Monday, December 15, 2008

Hebrew & Yiddish Words

A"H - stands for alav ha-shalom or aleha ha-shalom, which means "may peace be upon him/her" and only refers to someone who has passed away

aliyah/aliyos - literally means "ascent" or "going up," can refer to two different things; 1) a man being called up to the Torah to read the blessings; 2) a person immigrating to Israel

aravah - literally means "willow tree branch," generally refers to one of the four species that we shake on Sukkos

Ashkenaz(i) - Jews descended from Eastern Europe & Russia

Avos - forefathers; Abraham, Isaac & Jacob

B"H - stands for Baruch Hashem, which means "bless G-d"; generally used to mean "thank G-d"

b'sha'a tova - literally means "at a good time," generally used instead of mazal tov to congratulate someone on being pregnant

ba'al koreh - literally means "the one in charge of reading," generally refers to the man who reads the portion of the Torah for the congregation

Bamidbar - literally means "in the desert," generally refers to the book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible

Bas Kohen - a woman whose father is a Kohen

Bas Levi - a woman whose father is a Levi

bedeken - literallly means "veiling," generally refers to the groom lowering his bride's veil immediately before the wedding ceremony; in an Orthodox Jewish wedding, this is the first time the bride & groom see each other after a week apart

Beis HaMikdosh - the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; currently only the Kosel (Western Wall) is still standing

blech - a piece of metal used on Shabbos that sits over stove burners and gets warm when one or more of the burners is on underneath

bracha/brocha/brachos - blessing(s)

bris - literally means "covenant," generally refers to male circumcision

challah - braided bread; traditionally eaten on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Chanukiyah - the nine-branched candelabrum used during Chanukkah

Chanukkah - the "Festival of Lights"; usually occurs in December and celebrates the re-dedication of the Beis HaMikdosh after its desecration by the Seleucids around 165 BCE

cholent - a stew that is generally eaten at Shabbos lunch; usually consists of barley, beans, meat, & potatoes

chupah - literally means "a canopy" or "a covering," generally refers to a white cloth, sheet or tallis supported by 4 poles which the bride and groom stand under during the wedding ceremony

CV"S - stands for chas v'shalom, generally used to mean "G-d forbid"

esrog - literally means "a yellow citron," generally refers to one of the four species that we shake on Sukkos

fleishig - anything made with meat or poultry (fish is NOT included)

frum - very Orthodox Jewish

gefilte fish - poached fish patties or balls made from a mixture of ground, de-boned fish; mostly common carp

hadass - literally means "a myrtle tree branch," generally refers to one of the four species that we shake on Sukkos

Hashem - G-d

Imahos - foremothers; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah

IY"H - stands for Im Yirtzeh Hashem, which means "if it is G-d's will"

kashrus/kosher - Jewish dietary laws

kippa - Traditional head covering worn by a man; also called a yarmulke or skull cap

Kohen/pl. Kohanim - literally means "priest," generally refers to a Jew who is in direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron, the older brother of Moses, grandson of Levi

kol ha'neorim - literally means "all of the children," generally refers to the aliyah on Simchas Torah when all of the children in shul participate

Kosel HaMa'aravi - Western Wall of the Beis HaMikdosh; usually just referred to as The Kosel

kugel - casserole; can be made out of potatoes, noodles, vegetables, etc.

latkes - potato pancakes fried in oil; generally eaten on Chanukkah

Levi/pl. Leviim - literally means a "Levite," generally refers to a Jew who is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi (a direct patrilinial descendant from the Biblical Levi, son of Jacob)

lulav - literally means "a date palm frond," generally refers to one of the four species that we shake on Sukkos

mazal tov - literally means "good luck," generally meant as "congratulations"

Megillas Esther - the "Book of Esther," which tells the story of Purim

Menorah - the seven-branched candelabrum that was used in the Beis HaMikdosh

Mishloach Manot - bags of goodies that are traditionally given on Purim to friends and family

