Beit Twidrash Dictionary

Not a day goes by that I don’t participate in a BeitTwidrash discussion on Twitter, and inevitably there are words and phrases that go right over my head, and I ask the crew to explain them. I guess if I had learned in a yeshivah (oh, and was a male learning in one of those Batei Midrash where they use their thumbs and fists to punctuate discussions) I would know all these terms.

So here is my attempt to pull together a list of terms that the layman/laywoman can use to understand the torah talk on the web. Please note this is just a start – I will add on from the comments as the terms come in. It’s a work in progress. Please publicize it. Thanks.

Adaraba –  it’s the other way! or actually, it’s the opposite!

Aseh – positive commandment

Assur – forbidden

Aveirah – Sin

Avreich – young guy who learns in Kollel

B’dieved – after the fact

Bitul Zman – waste of time

Bochur – a young man

Boosha – embarrassment

Brings Down – cites

Chacham – wise guy

Chavrusa / Chavruta – study partner

Chassunah / Chatunah – Wedding

Chiddush – a new idea

Chosson / Chattan – bridegroom

Davka – specifically intended

Deoraisa – law from the Torah

Derabbanan – law instituted by Rabbis

Gadol, Gedolim – Sage, Sages

Ger – Convert

Get – Divorce

Hashkafa – outlook on Judaism

Harchaka  / Harchakos – distancing behaviours practiced btw husband and wife when wife is Niddah (see Niddah)

Hechsher – mark of kosher certification

Hishtadlus – effort and initiative

Kallah – bride

Kasha – a question; also groats

Kal veChomer – How much more so

Kaveyochil – as if, metaphorically speaking re: God

Ketubah – marriage contract

Kisui Rosh – headcovering

Klaf – parchment

Kofer – heretic

Kvetch – to complain

Lashon – language

Lav – a commandment that was commanded in the negative – thou shalt NOT kill

Lechatchilah – ideally

L’havdil – I’m going to compare two things, but for philosophical reasons don’t take the comparison to be equivalence

Lo Taa’seh – negative commandment (see Lav)

Machlokes – argument

Makir – recognize

Makpid – Particular

Maskim – agrees

Meakev – prevents

Mechutzif – someone who is disrespectful

Meiseh, BubbeMeiseh – Story, Old wive’s tale

Mekarev – bring closer to religion

Mekor – Source

Merachek – push away from religion

Metzious – phenomenon / nature (according to @DovBear facts or essence)

Mikvah – Ritual Bath

Minhag – custom

Minyan – a quorum of ten men

Mistamah – most likely

Mitpachat – headscarf

Mitzvah – positive commandment

Modeh – agree with, recognize

Moser (Mesirah) – to snitch about a fellow Jew to local governement

Muktzah – forbidden to be moved on Shabbat

Muttar – permitted

Nafkaminnah – practical difference

Niddah – a woman during menstruation and for 7 days after until she immerses in Mikvah

Oilam – the world, the ppl around you

Oiver – to be oiver means to transgress

Pasken – to provide a legal decision

Pilpul – splitting hairs in an extreme manner

Pumfakert – just the opposite

Segulah – superstitious Jewish belief that doing something will magically bring about a desired result

Shailah – question

Sheitel – wig

Shidduch – a match (for marriage), dating

Shita – specific view on a topic

Shiur – lesson

Shtim – work in tandem without contradiction, go together

Shver – hard, father-in-law

Shvigger – mother-in-law

Stam – basic, simple….

Takka – it is so

Tayva – desire

Tichel – headscarf

To Hold By – subscribe to the views of, lend credence too

Please add your own…..and feel free to correct existing definitions.

Hat tip @marksofla

Thanks also to @daniopp@jonathan_meola, @yeshivaguy, @DovBear, @esteelavitt, @RabbiGoldberg.

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63 responses to “Beit Twidrash Dictionary

  1. Lady Lock and Load

    My hubby and his chavrusah always talk about the nafkahmina…but I forget what this means. Maybe “practicle application”?

