Fact Check: NASA In Hebrew Does NOT Translate To 'To Deceive'

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: NASA In Hebrew Does NOT Translate To 'To Deceive' Wrong Meaning

Does NASA translated from Hebrew mean "to deceive" in English? No, that's not true: NASA is an English-language acronym that stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In Hebrew, there is a word that is pronounced like "nasa," but it means to lift, to carry, and to bear. A University of Washington professor of Jewish literature, whose research focuses on the study of the Hebrew language, told Lead Stories that Hebrew has "multiple ways to express the concept 'deceive' but none that I know of sound like nasa."

The claim originated in a video shared on Instagram on August 15, 2023, with a text overlay that read, "NASA IN HEBREW MEANS TO DECEIVE 👁️‼️" A caption that accompanied the post read:

NOT A SPACE AGENTCY #fakenasa #nasalies #flatearth #firmament

This is how the post appeared at the time of the publication of this fact check:

image (1).png

(Instagram screenshot taken Tues Aug 15 16:57:00 UTC 2023)

As its website specifies, NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The post did not use any documentation or language research to support or explain its claim about NASA's name.

An expert in the Hebrew language explained to Lead Stories that "nasa" does not mean in Hebrew what the post claims it does.

Professor Naomi Sokoloff is the chair of the University of Washington's Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures department. Her research and teaching focus primarily on modern Jewish literature, with special attention to Hebrew.

"A word that sounds like 'nasa' could mean to lift, to carry [or] to bear," Sokoloff wrote to Lead Stories in an email received on August 17, 2023.

That word is written as "נשא" in Hebrew and was confirmed in Google Translate as meaning "carried."

"There are multiple ways to express the concept 'deceive' but none that I know of sound like nasa," wrote Sokoloff. She said that two of those words include:

רִמָּה: which sounds like "rima"
הוֹנָה: which sounds like "hona"

"In the dictionary, Hebrew verbs are provided in the past tense [and] for the third person masculine pronoun he," wrote Sokoloff. "So, these words mean 'he deceived.' There are other words that are semantically related [and are the] equivalent to lied, duped, cheated, hoodwinked, etc. None sound like 'nasa.'"

NASA is a frequent target of false claims. Among other allegations, Lead Stories has debunked reports that the agency admitted that it had never sent astronauts into space and that it staged the 1972 Apollo 17 moon launch.

Misinformation or disinformation based on language manipulation is also common: Lead Stories has reported that Pfizer spelled backward -- Rezifp -- is not the god of the plague and underworld, that gematria codes used by conspiracy theories always result in matches, and that the misspelled, separated name of fashion house Balenciaga as "Baal enci aga" does not translate to "Baal is the king" in Latin.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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