Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
קנן קנה קין
There are two roots קין (qyn), two roots קנה (qana), one root קנן (qinnen), and one root תקן (taqan), which appear to be somewhat related in form and meaning. None of the consulted sources hints at this and perhaps the relationship between these six roots doesn't formally and etymologically exist, but any Hebrew audience would surely have recognized these similarities as significant:
The verb קנה (qana) means to acquire or create. It's the regular verb for a commercial purchase, which extends into the financed redemption of slaves (Nehemiah 5:8). It's probably this line of thought that describes God as redeeming Israel from Egypt (Exodus 15:13).
In a small minority of instances this verb may mean to create: Psalm 139:13, Deuteronomy 32:6, Genesis 14:19. Our verb is also the one exclaimed by Eve when she says, "I have gotten/made a man-child with the Lord," after giving birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1).
The derivatives of this root are:
- The masculine noun קנין (qinyan), meaning item acquired (Leviticus 22:11) or created, i.e. creatures (Psalm 104:23).
- The masculine noun מקנה (migneh), meaning cattle (as unit of wealth - Genesis 13:2, Exodus 9:3).
- The feminine noun מקנה (miqna), meaning purchase (Genesis 17:12) or purchase-price (Leviticus 25:16).
The identical but unused root קנה (qana II) occurs in cognate languages where it yields nouns with meanings like reed, spear-shaft or goad. In the Hebrew of the Bible, this root occurs in the masculine noun קנה (qaneh), denoting some herb on a stalk or reed (Genesis 41:5, 1 Kings 14:15).
This word for reed or stalk is quite common in the Bible. Most notable are its occurrences in the beautiful promise of Isaiah that a bruised reed will not be broken (Isaiah 42:3) and its use as one of the four ingredients for the holy oil (Exodus 30:23).
This word is also incorporated in many reed-like items: a measuring-rod (Ezekiel 40:3), a unit of measure equaling six cubits (Ezekiel 40:5), the beam between two scales (Isaiah 46:6), the shaft of a lamp stand (Exodus 25:31) or its branches (Exodus 25:32).
The verb קין (qyn) occurs in cognate language with the meaning of to fit together, fabricate or forge. Derived nouns either have to do with metal work, or (curiously) with slaves singing or folks making music, obviously because individual singers need to be locked into the movements of the choir at large. The meaning of fabricating reminds of root קנה (qana).
In the Bible this root occurs only in the masculine noun קין (qayin), meaning spear (2 Samuel 21:16). This word for spear was possibly understood to refer to the way it was fabricated (forged; the point at least), but there's also a natural association with the noun קנה (qana), meaning reed or stalk.
The verb קין (qyn) comes from the feminine noun קינה (qina), which denotes a kind of sad poem; a dirge or lamentation (2 Chronicles 35:25, Jeremiah 7:29). The derived verb קונן (qonen) denotes the chanting of that dirge (2 Samuel 1:17, Jeremiah 9:16), and it brings to mind the previous verb קין (qyn), which means to forge or to produce music.
The root קנן (qnn) isn't used in the Bible and its meaning is lost. But the extant derived masculine noun קן (qen) means nest (Deuteronomy 22:6, Numbers 24:21) and once it means cell (in the Ark of Noah; Genesis 6:14).
And from this noun comes the verb קנן (qinnen), meaning to make a nest, which brings to mind the verb קנה (qana I), meaning to acquire or create, and possible also the noun קנה (qaneh) meaning reed or stalk.
The verb תקן (taqan) means to make or become straight. It's used only three times, always in Ecclesiastes (1:15, 7:13, 12:9).