Mishna - the written form of the Oral Torah

mitzvah - commandment (NOT good deed)

pasuk - verse

patchkerai - a Yiddish word meaning something that is very difficult to make (i.e. has a lot of ingredients or steps and takes a long time)

Pesach - Passover; usually occurs in April and celebrates the Jews' Exodus from Egypt

pidyon ha-ben - literally means "redemption of the son," generally refers to the redemption of a first-born son 30 days after birth

Purim - a holiday that usually occurs in March and celebrates our being saved from Haman's plot to kill the Jews, the full story can be found in Megillat Esther

pru urvu - the commandment to "be fruitful & multiply"

Rabbi - literally means "my master," generally refers to a teacher or the head of a congregation

Rebbetzin - the Rabbi's wife

refuah sheleyma - literally means "a full healing," generally means "a complete recovery"

Rosh Hashana - Jewish New Year

Sanhedrin - literally means "council," generally refers to the supreme court of Ancient Israel, but can also refer to one of ten tractates of the Nezikin section of the Mishna which deals with damages (i.e. civil and criminal proceedings)

seder - literally means "order," generally refers to the ritual meal on the first and second night of Pesach (first night only in Israel)

Sefardi(c) - Jews descended from Western Europe, Africa & the Middle East

segulah - Can mean a sign, symbol, treasure, or portent; generally used to mean an action or an object that can lead to a desired outcome (for example drinking "segulah wine" can lead to becoming married)

Shabbos - Sabbath

shadchan - matchmaker

shalom zachor - literally means "hello male," it is a celebration that happens the first Friday night after a baby boy is born

shalosh seudos - literally means the "third meal" that's eaten on Shabbos; almost like supper

shaytel - a wig worn by Orthodox Jewish women after marriage as a head covering

Shema - literally means "hear," generally refers to the prayer Shema Yisroel or "Hear, O Israel" which is said three times a day (morning, evening and before bed).

shidduch/shidduchim - a match/matches made by a shadchan

Shmini Atzeres - literally means "the Eighth [day] of Assembly," generally refers to the holiday that comes immediately following Sukkos.

shul - synagogue

simcha/simchos - literally means "joy" or "happiness," generally refers to a happy occasion such as a wedding or birth of a baby

Simchas Torah - literally means "Rejoicing with/of the Torah," generally refers to the holiday that comes immediately following Shmini Atzeres (outside of Israel) or at the same time as Shmini Atzeres (in Israel); during this holiday we finish reading the end of the Torah and then start reading back at the beginning, and we dance around the shul with Torah scrolls

sufganiyot - fried jelly donuts; generally eaten on Chanukkah

Sukkos - literally means "Feast of Booths/Tabernacles," generally refers to the 7-day holiday when Jews eat all of our meals in small, outdoor huts and shake the four species (lulav, aravah, hadass and esrog)

tallis - a prayer shawl

Talmud Bavli - Babylonian Talmud; Rabbinic commentaries from Babylon on the Mishnah

Talmud Yerushalmi - Jerusalem Talmud; Rabbinic commentaries from Jerusalem on the Mishnah

Tehillim - Psalms

Torah - Hebrew Bible; the Written Torah is the Five Books of Moses, the Oral Torah is the Mishna

tzitzes - technically refers to the actual fringes tied to each corner of a tallis; generally refers to a small version of a tallis which is worn under a man's clothes

tznius - modest; it is used to describe both a character trait and a group of laws pertaining to conduct in general and especially between the sexes; many times it refers to modesty in dress (long sleeves, long skirts, high necklines)

V'Ahavta - literally means "And you shall love," generally refers to the prayer said immediately after the Shema

Yom Tov - Jewish holiday

Yom Kippur - Day of Repentance

zara chaya v'kayama - literally means "living and surviving seed," generally refers to the blessing of children

zechus - merit


  1. Wow, thank you very much for the definitions. My husband is busy right now, but I told him about it, and he was very excited about reading it when he gets a chance.

  2. Thanks so much! Most of those words are foreign to me and I had a good time browsing through...Best one - Mazal Tov!