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É (Cuneiform: ?)
Wall plaque showing libations by devotees and a naked priest, to a seated god and a temple. Ur, 2500 BCE.
Evolution of the word "Temple" (Sumerian: "É") in cuneiform, from a 2500 BCE relief in Ur, to Assyrian cuneiform circa 600 BCE.
The Sumerian term É.GAL ("palace", literally "big house") denoted a city's main building. É.LUGAL ("king's house") was used synonymously. In the texts of Lagash, the É.GAL is the center of the ensi's administration of the city, and the site of the city archives.
Sumerian É.GAL "palace" is the probable etymology of Semitic words for "palace, temple", such as Hebrew ? heikhal, and Arabic ? haykal. It has thus been speculated that the word É originated from something akin to *hai or *?ai, especially since the cuneiform sign È is used for /a/ in Eblaite.
The term temen appearing frequently after É in names of ziggurats is translated as "foundation pegs", apparently the first step in the construction process of a house; compare, for example, verses 551-561 of the account of the construction of E-ninnu:
He stretched out lines in the most perfect way; he set up (?) a sanctuary in the holy uzga. In the house, Enki drove in the foundation pegs, while Nanshe, the daughter of Eridu, took care of the oracular messages. The mother of Lagash, holy Gatumdug, gave birth to its bricks amid cries (?), and Bau, the lady, first-born daughter of An, sprinkled them with oil and cedar essence. En and lagar priests were detailed to the house to provide maintenance for it. The Anuna gods stood there full of admiration.
Temen has been occasionally compared to Greek temenos "holy precinct", but since the latter has a well established Indo-European etymology (see temple), the comparison is either mistaken, or at best describes a case of popular etymology or convergence.
In E-temen-an-ki, "the temple of the foundation (pegs) of heaven and earth", temen has been taken to refer to an axis mundi connecting earth to heaven (thus re-enforcing the Tower of Babel connection), but the term re-appears in several other temple names, referring to their physical stability rather than, or as well as, to a mythological world axis; compare the Egyptian notion of Djed.
List of specific temples
E-ab-lu-a - ?, (House with teeming cattle) temple to Suen in Urum
E-ab-?ag-a-la - , (House which stretches over the midst of the sea) temple to Ninmarki in Gu-aba
E-abzu - , "temple of the abzu" (also E-engura "House of the subterranean waters") temple to Enki in Eridu.
^The word is phonologically simply /e/; the acute accent is an assyriological convention specifying the corresponding cuneiform sign.
^Aage Westenholz, Old Sumerian and old Akkadian texts in Philadelphia, Volume 3 of Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications, Volume 1 of Bibliotheca Mesopotamica, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1987, ISBN978-87-7289-008-1,p. 96
^The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon by Francis Brown et al. (ISBN0-913573-20-5), p. 228