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Jan 30, 2012

how to say "word of the day" in Hebrew

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מִלָּה יוֹמִית

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Technically speaking, the word of the day is מִלַּת הַיּוֹם (mee-LAHT hah-YOHM), in Hebrew. It's an instance of סְמִיכוּת (seh-mee-KHOOT) - grammatical juxtaposition, the kind of structure where in English you'd use the word of to connect two things: so מילת היום is literally, the word of the day.

But what Israelis usually use to mean a word of the day is מִלָּה יוֹמִית (mee-LAH yoh-MEET) - literally, a daily word. Likewise, the daily word is הַמִּלָּה הַיּוֹמִית (hah-mee-LAH hah-yoh-MEET). The ת (t) ending on יומית is there to indicate that מילה is a feminine noun.

So when Israelis ask what it is I write on my blog, I tell them, אֲנִי כּוֹתֵב מילה יומית (ah-NEE koh-TEV mee-LAH yoh-MEET) - I write a daily word.

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Jan 29, 2012

how to say "irritating" in Hebrew

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...with a special discount for Ulpan La-Inyan enthusiasts (enter code "ULI" to get the discount).

I like to publish entries on words and phrases that have a positive or neutral bent. Nevertheless, sometimes we need to express ourselves with terms that are less than pretty.

The Hebrew word מֵעִיק (meh-EEK) is one of those terms. Sometimes we just need to call a spade a spade and label an event, a song, or a person's actions as irritating or bothersome - מעיק. The feminine form of this term is מֵעִיקָה (meh-ee-KAH).

מעיק comes from the Biblical Hebrew word still used today, מוּעָקָה (moo-ah-KAH) - distress. The root of these words is ע.ו.ק (a.w.k). 

מעיק is an adjective deriving from the active-causative הפעיל verb, לְהָעִיק (leh-hah-EEK) - to irritate (emotionally, not physically).

To say irritated, you'd use a different word - עַצְבָּנִי (ats-bah-NEE), which also means nervous and anxious.

Wish you could speak Hebrew?

our 3-week Level 1 course
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Jan 27, 2012

how to say "doorpost" in Hebrew

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The Torah portion to be read tomorrow by Jews the world over tells of the Exodus from Egypt - יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם (yeh-tsee-AHT meets-RAH-yeem).

One of the best-known symbols of the Exodus is the animal blood smeared on the doorposts of the Israelite homes, meant (in my understanding) as a sign to the Israelites about to leave their bondage that they themselves would have been at the mercy of the calamities brought forth upon Egypt had they not been chosen and protected by G-d. The blood on the posts was sobering... and thus fostered a deep sense of gratitude in the hearts of the about-to-be-redeemed.
The Hebrew word for the upper part of the doorpost - the lintel - is מַשְׁקוֹף (mahsh-KOHF), of the root שׁ.ק.פ (sh.k.p) meaning looking through or looking down from above. The משקוף is upper part of the portal of the home, as though watching, looking down from above at all those coming in and going out.

Other words of the same root in Modern circulation include שָׁקוּף (shah-KOOF) - transparent, לְהַשְׁקִיף (leh-hahsh-KEEF) - to look out over something, and the Modern creation, שְׁקוּפִית (sheh-koo-FEET) - a transparency slide (pre-PowerPoint).

שבת שלום, וסוף שבוע נעים לכולם!
Shabbat Shalom, and a pleasant weekend to all!

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Jan 25, 2012

how to say "hill" in Hebrew

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If you can more or less 
"get by" in Hebrew... 

why not complete your 
core vocabulary once and for all?


Today I took a trip to Ramat Beit Shemesh with Efrat Branch Manager, Naftali Schindler, in order to meet some potential teachers for our classes opening there  next month. If you've been following the local news in Israel, Ramat Beit Shemesh may mean more to you than just the newest branch of Ulpan La-Inyan - you may have also heard of riots and some despicable, shameful behavior taking place in that otherwise quiet, flourishing, gorgeous Israeli town.

In any case, here's an explanation of the name of this now-notorious point of interest.

רַמַת בֵּית שֶׁמֶש (rah-MAHT beh-eet SHEH-mesh) means, literally, the height of the house of the sun (reminds me of a song by The Animals). In Biblical times, or perhaps even prior to them, the greater city was named בֵּית שֶׁמֶש (bee-eet SHEH-mesh) - the house of the sun - among several other particularly-scorching locations with the same name throughout the ancient land of Israel (long before the Romans expelled the Jews and renamed it Palestine in the early centuries of the Common Era). 

