Paul M. Conner, O.P., Celibate Love p. 23 (PDF p. 27), claims:

In Hebrew the terms "sister" and "bride" do not always have literal application. Often they are interchangeable. Frequently, too, "sister" can mean "friend." The context decides the meaning.

Is this true? If so, what are some examples where "'sister' and 'bride'…Often…are interchangeable" and where "'sister' can mean 'friend'"?


כּלּה kallâh (< כּלל kâlal "to make perfect") = bride, spouse

אחות 'âchôth = sister (literally or figuratively)

These words occur interchangeably in:

Song of Solomon 4:9-10,12:

Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy neck. How beautiful are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse! thy breasts are more beautiful than wine, and the sweet smell of thy ointments above all aromatical spices. […] My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up.

Song of Solomon 5:1:

Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees. I am come into my garden, O my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh, with my aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved.

ריע רע (friend, companion, lover, neighbor, brother or sister) appears in Song 5:1.

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