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13 Words That Only Exist in the Hebrew Language

Picture of Lior Kantor
Updated: 1 February 2018
Hebrew is definitely not an easy language to learn, but there are some exceptional words that don’t exist in other languages and cannot be translated. However, once you do learn these words you won’t be able to manage without them. Here are some of the trickiest Israeli words you just have to master.

Davka (Dav-ka)

With Yiddish and Aramaic roots, the meaning of this words shifts from sentence to sentence and has no direct English translation. It can be used to mark a paradox, for example: ‘Despite hating cakes, I davka love this one’, or as a spiteful action, something that is done maliciously on purpose: ‘He did this davka to hurt me’. Another common use is to say, precisely: ‘why davka today?’

Shalom (Sha-lom)

Okay, this word doesn’t only exist in Hebrew, however, its dual-meaning is something unique to the language. In Hebrew, Shalom means peace, harmony and tranquillity, but also both hello and goodbye.

Yalla (Ya-lla)

While this word actually comes from Arabic, it is very commonly used in the Hebrew language as a common expression for ‘come on’ or ‘hurry up’. The word Yalla is used on many different occasions. For example: ‘Yalla Bye‘, which basically means bye, for example: ‘Want to get out of here? – Yalla‘, or as a gesture of disrespect: ‘Yalla, don’t believe any of his stories’.

Titchadesh (Ti-t-cha-de-sh)

This is a greeting for someone who has purchased something new or has received a gift. The literal meaning of titchadesh or titchadshi (female) is ‘be new’, but the actual meaning would be: ‘enjoy your something new’.

L’chaim (Le-Cha-im)

Much like the English ‘Cheers!’ or the French ‘Santé’, L’chaim is the Jewish salutation usually heard on toasts and occasions. Unlike those mentioned before in other languages, L’chaim translates to ‘to life’ in Hebrew.

Stam (Stam)

Stam is the Hebrew word used to describe something that is in vain, pointless, done for no reason or just because’. Another common use for Stam is to indicate that something was said jokingly, as in: ‘Just kidding’.

Hofer (Ho-fer)

Lachfor is both a noun and a verb (present tense), which translates to a ‘digger’. In Hebrew, a person who is Hofer is someone who goes on and on or generally talks too much. The translation of the idiom, ata hofer li bamoach, essentially translates to: ‘you are digging into my brain’.

Lirvaya (Lir-va-ya)

Lirvaya is a word used to describe the act of quenching your thirst and drinking to the satisfaction of your thirst. It is also used as a greeting just before drinking, much like Beteavon, the Hebrew word for Bon Appétit, which is commonly said before eating.

Naches (Na-ches)

Naches is a (very) Jewish word used to describe a feeling of pride or gratification, especially on the achievements of your children. The use comes from the early 20th century when the Yiddish word nakhes came from the Hebrew, naḥaṯ, which translates into ‘contentment.’

Walla (Wha-lla)

Another word that actually comes from Arabic and alternates its meaning in many of its different uses, Walla can be used as a reference to your astonishment and disbelief, meaning ‘Wow! Really? You don’t say!’. For instance, if you are being tackled with something surprising and interesting and you don’t know how to respond, like: ‘I heard he is coming tonight’, you can respond with: ‘Walla!’

Chutzpah (Chutz-pa)

Perhaps one of the most famous Jewish statements out there, Chutzpah means audacity but is also commonly used to talk about cheekiness or sass. While in Hebrew, it is also used to say someone/something is rude, the use of the word among English speakers is usually to describe admiration for an individual’s boldness.

Stalbet (Stal-bet)

While it can’t exactly be translated into English, Stalbet is a Hebrew slang word that commonly stands for resting, doing nothing or chilling. Stalbet is also used to describe the act of mocking or teasing someone, as in: ‘don’t be offended, it was all in Stalbet’.

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Stalbet /Chilling | © Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Tachles (Ta-chles)

Tachles is an Israeli slang word that comes from a Yiddish variation of the Hebrew word for essence or purpose – tachlit. Tachles is usually used to ask for directness or to ‘get to the point’, for example: ‘Tachles, I really don’t want to go out tonight’. It is also often used to agree with someone (usually on a somewhat provocative statement). If someone says to you: ‘I don’t understand a word she said,’ you can agree with Tachles.