Expressions and Greetings
Common Expressions and Greetings
What is the proper Jewish thing to say when someone tells you she's pregnant?
How do you wish someone a happy holiday in Hebrew? Below are some common
Jewish phrases and expressions to answer these questions and more.
Shabbat Shalom (shah-BAHT shah-LOHM)
Hebrew. Literally, sabbath peace or peaceful sabbath. This is an appropriate
greeting at any time on shabbat, although
it is most commonly used at the end of a shabbat
Gut Shabbes (GUT SHAH-biss; gut rhymes with put)
Yiddish. Literally, good Sabbath. Like shabbat shalom, this is a general,
all-purpose shabbat greeting. In my experience, gut shabbes is more likely
to be used in general conversation or when greeting people, while shabbat
shalom is more commonly used at the conclusion of a service.
Shavua Tov (shah-VOO-ah TOHV)
Hebrew. Literally, good week. This greeting is used after
Havdalah (the ceremony marking the conclusion
of shabbat), to wish someone a good forthcoming week.
Chag Sameach (KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh)
Hebrew. Literally, joyous festival. This is an appropriate greeting for just
about any holiday, but it's especially appropriate for
and Pesach (Passover), which are technically
the only festivals (the other holidays are holidays, not festivals).
Gut Yontiff (GUT YAHN-tiff; gut rhymes with put)
Yiddish. Literally, good holiday. This greeting can be used for any holiday,
not necessarily a festival.
L'Shanah Tovah (li-SHAH-nuh TOH-vuh; li-shah-NAH toh-VAH)
Hebrew. Lit. for a good year. A common greeting during
Rosh Hashanah and Days
of Awe. It is an abbreviation of L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem (May
you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).
Have an easy fast
This is the proper way to wish someone well for
Yom Kippur. Please, don't wish people a
Happy Yom Kippur; it's not a happy holiday.
Hebrew. Literally, peace. A way of saying "hello" or "goodbye."
Mazel Tov (MAH-zl TAWV)
Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, good luck. This is the traditional way of expressing
congratulations. "Mazel tov!" is the correct and traditional response upon
hearing that a person has gotten engaged or married, has had a child, or
has become a bar mitzvah. It can be used to congratulate someone for getting
a new job, graduating from college, or any other happy event. Note that this
term is not be used in the way that the expression "good luck"
is used in English; that is, it should not be used to wish
someone luck in the future. Rather, it is an expression of pleasure at the
good fortune someone has already had.
Yasher koach (YAH-shehyr KOH-ahkh)
Hebrew. Literally, straight strength. Figuratively, may you have strength,
or may your strength be increased. A way of congratulating someone for performing
a mitzvah or other good deed. In essence,
you are wishing this person the strength to continue doing this good thing,
and you are also recognizing the effort that the person put into doing this
good thing. It is most commonly used in
synagogue, to congratulate someone after
he or she has participated in some aspect of the
Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, to life. The toast you offer before drinking wine
or other alcoholic beverages, used the way you would use "Cheers!" in English.
Yiddish. Literally, health. This is the normal response when somebody sneezes.
The same expression is used in German (Yiddish is largely based on German),
and is quite common even among non-Jews, but I thought it was worth pointing
out because some non-Jews have told me they were afraid of offending by saying
"bless you" to a Jew.
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