The Hebrew language has many magnificent words that simply don’t hold the same greatness when translated to English. It’s also, arguably, one of the fastest evolving languages, with new slang emerging faster than a Snapchat post disappears. If I lost some of you with that analogy, basically every 10 seconds there’s a new Hebrew word. And no, not really, but we can have some fun, can’t we?
Anyway, there are countless articles about the ‘must-know Hebrew slang‘ or the ‘essential Hebrew words for tourists’... this isn’t one of those articles. If you already know sababa, balagan, achi, neshama, etc., etc., then THIS is the article for you. Here are my favorite expressions.
This phrase translates to “shame on the time.” It is used when referring to an amazing experience. It is like saying you could only wish for more time.
“I’m dead about you,” similar to saying “I’m crazy about you”.
This word translates to “be new.” It is used when someone purchases new clothing or has a new item. It is like saying “Enjoy your new thing.”
It is to have a generous, unselfish spirit and a joy in the accomplishment of someone else. It is having an empathic joy for something good that has happened. It means to make someone feel good without having an alternative motive.
A characteristic trait to describe someone with audacity, be it for good or bad. Now more commonly used to describe someone when they have crossed the line of acceptable behavior.
The translation is “my heart hurts” and it is used as a form of showing empathy for something or someone. It is used to say you identify with the suffering of someone else so much that it causes your own heart to ache.
The word can be used in several ways. It can be used like “just because,” “no reason,” or “just kidding.” It is for when something isn’t important.
It’s like saying despite expectations or when something is ironic or contrary to belief. The opposite of what is expected.
A word used similarly to “sweetie” but it literally meaning “soul.” People say “neshama sheli” which means “my soul.” It is used often to both men and women. It is like saying you are so important to me that you are part of my soul.
It means “to eat movies.” It’s like saying someone loves drama. Used for someone over dramatic or someone who likes making a scene out of something small.
Similar to the last one….”Living in a movie.” When someone is being over the top and unrealistic about a situation.
Means “to dig” but it is used to describe someone who talks too much and loves to gossip.
This is something you say to someone that is about to embark on a journey or travel or do basically anything exciting. It means “to do or make life.” That is it. Plain and simple, just do life.
Translates to “on the face.” Used to describe when something was really awful. “The food tonight was on my face,” meaning very bad.
Slang used to describe a place that is in the middle of nowhere. Translation, “at the end of the world, turn left.”
The exact translation is “Atonement over you” but used as “darling” or “sweetie.” The word Kapara is actually the word used for an old ritual orthodox Jews did on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).
Although this is an Arabic word, it has become a common word in Hebrew slang. It means “let’s go” and it can be used in so many ways. It can be used for “let’s go,” “hurry up,” etc. The best thing is when you’re nearing the end of a phone call and the moment someone says “yalla,” both parties know it’s time to go and there is not awkward, “Well, I guess I’ll let you go….” This word is like the equivalent of verbal punctuation!
Remember that you do not have to become ‘more Israeli than the Israelis’ to do well in Israel but you may have to use responses that differ from your normal default. Though it can feel strange at first (e.g. being more direct), if effective it will become quite automatic. It is definitely worth trying different responses – one thing you can be sure of if someone is not happy with your behavior, in Israel – they will be sure to let you know.