  2. What about “Shidduch”? and “Bochur”?

    I had to ask 😉

    Also there’s Takke, Mistama, Kal V’Chomer..

    and do Hebrew words go in too? Because I can’t survive without Stam and Davka

  3. Don’t forget kvitch, hecshur, minhag, and muksah. I’d also add that hashkafa refers to outlook on Judaism — the collection of primary minhagim that represents how you put Judaism into practice (i.e. those prayers you include in davening, as compared with whether you use applesauce or sour cream on latkes)

  4. Chosson and Kallah

  5. great post! Was pleased to see I knew most of them!

  6. Lady Lock and Load

    Kasha- a question

  7. Aseh = a positive commandment
    Lo Ta’aseh = a negative commandment (see lav)

  8. Lady Lock and Load

    Nittle Nacht- X-mas eve some Chassidim have a minhag not to learn Torah. Nacht is night, but I don’t know what nittle means.

  9. I think we should include “b’diavak” and “l’chatchilla.” I think “b’diavak” means “after the fact” and “l’chatchilla” means “the ideal (practice).”

  10. adderaba = “no, the other way!” or “actually, it’s the opposite”
    le’havdil = “i’m going to compare two things, but for philosophical reasons don’t take the comparison to be equivalence”
    kivyakhol = “as if” or “metaphorically-speaking”, usually used when talking about God
    modeh = “agree with”, “recognize”, “admit” or “thank”

  11. There is no English word for “stam”. I work with many many religious people, and some of the not religious people at work have begun to use words like “stam”! You did not define “pumfarkert”- it means- “just the opposite”

  12. Makpid — I would say “strict” rather than “particular”.

  13. note that “pumfarkert”- is from the yiddish punkt verkaehrt.
    Most of the words are Hebrew/Yiddish in origin though some have been corrupted over time

  14. Regarding nittel nacht
    nittel is probably a corruption of “natal” = birth

  15. I would agree that a better translation of “lechatchila” is “ideally, ” although the translation you have is more literal.

    I would add a third element to “Niddah;” “and after she goes to the Mikveh.”

    HIH (“hope it helps”
    “Stam” could mean “basic or simple.”
    “mistama” could mean, “most likely.”
    “Davka” could mean “specifically intented”
    “Takka” could mean “is it so” (if asked) or “it is so” if said.

  16. Lady Lock and Load

    Shver- Means hard, like a shver shailah is a hard question. Also means father in law.

  17. This is great!!!!!

  18. Metzious – phenomenon / nature (according to @DovBear facts or essence)

    Wouldn’t Metziut be better translated as “Reality”?

  19. Important post. We forget that we speak/write a dialect.

  20. The “dialect” is better know as Yeshivish, a form of speech incorporating Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish terms, and incorporating as well English, mostly garnered from an environment of Rabbinic/Talmudic learning pronounced with a strong inflection known as “Ashkanoizes”.


    “At present, only two serious studies of Yeshivish have been made. The first is a Master’s Thesis by Steven Ray Goldfarb (University of Texas at El Paso, 1979) called “A Sampling of Lexical Items in Yeshiva English.” The work lists, defines, and provides examples for nearly 250 Yeshivish words and phrases.

    The second, more comprehensive work is Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish by Chaim Weiser. Weiser maintains that Yeshivish is not a pidgin, creole, or an independent language, nor is it precisely a jargon. He refers to it instead, with tongue-in-cheek, as a shprach, a Yiddish word meaning “language” or “rapport”.

    Linguist and Yiddishist Dovid Katz describes it in “Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish” as a “new dialect of English,” which is “taking over as the vernacular in everyday life in some … circles in America and elsewhere.”


    and for example, try:

    The Gettysburg Address in YESHIVISH TRANSLATION:

