Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
כון כנה כנן כן
The three forms כנן (knn), כנה (knh), and כון (kwn) represent four different roots that are obviously closely related. Together they produce four identical words of the form כן (kn).
Also note that the dominating letter of this word cluster is the letter כ (kaph), which also serves as the prefix particle כ (ke), meaning as or like (comparatively). The kindred particle כי (ki) expresses relation between clauses, and can usually be translated with terms like: as though, as, because that, since, etcetera. Please revert to our separate article on these particles for the particulars.
The root-verb כון (kun), means to be established, prepared, fixed, certain, etc. This very common verb has the basic meaning of "to bring something into being with the consequence that its existence is a certainty," in the eloquent words of HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. It is used in relation to the building of a house (Judges 16:26), but also of budding breasts (Ezekiel 16:7), or more mundane, of fixing a meal (Joshua 1:11). Mostly it occurs figuratively, in the establishment of a throne (2 Samuel 7:16), meaning a monarchy (1 Samuel 20:31), or to indicate the solidity of a person's character (Job 21:8), of plans (Proverbs 16:3), and even of the well establishment of the day (Proverbs 4:18; BDB's suggestion that this indicates a seeming motionlessness of the sun at noon is quite positively nonsense).
Our verb also contains a moral clause, indicating a steadfastness (Psalm 57:7) or a being prepared (Amos 4:12). This also shows in the derived adjective כן (ken), meaning right, true or honest (Exodus 10:29, Proverbs 11:19).
Other derivatives are:
- The masculine noun מכון (makon), meaning a fixed or established place — mostly referring to God's dwelling place (Exodus 15:17, Isaiah 4:5).
- The feminine equivalent of the previous: מכונה (mekona) or מכנה (mekona), meaning base — almost only used in 1 Kings 7 where it refers to the bases of the bronze lavers.
- The feminine noun תכונה (tekuna), meaning arrangement (Ezekiel 43:11), preparation (Nahum 2:10), or dwelling place (Job 23:3).
- The masculine noun כון (kawwan), denoting some kind of sacrificial cake that was offered to the "queen of heaven". This word occurs twice in the Bible and only in plural: Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:19. It's not sure that this word should be grouped under this root, but even when it isn't officially a derivation, it looks like it is. But why is some kind of baked item named from a verb that denotes certainty? Perhaps, proposes BDB Theological Dictionary, it comes from the verb's usage in fixing a meal (see above), and they are literally Fixies. But on the other hand: Jeremiah 44:19 states that the cakes were made in the queen's image. In other words, they were the manifestations through which this goddess became real and established. This word fits the verb perfectly.
The ubiquitous adverb כן (ken) expresses confirmation of something previously expressed: usually translatable with "thus" or "so" (Genesis 1:7, Judges 5:31, Job 5:27). It's not clear where this word comes from. BDB Theological Dictionary lists it under its own entree; HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament lists it under the previously discussed root כון (kun). Note that this adverb is indistinguishable from the previously discussed adjective כן (ken), meaning right, true or honest. HAW submits that we don't know how many times each כן (ken) occurs in the Bible since they are so difficult to tell apart. It may very well be that the Hebrews who wrote and first read the Bible didn't tell them apart, but considered them one and the same word.
The root-verb כנה (kana) means to give a title or epithet or cognomen. This verb occurs a mere four times in the Bible: Job 32:21 and 32:22, and Isaiah 44:5 and 45:4. Since in the Bible one's name, and especially one's epithet closely reflects one's identity, this verb is clearly kindred to root כון (kun).
The root כנן (knn I) isn't used as verb in the Bible so we can't pinpoint exactly what it means. But according to its sole derivative, it must have been something very similar to the meaning of the root כון (kun). BDB Theological Dictionary, in an unlikely bout of confidence, states that this verb is a parallel form of כון (kun) and means to be firm or fixed.
Its telling derivative is the masculine noun כן (ken), meaning base or pedestal (Exodus 30:18, Leviticus 8:11), or office or place (Genesis 40:13, Daniel 11:20). Note that this is the third identical word כן (ken).
The root כנן (knn II) is also not used as verb in the Bible, and the sole reason that it's assumed to have existed is the occurrence of the troublesome noun כן (ken — and that's the fourth identical ken).
BDB declares the meaning of this root "dubious," and the meaning of the noun "dubious" as well. It probably denotes some insect, like a gnat or louse (Isaiah 51:6). It appears mostly in the plural forms כנים (kenim; Exodus 8:13, Psalm 105:31) or כנם (kenim; Exodus 8:12).
But then, perhaps our word does not denote some specific animal, but rather the swarm or cloud in which it appears. Or perhaps even better: the relentless ubiquity with which a gnat or louse plague may manifest itself in an area. Remember that this kind of thing happened as the third plague of Egypt (Exodus 8).
Out of reasons that go beyond the scope of us here at Abarim Publications, BDB Theological Dictionary adds another derivation to this troublesome root: the feminine noun כנה (kanna), meaning support (of a tree; i.e. root or stock).
BDB also submits that this noun is a feminine form of the third of four identical masculine nouns כן (ken), listed under root כנן (knn). Our feminine noun כנה (kanna) occurs only once in Scriptures, in Psalm 80:15, in a text that BDB deems "dubious".