Dictionary of Jewish Words/

Dictionary of Jewish Words/

Dictionary of Jewish Words/

Dictionary of Jewish Words/


Organized in an A to Z format for easy reference, the Dictionary of Jewish Words contains 1,200 entries derived from Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and English. The entries include words for and associated with Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, culture, history, the Bible and other sacred texts, worship, and more. Each entry has a pronunciation guide and is cross-referenced to other related terms. The introduction is an excellent primer on the history of Jewish words, their transliteration, and pronunciation. The indexes at the back, arranged by categories, help readers easily find the words they want, even when they don't know the exact spelling. This handy and very accessible dictionary is an excellent resource not just for Jews, but for anyone who wants to check the meaning, spelling, and/or pronunciation of Jewish words.


Back in high school, a gentile friend of the family was invited for Sunday brunch. The table was set, as any good Jewish Sunday breakfast table would be, with bagels, cream cheese, and —a treat for us—a fish platter from the deli. “Help yourself to some bagels and lox,” the guest was instructed, to which she replied, “I've never had it before. Can I try just one lock?”

That's a true story. And it's stories like this one that made us realize how many familiar Jewish words are not as well known to mainstream America.

Likewise, even though we consider ourselves practicing Jews— Jewish mothers who put a chicken in the oven for every holiday— we encountered Hebrew and Yiddish words that left us puzzled. We didn't want to drag out the Encyclopaedia Judaica every time Hebrew school homework was due. There had to be an easier way.

We set out to draft a practical, easy-to-understand reference—a dictionary of Jewish words—not just for practicing Jews and intermarried families, but also for non-Jewish writers, businesspeople, and others who encounter a Jewish word and don't know where to look up its meaning.

We hope that our dictionary will be a user-friendly reference for everyday life—one where a Jew can find out the meaning of hakhnasat orchim when he comes across the phrase in his synagogue bulletin; where an intermarried couple planning their child's Bar Mitzvah can find out what to do when they're asked to “make a list of everyone who gets aliyot”; and where a gentile friend can read about what to expect when making a shivah call.

Our A-to-Z guide is not a book of Jewish law. It's not even a definitive dictionary. But does include the definitions and pronunciations of many common Hebrew and Yiddish words; cite the “whys” behind some Jewish customs, practices and rituals; and offer further resources for the reader who is interested in a more comprehensive explanation.

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