🔼The name Sarai: Summary
- My Princess, My Senate
- From the noun שרה (sara), ruling body, from the verb שרר (sharar), to retain liquidity.
🔼The name Sarai in the Bible
Sarai is the original name of Sarah, the wife and half-sister of Abraham (same father, namely Terah: Genesis 20:12). Before the conception of Isaac, Sarah was called Sarai. Possibly, the name-change indicates a step from local to global, or specific to general.
🔼Etymology of the name Sarai
The name Sarai comes from the same word as the name Sarah, which means princess or perhaps senate:
Root שרר (sharar) has to do with rigidity resulting from the absorption and retention of liquids (called turgor in plants), liquidity in economy, or data in IT and so on — and the ultimate effects thereof. The promise of Jesus', that streams of living water would emerge from within (John 7:38), tells of a curing of social lymphedema, when pools of stagnant wealth (whether fat, cash or data) are re-released into society to benefit all (for more on this, see our article on the noun δουλος, doulos).
Noun שר (sar) means chief or ruler (someone in whom a society's wealth is concentrated). Its feminine form, שרה (sara), denotes a princess, noble lady or perhaps a ruling class collectively. The denominative verb שרר (sarar) means to be a chief.
Noun שרירות (sherirut) describes firmness in a negative sense: stubbornness. Noun שר (shor) refers to the umbilical cord and noun שרה (shera) to a bracelet of some sort. Noun שריר (sharir) apparently denotes a sinew or muscle.
Mystery verb שרה (sara) is used only to describe what Jacob did with the Angel (Genesis 32:29 and Hosea 12:4). It's traditionally been translated as "to wrestle," but it obviously metaphorizes Israel's formation into a political unity based on the retention of knowledge and skills. Derived noun משרה (misra) literally means "place or agent of שרה (sara)." It occurs only in the famous prediction that "the misra will be upon his shoulders" (Isaiah 9:6).
Verb שרה (shara) means to fill and release. Noun משרה (mishra) denotes the juice of grapes. Noun שריה (shirya) denotes a kind of weapon and noun שריון (shiryon) or שרין (shiryan) describes body armor — the link between physical, political and intellectual rigidity is obvious (see Ephesians 6:14).
The final letter י (yod) of the name Sarai gives the noun a possessive form, and would mean My Princess.
For a meaning of the name Sarai, NOBSE Study Bible Name List groups it without further comment with Sarah and seems to translate both names with Princess. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names discusses the name Sarai under the article on Sarah, but translates Sarai with My Princess. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't translate but does connect Sarai and Sarah to the noun שׂרה meaning princess.