A 1692 depiction of Canaan, by Philip Lea
A 1692 depiction of Canaan, by Philip Lea
Polities and peoples
Canaanite languages

Canaan (ən/; Northwest Semitic: knaʿn; Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 Kenāʿan; Hebrew: כְּנַעַןKənáʿan, in pausa כְּנָעַןKənā́ʿan; New Testament Greek: ΧανάανKhanáan; Arabic: كنعان‎, romanizedKena‘an) was a Semitic-speaking region and civilization in the Ancient Near East during the late 2nd millennium BC. The name Canaan appears throughout the Bible, where it corresponds to the Levant, in particular to the areas of the Southern Levant that provide the main setting of the narrative of the Bible: Phoenicia, Philistia, Israel, and other nations.

The word Canaanites serves as an ethnic catch-all term covering various indigenous populations—both settled and nomadic-pastoral groups—throughout the regions of the southern Levant or Canaan.[1] It is by far the most frequently used ethnic term in the Bible.[2] In the Book of Joshua, Canaanites are included in a list of nations to exterminate,[3] and later described as a group which the Israelites had annihilated.[4] Biblical scholar Mark Smith notes that archaeological data suggests "that the Israelite culture largely overlapped with and derived from Canaanite culture... In short, Israelite culture was largely Canaanite in nature."[5]:13–14[6][7] The name "Canaanites" (כְּנָעַנִיְם kena‘anim, כְּנָעַנִי kena‘anī) is attested, many centuries later, as the endonym of the people later known to the Ancient Greeks from c. 500 BC as Phoenicians,[4] and following the emigration of Canaanite-speakers to Carthage (founded in the 9th century BC), was also used as a self-designation by the Punics (chanani) of North Africa during Late Antiquity.

Canaan had significant geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna period (14th century BC) as the area where the spheres of interest of the Egyptian, Hittite, Mitanni and Assyrian Empires converged. Much of modern knowledge about Canaan stems from archaeological excavation in this area at sites such as Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo, En Esur, and Gezer. They also built cities that still stand such as Sidon, Acre or Akka, Baalbek, Beirut, Byblos, Latakia, Ashkelon, Tyre, Tartus, Hebron, Jericho, Haifa, Jaffa, Tangier, Tripoli, Palermo, Cagliari, Lisbon, Cadiz, Malaga, and Ibiza.


Map of the Near East by Robert de Vaugondy (1762), indicating Canaan as limited to the Holy Land, to the exclusion of Lebanon and Syria

The English term Canaan (pronounced ən/ since c. 1500, due to the Great Vowel Shift) comes from the Hebrew כנען (knʿn), via Greek Χαναάν Khanaan and Latin Canaan. It appears as 𒆳𒆠𒈾𒄴𒈾 (KURki-na-ah-na) in the Amarna letters (14th century BC), and knʿn is found on coins from Phoenicia in the last half of the 1st millennium. It first occurs in Greek in the writings of Hecataeus as Khna (Χνᾶ).[8] Scholars connect the name Canaan with knʿn, Kana'an, the general Northwest Semitic name for this region.

The etymology is uncertain. An early explanation derives the term from the Semitic root knʿ "to be low, humble, subjugated".[9] Some scholars have suggested that this implies an original meaning of "lowlands", in contrast with Aram, which would then mean "highlands",[10] whereas others have suggested it meant "the subjugated" as the name of Egypt's province in the Levant, and evolved into the proper name in a similar fashion to Provincia Nostra (the first Roman colony north of the Alps, which became Provence).[11]

An alternative suggestion put forward by Ephraim Avigdor Speiser in 1936 derives the term from Hurrian Kinahhu, purportedly referring to the colour purple, so that Canaan and Phoenicia would be synonyms ("Land of Purple"). Tablets found in the Hurrian city of Nuzi in the early 20th century appear to use the term Kinahnu as a synonym for red or purple dye, laboriously produced by the Kassite rulers of Babylon from murex shells as early as 1600 BC, and on the Mediterranean coast by the Phoenicians from a byproduct of glassmaking. Purple cloth became a renowned Canaanite export commodity which is mentioned in Exodus. The dyes may have been named after their place of origin. The name 'Phoenicia' is connected with the Greek word for "purple", apparently referring to the same product, but it is difficult to state with certainty whether the Greek word came from the name, or vice versa. The purple cloth of Tyre in Phoenicia was well known far and wide and was associated by the Romans with nobility and royalty. However, according to Robert Drews, Speiser's proposal has generally been abandoned.[12][13]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kanaän
Alemannisch: Kanaan
العربية: كنعانيون
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܟܢܥܢ
asturianu: Canaán
azərbaycanca: Kənan
беларуская: Ханаан
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ханаан
български: Ханаан
brezhoneg: Kenaan
català: Canaan
čeština: Kanaán
dansk: Kana'an
Deutsch: Kanaan
eesti: Kaanan
Ελληνικά: Χαναάν
español: Canaán
Esperanto: Kanaano
euskara: Kanaan
français: Canaan (région)
galego: Canaán
𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌹𐍃𐌺: 𐌺𐌰𐌽𐌰𐌽
한국어: 가나안
հայերեն: Քանան
hrvatski: Kanaan
Bahasa Indonesia: Kanaan
íslenska: Kanansland
italiano: Cananea
עברית: כנען
ქართული: ქანაანი
Kiswahili: Kanaani
Latina: Chanaan
latviešu: Kanaāna
lietuvių: Kanaanas
magyar: Kánaán
مصرى: كنعان
Bahasa Melayu: Kanaan
монгол: Канаан
Nederlands: Kanaän (gebied)
日本語: カナン
нохчийн: КанӀан
norsk: Kanaan
norsk nynorsk: Kanaan
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕਨਾਨ
polski: Kanaan
português: Canaã
română: Canaan
русский: Ханаан
Scots: Canaan
sicilianu: Canaan
Simple English: Canaan
سنڌي: ڪنعان
slovenščina: Kanaan
کوردی: کەنعان
српски / srpski: Ханан
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kanaan
svenska: Kanaan
தமிழ்: கானான்
Türkçe: Kenan
українська: Ханаан
اردو: کنعان
Tiếng Việt: Canaan
Winaray: Canaan
Zazaki: Kenan
中文: 迦南