    Be’erech a yoivel and a half ago, the meyasdim shtelled avek on this makom a naiya malchus with the kavana that no one should have bailus over their chaver, and on this yesoid that everyone has the zelba zchusim. We’re holding by a geferliche machloikes being machria if this medina, or an andere medina made in the same oifen and with the same machshovos, can have a kiyum. We are all mitztaref on the daled amos where a chalois of that machloikes happened in order to be mechabed the soldiers who dinged zich with each other. We are here to be koiveia chotsh a chelek of that karka as a kever for the bekavodike soldiers who were moiser nefesh and were niftar to give a chiyus to our nation. Yashrus is mechayev us to do this… Lemaise, hagam the velt won’t be goires or machshiv what we speak out here, it’s zicher not shayach for them to forget what they tued uf here. We are mechuyav to be meshabed ourselves to the melocha in which these soldiers made a haschala–that vibalt they were moiser nefesh for this eisek, we must be mamash torud in it–that we are all mekabel on ourselves to be moisif on their peula so that their maisim should not be a bracha levatulla– that Hashem should give the gantze oilam a naiya bren for cheirus– that a nation that shtams by the oilam, by the oilam, by the oilam, will blaib fest ahd oilam.

    • awesome gettysburg address. my kids are making me email it to them so they can email it to all their friends, they were rolling on the floor laughing!

      • If you think that’s funny, try reading the takeoff on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” called “Abbott and Costello Learn Hebrew” (I am sure you can search for a copy of this bit even if the title isn’t quite right).

    • Yisroel,

      Thank you for the Gettysburg address in Yeshivish. Alas the translation exposes the puffed up verbosity of yeshivish. In the Yeshiva world these days Ockhams razor is considered worse than a Norelco.

      Real Yeshivish rendition of Lincoln.

      A Goy talking about Goyim killing Goyim and why the medinah will last. But what about taxes, parking, and government aid to parochial schools?

      One of the things that shocks me when I look at comments on Matzav, Yeshiva World and Vosizneias is that 70-90% of the stuff is unrelated to the point being argued.

  21. muktza correction – may not be moved on shabbos

  22. Heard of Amazonukkah ?

    When Christmas really lasts 8 days because the presents take longer to deliver from than anticipated by the purchaser. This is often caused by the reckless use of Super Saver Shipping on items which were bought on Christmas Eve. As a result, the presents are received in small amounts each day over an 8 day period, similar to Hanukkah.

  23. You want to laugh?

    *If you use words like “davka”, “mamish”, and “skoiach” in every conversation, even when talking toyour maid or the checkout clerk…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If one of your wife’s shaitels cost more than both ofyour cars…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you mow the lawn wearing a black wool suit…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you let your eight-year-old babysit for her fiveyounger siblings…You Might Be Yeshivish!*If you consider chulent a basic food group…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you read about a “Rabbi Emeritus” and think hemust come from Greece…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you’re intimately familiar with which Paskeztreats can be bought with food stamps…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you visit Loehman’s Back Room before every YomTov…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you think “parve” is an official ice creamflavor…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If your grandchilden are older than some of yourchildren…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you had to got engaged after three dates becausethere are only three airports in the NY area…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you go to a wedding with your wife and only seeone another for the car ride there and back…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you think “schmorgasbord” is a yiddish word…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If the school bus breaks down and they ask to borrowyour van…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If your wife’s clothing choices are not affected byseasonal changes…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If “kugel making” is the primary female right ofpassage for your daughters…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you want to go fishing on vacation so you cancatch your own gefilte…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If your wife keep her wigs on the dresser and your TVin the clothes closet…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If your wife enclosed cooking assignments with yourson’s bar mitzvah invitations…You Might Be Yeshivish!
    *If you heard about this article but can’t read itbecause the internet was ossered…You Might Be Yeshivish!!!

  24. And an echo from the past:

    “Ever since I’ve gotten married, I expanded my vocabulary. This is of course encouraged by all educators, as it broadens the mind and enables a person to communicate more accurately and effectively. It’s also a great way to look smart and intimidate people when need be. However, I’m not sure my newly acquired lexis, will garner me much fear and respect. You see, I’ve learned to speak yeshivish, courtesy of my husband.

    I’m sure you understand that there are several levels in increasing one’s vocabulary: there is recognizing the word while reading, using the word in writing and last using the word in your own speech.