The word רָמָה (rah-MAH) means level or height... or group of hills. Thus the neighborhoods built on this raised area of hills near בית שמש a couple of decades ago were called רמת בית שמש.

A synonym for the word רמה is גִּבְעָה (gheev-AH), which has only one meaning - hill.

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how to say "to recall" in Hebrew

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If you know some basic Hebrew, you likely know the word לִזְכּוֹר (leez-KOHR) - to remember. In fact, even if you don't know any Hebrew at all, but you've been to synagogue on יוֹם כִּפּוּר (yohm kee-POOR) before, the word should ring a bell.

The root of לזכור is ז.כ.ר (z.k.r) - the concept of memory - and it follows the simple פעל verb form

Suppose you're going about your daily business when a beautiful tune that you heard months ago enters your mind. In English, it's not so accurate to say that you remember the tune, but rather that you recall or recollect it. You haven't actively retrieved the tune from the recesses of your mind - rather, it occurred to you.

The Hebrew word for that type of action is לְהִזָּכֵר (leh-hee-zah-KHEHR). One example can be found in this beautiful song by Idan Raichel and the late queen of Israeli song, Shoshana Damari:
הָיִיתִי אוֹסֶפֶת שֶׁאוּכַל לְהִזָּכֵר
I would collect (your words), so that I could recall them (later on) 
(hah-YEE-tee oh-SEH-fet sheh-oo-KHAHL leh-hee-zah-KHEHR)

להיזכר is a נפעל verb. You can learn how to conjugate it and other נפעל verbs here.

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Jan 24, 2012

how to say "the immune system" in Hebrew

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מַעֲרֶכֶת הַחִסּוּן

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It's winter for most of us, and we're aware that it's time to shift into high gear with strengthening our immune systems. In Biblical and early Rabbinic times, however, people didn't know of such physiological systems, so there was no need for a term for them.

Modern Hebrew created names for these systems based on Biblical roots and concepts. Here's the one for the immune system.

System - מערכת
Modern Hebrew derives its word for systemמַעֲרֶכֶת (mah-ah-REH-khet), from the Ancient Hebrew root ע.ר.כ (a.r.k), meaning value: a system is a group of individually valued units working together. Some of the other words deriving from that root include עֶרֶך (EH-rekh) - value, and לְהַעֲרִיך (leh-hah-ah-REEKH) - to appreciate or evaluate.

Immunity - חיסון
The Modern Hebrew word for to immunize comes from the Biblical (and Modern) Hebrew word חֹסֶן (KHOH-sen) meaning foundation or stability, mobilized into the active-intensive פיעל verb, לְחַסֵּן (leh-khah-SEN): immunizing is strengthening the foundations of health. The noun form of that verb - immunity or immunization - is חִסּוּן (khee-SOON), following the same vowel pattern as speech - דִּבּוּר (dee-BOOR) and a visit - בִּקּוּר (bee-KOOR).

Putting together the Modern Hebrew words for system and immunity, we get מַעֲרֶכֶת הַחִסּוּן (mah-ah-REH-khet hah-khee-SOON) - the immune system.

Opportunity to make a difference

You can support the Koby Mandell Foundation and get a great workout by running the Jerusalem 10k on March 16. 

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Jan 22, 2012

how to say "snowflakes" in Hebrew

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פְּתִיתֵי שֶׁלֶג

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While some predict snow tonight in Jerusalem, others say they're just crying wolf.

What's for sure, snowflakes have been seen in Jerusalem's surrounding areas. 

A flake - whether made of snow, bran, or pasta such as the featured to the right - is a פְּתִית (peh-TEET), though the more common usage is in the plural: פְּתִיתִים (peh-tee-TEEM).

Thus snowflakes are, literally, flakes of snow - פְּתִיתֵי שֶׁלֶג (peh-tee-TEH-ee SHEH-leg).

The word פתית is related to the Biblical Hebrew root פ.ת.ת (p.t.t) meaning crumble. It is also related to the Biblical Hebrew word פַּת (paht) meaning a morsel, which in later, Aramaic-influenced Hebrew came to mean bread, and finally, as a result of today's Arab-Israeli cultural exchange, evolved into פִּתָּה (PEE-tah) - pita bread

The creators of Modern Hebrew took the Biblical Hebrew concepts of crumbling and morsel out of the context of bread and broadened their usage to water, ice and snow, engendering snowflakes - פתיתי שלג.

