Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
There are two separate roots קרח (qrh), which don't seem to have much to do with each other etymologically speaking. To a poetic eye, however, they seem quite kindred:
The verb קרח (qarah I) means to be, become or make bald. This verb pretty much means the same thing in English: being without cranial hair. And that may happen because of illness (Leviticus 13:42) but also out of religious contemplations (Deuteronomy 14:1) or as a show of mourning (Jeremiah 16:6, Micah 1:16).
Baldness as a result of age didn't seem to happen much in Biblical times. For a study on the meaning of baldness in the Bible, see our Bible Commentary special on Hair in the Bible.
Our verb comes with the following derivations:
- The adjective קרח (qereah) meaning bald (Leviticus 13:40).
- The feminine noun קרחה (qorha), meaning baldness (Isaiah 3:24, Amos 8:10).
- The feminine noun קרחת (qarahat), meaning baldness (of head or forehead - Leviticus 13:42).
The masculine noun קרח (qerah) means frost or ice and was obviously derived from the form קרח (qrh). But since its meaning is so far removed from baldness, scholars assume that there must exist a second root קרח (qrh). What that root might mean is unknown (being white? being cold? like what your head feels like when you shave off your hair?), but the word קרח (qerah) meaning frost or ice occurs about half a dozen times in the Bible (Genesis 31:40, Psalm 147:17, Job 6:16).
The climate in Israel during Biblical times seems to have been colder than nowadays. The connection between a bald head and a bald wintery landscape may not have been that much of a challenge to regular users of the Hebrew language. Hair was endowed with a symbolic value that had to do with intense experience, and thus with knowledge and thus with light and thus with heat. Hence baldness related to coldness.