A word occuring only once within a given context such as the works of an author or a single text. In Biblical Studies, the "context" is taken to be either the Hebrew Bible in its entirety, or the Greek New Testament in its entirety.
While the broad definition of a hapax legomenon -- from Greek ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, "something said once", and sometimes simply abbreviated as "hapax" -- can apply to authors or individual works,1 in Biblical Studies it refers to:
- a Hebrew lexeme occuring only once in the Hebrew Bible; or
- a Greek lexeme occuring only once in the Greek New Testament,
For further information, see:
- Joshua Blau, "Hapax Legomenon", from the Encyclopaedia Judaica (2008);
- Frederick E. Greenspahn, "The Number and Distribution of hapax legomena in Biblical Hebrew", Vetus Testamentum 30/1 (1980): 8-19.
Greek New Testament
- Bruce M. Metzger, the section on "The Meaning of Hebrew and Greek Words" in "Persistent Problems Confronting Bible Translators", Bibliotheca Sacra 150:599 (1993): 273-284.
Use of the terminology is not always consistent, particularly in the case of Greek, where a word with a single occurrence in the New Testament may find attestation outside it as well.2 In such cases, both strict (only once, ever) and looser (only once in the given corpus) uses of the term can be found.