ez 32:30; 36:32.

3. with obj. בֹּשְׁתִּי לִשְׁאוֹל  I am ashamed to ask Ezr 8:22; לֹא תֵבשׁוּ תַּהְכְּרוּ לִי   ye are not ashamed to deal hardly with me (impf. subj.) Jb 19:3.

 בּושׁoften נכלם & חפר; בּשׁוּ וְהָכְלְמוּ they are ashamed and confounded Je 14:3, 22:22 Is 20:5; 41:11; 45:16, 17 Ez 16:52; 36:32 ψ 35:4; 69:7 Ez 9:6;

בשׁוּ הַחֹזִים וְחָֽפְרוּ הַקֹּסְמִים  and the seers shall be ashamed and the diviners confounded Mi 3:7, cf. Je 15:9, Jb 6:20, 35:26; 40:15; 70:3; 71:24.

These words are found in Akkadian, and associated languages:

buāu = to come to shame

Comparison with other Semitic languages:

  • Proto-Semitic : *bahāth
  • Syriac : bhet  
  • Ugaritic : buth  


Related modern French words are: abaisser /abese/ to pull down, to lower [safety curtain, window]; s'abaisser [stage curtain] to fall; s'abaisser faire: to stoop to doing; baisse: fall, fade, decline; baisser /bese/: to lower [blind]; to wind down [window]; to turn down [collar]; figurative to give up; to hang one's head;

Old Anglo-Fr. abass-; OFr. ebass-, esbass-, of sb-ar, mod. Fr. bahir = to dumbfound. OED speculates that these forms are from Latin es (ex = out, utterly) + bar, but this is simply speculation.

Related Italian word are basare = establish (to base), found (base), found (ground). OED gives bahir = Ital. bare: to astound, regarded as formed on bah! a natural exclamation of astonishment. I have been unable to find this connection, and regard the statement as pure speculation, if not invention.

OED states that the OFr. -iss here became -ish, as in perish, finish, punish, and the "i" was absorbed, as in punch; in the north the -s remained, as in cheriss, fluriss, punyss; hence a formal confusion between northern forms of abash, and the distinct vb. ABASE. See note below.

Examples from English are:

1325 E.E. Allit. P. 42. 149 at oer burne wat abayst of his broe worde.
1366 MANDEVILLE xxix. 295 Alisandre was gretly astoneyed and abayst.
1382 WYCLIF Mark v. 42 And thei weren abaischt [1388 abaischid] with greet stoneying.
1386 CHAUCER Clerk's T. 955 Right nought was sche abaissht of her clothing.
1393 GOWER Conf. II. 46 The kynges doughter, which this sigh, for pure abasshe drewe hir adrigh.
1375 BARBOUR Bruce VIII. 247 And thouch that thai be ma than we, That suld abaiss ws litill thing.
1430 Pilg. Lyf of Man 117 It is thilke bi whiche I abashe alle the bestes of the cuntre.
1450 LONELICH Holy Grail xxi. 291 Thanne the Kyng Abasched him sore For the wordes he herde thore.
1483 CAXTON G. Leg. 70/3 Whan Dauid herd this he was sore abasshed.
1485 CAXTON Paris & Vienne 62 Abasshe you not for thys derkenes.
1496 W. DE WORDE Dives & Pauper XIV. viii. 340/1 The lyon with his crye abassheth all other bestes.
1535 COVERDALE Is. xiii. 8 One shall euer be abaszshed of another.
1570 LEVINS Manipulus, To Abashe Stupefacere.
1574 tr. Marlorats Apocalips 26 For although lightning be bright, yet is it not chrefull, but rather abasheth men.
1600 HEYWOOD 1st Edw. IV, IV. 27 To weaken and abash their fortitude.
1784 VIII. 304 A man whom no denial, no scorn could abash.
1863 H. ROGERS Life of J. Howe iii. 83 If not to convince, to silence and abash the gainsayer.

and so on.

IE: bhoso = Naked.

a. bare, from Old English br, bare;

b. ballast, from Old Swedish and Old Danish bar, bare.

Both a and b from Germanic *bazaz.



voB OT:954  (b) be ashamed, put to shame, disconcerted, disappointed.

hv*WB  OT:955 (b) shame.

hn`v=B (bon) shame.

What follows is somewhat edited from TWOT.

The primary meaning of this root is "to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust." Along with its derivatives, it occurs 155 times, 130 times in the prophets or the Psalms. 38 occurrences are found in Jeremiah and 20 in Isaiah. As these parallels suggest, the force of b is somewhat in contrast to the primary meaning of the English "to be ashamed," in that the English stresses the inner attitude, the state of mind, while the Hebrew means "to come to shame" and stresses the sense of public disgrace, a physical state. Likewise, in Akkadian the G-stem of this root means "to come to shame" and the D-stem "to put to shame."

