circumcise, circumcision

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The Hebrew and Greek terms that are translated as “circumcise” or “circumcision” in English (originally meaning of English term: “to cut around”) are (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Chimborazo Highland Quichua: “to cut the flesh”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec, Navajo: “to cut around”
  • Javanese: “to clip-away”
  • Uab Meto: “to pinch and cut” (usually shortened to “to cut”)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun, Western Highland Purepecha: “to put the mark”
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “to put the mark in the body showing that they belong to God” (or: “that they have a covenant with God”)
  • Indonesian: disunat — “undergo sunat” (sunat is derived from Arabic “sunnah (سنة)” — “(religious) way (of life)”)
  • Ekari: “to cut the end of the member for which one fears shame” (in Gen. 17:10) (but typically: “the cutting custom”) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Hiri Motu: “cut the skin” (source: Deibler / Taylor 1977, p. 1079)
  • Garifuna: “cut off part of that which covers where one urinates”
  • Bribri: “cut the soft” (source for this and the one above: Ronald Ross)
  • Amele: deweg cagu qoc — “cut the body” (source: John Roberts)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “cut the flesh of the sons like Moses taught” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Newari: “put the sign in one’s bodies” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Central Mazahua: “sign in his flesh”
  • Hopi: “being cut in a circle in his body” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (Romans 2:25)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 2:25:

  • Uma: “We Jews say that our custom of circumcision according to the Lord’s Law is valuable/useful. And there really is value in our being circumcised, as long as we really follow the Lord’s Law. But if we disobey the Lord’s Law, there is no value at all to our being circumcised.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “We (incl.) Yahudi, we (incl.) are hep commanded to be circumcised making (it) a sign that we (incl.) are a tribe/nation chosen by God and/so-that we (incl.) belong to him. When/if you (plural) follow the law, circumcision is good. But when/if you (plural) do not follow the law, circumcision is of no value.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for you Jews, you think mistakenly that there is great value in your being circumcized. And there really is value in being circumcised if we thoroughly obey the Law. However, if we do not thoroughly obey the Law, we are just like those people who aren’t Jews who have never been circumcised.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “There is admittedly a use/benefit in us Jews having-gotten-circumcised provided that we obey God’s law, but if we don’t obey it, it is useless, because we are like Gentiles who are not God’s people.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Concerning the person who is born a Jew, it is good if they do all that is said in the law followed by the Jews. But if they do not do all said in the law, then it is of no value that they were born as Jews.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)