ܣܳܣܓܰܘܢܳܐ [?] ssgwnʾ sāsgawnā purple red, vermilion, scarlet
Derivative: ܣܵܣܓܲܘܢܵܝܵܐ ssgwnyʾ sāsgawnāyā of the colour of sāsgawnā
Perhaps MP *šaš-gōn of six colours (Gignoux, personal communication) or MP *šast-gōn of sixty colours (Shaked 1987, 261; Id. 1994, 112 f.); the first element of the Ir. compound seems to be MP šaš six (CPD 79), or MP šast sixty (ibid.). The second element is surely OIr. *gauna-, MP gōn colour (see s.v. gwnʾ). PS Comp. 383 also records the meanings "sky-bue, blue-black" of the Syr. word. If the etymon proposed is correct, the correspondence between Ir. /š/ and Syr. s would be exceptional: cf. § 11.3.3. — Hebr., Talm. Aram. ssgwnʾ sasgōnā multicoloured ● Ex 25, 5, cf. ES 1, 229E; 2Par 2, 7 and 14; ES 2, 317A; BB 1365u ◆ LS 487a: Pers.? + gawnā; Lagarde GA 27, 60
Syr. ssgwnʾ is used to translate Bibl. Hebr. ʿōr taḥaš "leather of taḥaš", referring to the top covering laid over red-dyed leather and used for covering the tabernacle. The meaning of Hebr. taḥaš has undergone many misunderstandings and popular etymologies from the Babylonian Talmud onwards: the basic idea was that taḥaš was a mysterious animal, whose hide was of a particular colour. Only in recent years has the meaning of taḥaš been convincingly elucidated by Dalley 2000, who explains the Hebrew term as a loanword from Akkadian duhšu, a culture word also attested in Hurrian and Sumerian, used to denote “beading and attaching pendants, and inlaying in stone, metal, faience and glass, and [...] usually made on leather but sometimes also wool or linen, or as cloisonné in precious metals, timber, etc.” (Dalley 2000, 16). The term, first indicating blue frit, faience and glass, very early became used for decorative beadwork in various colours: in Middle Assyrian glass-making recipes, for example, it is said that duhšu has eight different colours. Coming back to Syr. ssgwnʾ, it is beyond doubt—in my opinion—that the term refers to a colour, as it is also confirmed by the suffixoid -gwnʾ colour. The hypothesis that ss- represents an Iranian number (MP šaš or šast) is semantically appropriate, especially in view of the meaning "multicoloured, variegated" attested in Hebrew and Talmudic Aramaic, but it is formally very difficult to accept, since normally Ir. /š/ is rendered in Syriac with š, and never with s (see § 11.3.3).