1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leaven

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LEAVEN (in Mid. Eng. levain, adapted from Fr. levain, in same sense, from Lat. levamen, which is only found in the sense of alleviation, comfort, levare, to lift up), a substance which produces fermentation, particularly in the making of bread, properly a portion of already fermented dough added to other dough for this purpose (see Bread). The word is used figuratively of any element, influence or agency which effects a subtle or secret change. These figurative usages are mainly due to the comparison of the kingdom of Heaven to leaven in Matt. xiii. 33, and to the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees in Matt. xvi. 6. In the first example the word is used of a good influence, but the more usual significance is that of an evil agency. There was among the Hebrews an association of the idea of fermentation and corruption, which may have been one source of the prohibition of the use of leavened bread in sacrificial offerings. For the usage of unleavened bread at the feasts of the Passover and of Massôth, and the connexion of the two, see Passover.