Hebrew Sayings

When you learn a language you are usually taught the correct ‘official’ version of that language, but as we all know the ‘official’ version is sometimes a little different from what people who use the language day in and day use. Condensed phrases, slang and informal words all creep into everyday language.

Think of your own native language. Would you be able to understand a person speaking it from a hundred years ago? Probably, but you would notice that you both have distinct differences in what you say and how you say it. Now if you spoke to a person speaking your native language from 1000 years ago would you be able to hold a conversation easily together? Probably not. The reason for this is that languages evolve; it is this constant evolution that makes a language alive. Dead languages are ones where the rules are fixed and cannot be broken or adapted.   That is why you probably wouldn’t easily understand a person from 1000 years ago speaking your own language. Your ‘version’ of it has evolved from their ‘version’.

hebrew sayings

Because Hebrew is a ‘living’ language there are some differences from the correct ‘official’ version and the everyday used language. Below are some examples of how Hebrew has been adapted in everyday usage:

Hebrew Sayings – Informal Greetings

Shalom is seen as many modern Hebrew speakers as slightly too formal, so in the same way an English speaker might chose ‘Hey’ over ‘Hello’, a Hebrew speaker might choose one of the following:

Ahlan ( אהלן     ) – this is an Arabic greeting for hello that is used today in Israel. Some Arabic words are being ‘Hebrew-sized’ through the mix of cultures and people.

Ma HaMatsav? ( מה המצב?     ) – This is a slang version of a greeting meaning ‘what’s up?’

Ma Koreh? ( מה קורה?     ) – This means ‘what’s happening?’ and is used in the same way English speakers would say ‘what’s up?’

Rather than a formal ‘I am well’ modern speakers might chose to use a more informal ‘slang’ reply:

Sababa ( סבבה     ) – This is a very common reply now and means fantastic or great.

Achlah ( אחלה     ) – Every language has a version of being able to say ‘cool’ 

Everyday Hebrew Sayings

In every language there is slang. Sometimes it is used to make talking easier, other times it is used to mark the younger generation apart from the previous generation. Below are some current slang phrases used by modern Hebrew speakers today:

Me’toraf/Magniv (   מטורף     /מגניב        ) – if someone asks how your day or a special event has been and you want to tell them it was great you can use these 2 words    .     They both mean that your day or event was great, fantastic and crazy.

Al Ha’pa’nim (   על הפנים     ) – if on the other hand you have had a bad day or event people now use this expression. Its literal translation is ‘on the face’ but it is used to denote a bad/awful time.

Davka! ( דווקא     ) – This is an interesting word as the context and inflection converse the meaning into the word. Its literal translation is ‘actually’ which makes it one of the most commonly used words in the Hebrew language. It can be used to denote positive and negative ‘’despite/in spite’.

Yalla ( יאאלה     ) – This was originally an Arabic word that has now been ‘adopted’ into Hebrew. It means ‘come on/let’s go!’ and is used when you are trying to express impatience and a desire to ‘get on with it’.

Achalta Ota     )     אכלת אותה     ) – This is used between friends when you want to tell them ‘you are screwed’. Its literal meaning is ‘you ate it’ and it’s the inflection on the phrase and context that differentiates it from being a statement or a question.

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