Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
Old English heahfore, West Saxon; Northumbrian hehfaro, heffera (plural), of unknown origin, not found outside English. The first element seems to be heah "high," common in Old English compounds with a sense of "great in size." The second element may be related to Old English fearr "bull," or to Old English faran "to go" (giving the whole a sense of "high-stepper"); but there are serious sense difficulties with both conjectures. Liberman offers this alternative:
Old English seems to have had the word *hægfore 'heifer.' The first element (*hæg-) presumably meant 'enclosure' (as do haw and hedge), whereas -fore was a suffix meaning 'dweller, occupant' ....In modern use, "a female that has not yet calved," as opposed to a cow, which has calved, and a calf, which is an animal of either sex not more than a year old. As derisive slang for "a woman, girl" it dates from 1835.
Heb. 'eglah, (Deut. 21:4, 6; Jer. 46:20). Untrained to the yoke (Hos. 10:11); giving milk (Isa. 7:21); ploughing (Judg. 14:18); treading out grain (Jer. 50:11); unsubdued to the yoke an emblem of Judah (Isa. 15:5; Jer. 48:34). Heb. parah (Gen. 41:2; Num. 19:2). Bearing the yoke (Hos. 4:16); "heifers of Bashan" (Amos 4:1), metaphorical for the voluptuous females of Samaria. The ordinance of sacrifice of the "red heifer" described in Num. 19:1-10; comp. Heb. 9:13.