Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
None of the sources explains the assumed root שטן (stn). In the Bible the following derivations occur:
- The masculine noun שטן (satan), meaning adversary. This noun occurs about three dozen times in the Bible and only a few of these occurrences denote the big bad guy: 1 Kings 11:14, "And YHWH raised up שטן (satan) to Solomon; Hadad the Edomite . . . " 1 Kings 11:23, "And Elohim raised up שטן (satan) to him; Rezon son of Eliada . . . "
In Numbers we even see this noun ascribed to the Angel of YHWH: Numbers 22:22, " . . . and the Angel of YHWH set himself in the road as שטן (satan) . . . " And verse 32, "I have come as שטן (satan) because your way is contrary to Me".
In the New Testament Jesus rebukes Peter by saying, "Go behind me satan, . . . " (Matthew 16:23), illustrating the difficulty that translators run into when the same word is translated sometimes as a regular verb or noun and sometimes as a defining personal name. Every now and then Jesus' words are transliterated from Aramaic and it is highly unlikely that he personified Peter with the devil.
- The denominative verb שטן (satan) meaning to resist or be an adversary. This verb is used six times in the Bible, for instance in Psalm 38:20, where it reads: ' . . . they שטן (satan) me because good follows me.'
- The feminine noun שטנה (sitna), denoting a kind of written accusation, or a Cease And Desist notice. This noun is used only once in the Bible, in Ezra 4:6.
None of the sources used make mention of a linguistic connection to the following words, but the letter nun is often placed after a root to create a phrase that isolates or personifies the conceptual action of the root. Whether this actually happened with the word שטן (satan) may be less important than any audience's supposition:
The verb שוט (sut) means to swerve or fall away, as used in Psalm 40:4 (NAS: lapse; NIV: turn aside). Derivation שט (set) means swerver, revolter as used in Hosea 5:2.
The verb שטה (sata) means to turn aside, turn, decline, and always from a good way into a bad one. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that the Aramaic cognate of this verb means to stray, and the Ethiopic one to be seduced.
In medieval times, our root began to be spelled with the letter שׂ (sin), as opposed to the letter שׁ (shin), thus forming the word שׂטן (satan). The letter ט (teth) is one of two t-sounds of the Hebrew alphabet, the other one being ת (taw). A verb that probably sounded quite similar to our word שׂטן (satan), meaning adversary, is שׁתן (shatan), meaning to urinate (1 Samuel 25:22, 1 Kings 14:10). And this wouldn't simply be out of base defamation but a rather specific reference to lymphedema: the condition in which the body retains its urine rather than pee it out. See for more on this our article on Servitude and Lymphedema.