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Oct 22, 2014

how to say "universe" in Hebrew


Biblical Hebrew uses the word יְקוּם listen and repeat to mean substance or existence - coarsely, stuff.

For example, in the story of the Flood, G-d says:

...וּמָחִיתִי אֶת כָּל הַיְּקוּם אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה...
...and I will wipe out all the substance that I made from the face of the earth...
(Genesis 7:4)

In light of science, Modern Hebrew uses יקום to the universe, all substance.

For example:

חוֹקְרִים טוֹעֲנִים שֶׁהֵם יוֹדְעִים אֶת גִּיל הַיְּקוּם.
Researchers claim that they know the age of the universe.

The root of the word יקום is ק.ו.מ (k.w.m), meaning standing and existence.

Oct 21, 2014

how to say "zoo" in Hebrew

גַּן חַיּוֹת

In English, we sometimes use the term zoo metaphorically, as in this place is a zoo!

Hebrew uses zoo only to refer to a place where animals are kept on display, literally a garden of animals: גַּן חַיּוֹת listen and repeat.

For example:

בִּקַּרְתֶּם בְּגַן הַחַיּוֹת הַתָּנָ"כִי בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם?
Have you (plural) visited the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem?

Oct 20, 2014

how to say "transition" in Hebrew


Getting back to the routine is a transition.

The Hebrew word for transition is מַעֲבָר listen and repeat. It literally means passage, as a transition is a passage from one state of being to another.

For example:

יֵשׁ שְׁלֹשָׁה מַעֲבָרֵי גְּבוּל בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לְיַרְדֵּן.
There are three border passages between Israel and Jordan.


לִפְעָמִים קָשֶׁה הַמַּעֲבָר בֵּין הַחַגִּים לַשִּׁגְרָה.
Sometimes the transition between the holidays and the routine is difficult.

Oct 19, 2014

how to say "human nature" in Hebrew

טֶבַע הָאָדָם, הַטֶּבַע הָאֱנוֹשִׁי

In observance of the Jewish holidays, I took off some time from blogging. Now it's back to the routine, with a dose of Hebrew that brings themes of the holidays together with themes of the Torah portions being read these weeks by Jews around the world.

The word for nature is טֶבַע listen and repeat. As for human nature, Modern Hebrew has two terms:


טֶבַע הָאָדָם listen and repeat means literally the nature of (the) man

For example:

הַאִם טֶבַע הָאָדָם נִתָּן לְשִׁנּוּי?
Is human nature (the nature of man) changeable?

Although אדם listen and repeat also means human being in the term בֶּן אָדָם listen and repeat, used to refer to both males and females, the term טבע האדם is seen as a bit chauvinistic, with Israelis preferring the second term in this entry.


הַטֶּבַע הָאֱנוֹשִׁי listen and repeat means literally human nature, where אנושי listen and repeat is human as an adjective. This is the more politically-correct term.

Take this statement from Haaretz for example:

מֶחְקָרִים חֲדָשִׁים מְגַלִּים: הַדִּיאֶטָה נוֹגֶדֶת אֶת הַטֶּבַע הָאֱנוֹשִׁי.

New research reveals: Dieting goes against human nature.

Oct 7, 2014

how to say "decoration" in Hebrew


The Hebrew word for to decorate first appears in the Mishnah, where it refers to people adorning themselves, using the reflexive verb לְהִתְקַשֵּׁט listen and repeat.

Since then, the word has taken on the meaning of decorating objects as well, employing the active-intensive verb, לְקַשֵּׁט listen and repeat

The word for decoration follows that verb form: קִשּׁוּט listen and repeat.

For example:

אֲנַחְנוּ קִשַּׁטְנוּ אֶת הַסֻּכָּה בְּכָל מִינֵי קִשּׁוּטִים יָפִים.
We decorated the Sukkah with all kinds of pretty decorations.

Oct 6, 2014

how to say "fruit" in Hebrew


The Hebrew word for fruit very closely resembles the English word, though the Online Etymological Dictionary doesn't see the connection.

The Hebrew word is פְּרִי
 listen and repeat, and like in English, is used both literally:

תַּפּוּחַ הוּא פְּרִי.
An apple is a fruit.

and figuratively:

נִרְאֶה אִם הַמַּאֲמָצִים שֶׁלָּנוּ יָנִיבוּ פְּרִי.
We'll see if our efforts will bear fruit.

The plural form is פֵּרוֹת listen and repeat, as in:

הִיא הֵכִינָה סָלַט פֵּרוֹת.
She made fruit salad.

Oct 5, 2014

how to say "fig leaf" in Hebrew

עֲלֵה תְּאֵנָה

A leaf in Hebrew is עָלֶה listen and repeat

For example:

יֵשׁ הַרְבֶּה עָלִים עַל הָאֲדָמָה.
There are lots of leaves on the ground.

A fig leaf is עֲלֶה תְּאֵנָה listen and repeat, both in the literal sense as well as in the sense borrowed from the biblical Garden of Eden account - a cover-up for something embarrassing.

For example, a woman whose son lit toilet paper on fire in the classroom and asked his mother to defend him (see this video), might reply:

לֹא אֶהְיֶה עֲלֵה תְּאֵנָה לַהִתְנַהֲגוּת שֶׁלְּךָ.
I won't be a fig leaf for your behavior.