The second usage of b expresses that sense of confusion, embarrassment, and dismay when matters turn out contrary to one's expectations. Thus, Job speaks of the shame of the caravaneers when they do not find water in the expected place (Job 6:20). So also, Israel will be shamed when God cuts off the rain (Jer 14:3). In a more profound sense, Israel and the nations will be shamed by their idols when they fail them (Isa 42:17; Jer 22:22; Hos 10:6).

The third usage and the one that is most common carries the above thought further expressing the disgrace which is the result of defeat at the hands of an enemy, either in battle or in some other manner. In particular, the awful shame of being paraded as captives is thought of (Mic 1:11; cf. also Jer 2:26). Involved here are all the nuances of confusion, disillusionment, humiliation, and brokenness which the word connotes. The prophets normally use the word with this sense, promising Israel that unless she repents and turns from her idolatrous ways, she will certainly experience the shame of defeat and exile. (Cf. Isa 1:29; 30:5; Jer 2:36; 9:19 [H 18]; Ezra 9:6; Dan 9:7; etc.)

Intimately associated with this third use of the word is the question of trust. If Israel seeks to insure her own glory by refusing to trust in God but rather trusts in idols (Isa 1:29) or in foreign nations (Isa 20:5; 30:3,5), she will not get glory, but shame and disgrace. On the other hand, if one will humbly submit to God, he will find his true glory, for God will not let that person come to shame (Isa 29:22; Joel 2:26,27; Zeph 3:19). It is this promise of which the Psalmist continually reminds God (Ps 25:3; 31:17; Ps 37:19; 119:46).

Similarly, although Israel's enemies may triumph over her for a period, they must inevitably, because of their idolatry and their lack of trust in God, be brought to abject shame (Isa 41:11; Jer 46:24; 51:47.) Again, it is the Psalmist's fervent expectation that because he trusts in God, those who are attempting to destroy him must themselves be brought low in disgrace (Ps 6:10 [H 11]; Ps 22:6; 40:14; Ps 109:28).

Fourthly, shame results from imprudent or immoral action. This use is found in 1 Sam 20:30. From Saul's perspective Jonathan made a fool of himself not only by committing a grave injustice against the reigning king, but also by jeapordizing his mother's position who would become part of David's harem. Likewise Joab accused David of not thinking things through and thus acting foolishly (2 Sam 19:5. But this usage is largely restricted to Proverbs. All the occurrences are Hiphil participles in references which describe explicitly or implicitly the actions of those who bring disgrace upon their parents or spouses (Prov 10:5; 12:4; 14:35; etc.).

The final use of b is the one which coincides most closely with the common English connotation: a feeling of guilt from having done what is wrong. Jeremiah (Jer 6:15) is horrified that the people are not ashamed having committed abomination (idolatry). Similarly, Ezekiel (Ezek 16:63) indicates that God's grace, manifested in the restoration, will not allay, but increase Judah's sense of shame. Not until then will she see what a terrible thing it was to trust idols instead of the living God. Ezra, discovering the situation in Jerusalem, cries out that he is ashamed because "our iniquities are higher than our heads."


Isaac Mozeson, in his The Word, mentions בּוּשָׁה( BOOSHAH), pah shiou, Polish and Chinese words for shame. My mother would use poo shaw when she wanted us children to feel shame. (The circumstance are highly curious how this Hebrew phrase came into my mother's vocabulary!) The Hebrew words  לְבֻשׁand  לְבוּשׁmean to be clothed, to have our shame covered. The Indo-European (IE) root for BARE is bhoso = naked, lack of clothes. As Mozeson points out if ones yard is "dressed" or screened for privacy it may have varieties of BUSH. OED admits that the ultimate origin of the word BUSH is unknown, although parallel forms are found in Latin. AMBUSH is about being hidden, not foliage.

From Akkadian:

labāu = to put on, wear, to clothe oneself, to clothe. The implication is to cover one's shame.

Comparison with other Semitic languages:

  • Proto-Semitic : *labā
  • Arabic : labisa  لَبِسَ
  • Syriac : lbi  ܠܒ݂ܽܘܫܳܐ
  • Hebrew : lāba  לָבַשׁ
  • Ugaritic : lb 
  • Ge'ez : labsa

For the first Biblical mention of shame, before clothes, see the Biblical verse: "Both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame" WvVBty  - Genesis: 2:25.

With the "a" prefix, the English word abash has origins in this Semitic (Hebrew) word.

List of References

BDB: Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951. Now available electronically from Logos Bible Software, as Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic edition, Logos Research Systems, Oak Harbor, WA, 2000.

SEC: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, J. Strong, Abingdon Press, New York, 1890. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.

OED: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971. Now available on line from Online Subscription Department, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Moody Press, 1980. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.

The Word: Isaac Mozeson, SPI Books, New York, 1989

I offer no references for words that come from various other languages, and that can be traced by browsing the World Wide Web.