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“How To Survive A Year In Israel: Top Hebrew ‘Slang’ That You Can’t Live Without”

Hebrew Slang
So you took the giant leap and are now spending the year in Israel, Amazing! Moving and traveling to another country is scary in and of itself, but add in a new language and things get complicated. Fear not! Here are common expressions that are used daily that you should know.

The Background on Slang

No matter where you might find yourself in the world, slang will always play a huge role in day to day discussions. So get ready to embark on a mind opening journey, learning all the ins and outs of day to day Hebrew; and before you even know it, you will become an absolute expert on the ins and outs of colloquial Hebrew.
1. Sababa:
One of my personal favorites. It means great, cool, alright, or any other variation. It can be used to show enthusiasm or happiness about a situation.
Ex. “We are leaving for the concert at 9:00 pm.”
“Sababa!"
2.Balagan Simply a mess, when there is no order and seemingly endless chaos. It can refer to a traffic jam on the highway, a long line at the supermarket, or a busy classroom.

Ex. Have you ever been to the Central Bus Station on a Friday, imagine black Friday in America, jam packed with crazy people. That is a huge balagan.
3. Yalla
“Let’s go” or “come on!” Derives from Arabic. It is used in daily language to express one’s desire to get people moving.
Ex. Yalla! Get dressed or we’ll be late for the movie.
4. Achi
My bro, my dude, my brother. The female equivalent is achoti, which means my girl or my sister.
Ex. Achi, let’s go to a bar tonight.
5. Yesh!
Yes! Woohoo! Pretty self explanatory.
Ex. Yesh! I just won a million shekels!
6. Achla / Magniv
Both mean cool. Achla is more common and, in my opinion, cooler than saying magniv, no pun intended. I’ve been told magniv is kind of out of date.
Ex. “Look at this leather motorcycle coat I bought.” “Magniv,”
Or “I reserved us a table at the club for Thursday.” “Achla!”
7. Gadol
Literal translation: to "big" Slang: In slang it means awesome.
Ex. That was the best movie I have ever seen; it was just gadol.
8. Chai B’Seret
Literal translation: "living in a movie" Slang: Is used to mean someone is being unrealistic.
Ex. He is so out of touch with reality, he chai b’seret.
9. Leezrom
Literal translation is "to flow" Slang: It means to go with the flow.
Ex. He is so cool, he always goes with the flow, he really defines leezrom.
10.Haval al hazman
Literal: Waste of time Slang: Means something good, or the best thing ever. Usually adds emphasis to a sentence.
Ex. “We raised so much money for our charity, haval al hazman!”
11.Bassa
Literal translation: Disappointed Slang: Underwhelming, depressed/depressing. Used to describe something or someone.
Ex. How are you feeling after the break up? It was such a bassa.
Now that you are armed with the key words needed to get around town, go ahead and use those skills to impress the locals, whether at dinner or a bar. When you use the right slang words and expressions, you sound more natural and more like a native speaker. Hope this post has given you the confidence you need to get yourself out there and embrace true Israeli culture. I would love to hear your feedback, so, please don’t be shy, and share your stories with us.
Beth Zuckerman
Beth Zuckerman
Beth is a former Upper Westsider, who made aliyah 8 years ago. She is a coffee addict and a lover of classical rock. Beth is the content and marketing manager at talknsave, in that order.

6 Comments

  1. yirmi Berzon says:

    Beth,
    Great article!

  2. Bill Gaydon says:

    Sababa ! Going to Israel in Sept, first timer….only posses basic greeting/etc in Hebrew. Ive pasted this into my phone…ready to leezrom. Toda raba…Lol. Cant wait

    • Beth Zuckerman says:

      Wow! So glad to hear how helpful the blog was for you! I love how you used some of the best slang in your post! Hope we can help you out when you arrive!

  3. Maurice says:

    Thanks really helpful

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