One snowflake is a פְּתִית שֶׁלֶג (peh-TEET SHEH-leg) - though this term is hardly ever used.

?האם ירד שלג הלילה בירושלים - Will it snow tonight in Jerusalem?

Jan 18, 2012

how to say "to give change" in Hebrew

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Class starts January 29th!
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Truth is, the expression לָתֵת עֹדֶף (lah-TET OH-def) - to give change - does exist.

But when asking for change for a bank note or a more valuable coin, the verb is לִפְרוֹט (leef-ROHT) - as in, ?אֲתְּ יְכוֹלָה לִפְרוֹט לִי שְׁטָר שֶׁל מֵאָה שְׁקָלִים (aht yeh-khoh-LAH leef-ROHT lee sheh-TAHR shel meh-AH sheh-kah-LEEM?) - can you (a female) change for me a note of one hundred shekels?

לפרוט comes from the root פ.ר.ט (p.r.t) meaning a part separated from the whole. The root appears in other common words such as פְּרָטִי (peh-rah-TEE) - private (an item of knowledge separated from common knowledge) and פְּרָט (peh-RAHT) - detail.

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Jan 17, 2012

how to say "change" (in your pocket) in Hebrew

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Class starts January 29th!
Check out Ulpan La-Inyan's 
now also in Ramat Beit Shemesh!

This Biblical Hebrew word means excess or surplus - in Modern Hebrew, its main meaning is change in the form of coins or that which one receives after paying too much in a transaction. 

For example... הַקּוֹלָה עוֹלָה שְׁמוֹנָה שְׁקָלִים, וְאַתָּה נָתַתָּ לִי עֲשָׂרָה. אֲנִי חַיָּב לְךָ עֹדֶף (hah-KOH-lah oh-LAH sheh-moh-NAH sheh-kah-LEEM, veh-ah-TAH nah-TAH-tah lee ah-sah-RAH. ah-NEE khah-YAHV leh-KHAH OH-def) - The cola costs eight shekels, and you (a male) gave me ten. I (also a male) owe you change.

Likewise, עודף מִשְׁקָל (OH-def meesh-KAHL) is excess weight.

The way a Hebrew root tends to spawn many different words, you might expect the verb to give change to be לַעֲדוֹף (lah-ah-DOHF) - a fictitious simple פעל verb, or perhaps לְעַדֵּף (leh-ah-DEF) - a fictitious active-intensive פיעל verb. But the truth is that the word for to give change comes another root altogether.

What's the word? You'll have to sit tight until tomorrow...

Opportunity to make a difference

You can support the Koby Mandell Foundation and get a great workout by running the Jerusalem 10k on March 16. 

Contact Ellen for details: ellen

Jan 16, 2012

how to say "leftovers" in Hebrew

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Class starts January 29th!
Check out Ulpan La-Inyan's 

It's Monday night in Israel. Some of us are still eating leftovers from שַׁבָּת (Shabbat).

The Hebrew word for leftovers is שְׁאֵרִיוֹת (sheh-eh-ree-YOHT), from the root שׁ.א.ר (sh.a.r), remaining. The singular version is שְׁאֵרִית (sheh-eh-REET), a word that appears frequently in the Prophets section of the Bible, where it refers to the leftovers of the people of Israel after various disasters. There's a popular song today by the Idan Raichel Project called שְׁאֵרִיוֹת שֶׁל הַחַיִּים (sheh-eh-ree-YOHT shel hah-khah-YEEM) - leftovers of life.

The root שׁ.א.ר appears in two other common Hebrew words, verbs:

לְהִשָּׁאֵר (leh-hee-shah-EHR) - to remain or to stay - for example, נִשְׁאַרְנוּ בַּבַּיִת בִּגְלַל הַגֶּשֶׁם (neesh-AHR-noo bah-BAH-yeet beeg-LAHL hah-GHEH-shem) - we stayed home because of the rain. להישאר is a verb of the נפעל variety.

לְהַשְׁאִיר (leh-hahsh-EER) - to leave something - for example, אֲנַחְנוּ מַשְׁאִירִים אֶת הַדֶּלֶת פְּתוּחָה (ah-NAHKH-noo mahsh-ee-REEM et hah-DEH-let peh-too-KHAH) - we're leaving the door open. להשאיר is an active-causative הפעיל verb

Mishnaic Hebrew renders that word לְשַׁיֵּר (leh-shah-YEHR), employing the active-intensive פיעל form and substituting the א (alef) in the root with a י (yod).