    It’s not just that my husband uses these words and I understand him. But even further, I’ve found these words creeping into conversations with my friends, who are, well, far from yeshivish. I’m finding it mildly amusing, but mostly bemusing as I feel my IQ dropping by the idiom.

    I compiled several examples of my lapses in to “yeshivish” for your entertainment….I’m too self depreciating, I know

    Maskim – I’m not Maskim to that style, navy and black does not match

    Chutsh – He said no, after 6 dates? Did he chutsh give a decent reason

    Lmaaysa – She thought she was going to BJJ, then she figured Bnos Sarah, l’maaysa, she’s in Machon Half Day and Touro

    Ein hechi nami – I’m not, not going with you, ein hachen ami, I’m just not coming, I don’t feel well

    Lechoyra – She seems like a nice girl, Lechoyra, but honestly, I don’t really know her

    Epes – It has epes a design on the skirt, real nice.

    Be’eztem – It’s a nice idea to buy a 16 piece serving set by Noritake, but be’etzem I don’t think it’s gonna work out, kollel budget, remember?

    B’kiztur – ….she told her that she didn’t mean that, but she thought that she said she did and around and around, whatever, b’kitzur, they’re not talking

    Ch’kav – ooooh, that salad bowl is ch’kav…I like those details, don’t think I’ve ever seen that combination anywhere

    Mudne – she said that? Really? That’s mudne, why would they do that?

    Shvacha meysos – She said she worked on it for hours, look at it, shvacha meysos, she dumped it together in five minutes

    Uber – I wanted to buy that ring, uber I knew my Rabbi was getting me something for yomtov so I just waited

    Raya – Ye….can you tell me about Chanche Bronche? She’s very hardworking…ye, and creative….can you give me a raya?

    Klering – I’m going to my in-laws for the first days; we were klering on going the second days, but I have to be back for work

    Dveilah – I’m looking for a job, dveilah, I’m brushing up on my culinary skills.

    UpShlug (shlug someone up) – The salesperson tried giving me a million and half reasons why it looked great on me, and that I should buy it, but I had no patience and she was making me nervous, so I shlugged her up on every point….ooh it felt good…Good thing I don’t shop there that often

    Zicher – He’s zicher gonna want to come home, so I’ll have to cook supper anyway

    Feste – She was wearing Feste shoes, Christian Louboutin, cost an arm and a leg

    Yur n’Tzerik – Yur n’Tzerik I’d call her, now I’ll just text her mazal tov.

    Musig – The play was so boring, and clichéd, you have no musig of the pathos evoked.

    Shtulz – Uch, their so shtulzy, with their kids in Lily matching jumpers, I’m not even trying.

    Not chal – Don’t show till after ten. It’s not chal until Mrs. K, opens up her mouth.

    Matziv – It’s so not a matziv, for heavens sake it’s an event

    Mistama – Mistama she’s not gonna wanna come, do I still have to invite her

    Chevtza – She’s a chevtza. Of what? Of garbage.

    Spitz – It’s shpitz her to say that and not even realize what she said

    Kav – It’s not your kav, I don’t think you should buy it.

    Zach – He has this zach about sports, don’t even go there.

    Not shayach – You havta read it, it’s not shayach!

    Mehalech- she wanted to leave after the chuppa; I told her it wasn’t a mehalech

    Masbir – What I don’t get it, you sign up, you get the discount and then you cancel? And they don’t chap? You have to be masbir to me

    Nogea – I get paid on the books, make to much money; WIC is not nogea”

  25. Hadassah,

    This post is getting too long…the problem is that as you continue to expand the list, it takes more time to get to the comments, and presumably the original post was updated to reflect the comments, etc.

    Would it be possible to put a link at the beginning of the post indicating a file where we could find the latest and greatest on the dictionary? I think that might be helpful to all of us to find the updated translations of all these words.

    Thanks and yasher koach for this effort! Keep the articles coming!

    • it takes more time to get to the comments

      If you’re on a PC, just type CTRL-END (works in Firefox, so far).

      • Yeah, what Mark said! 😉

      • Mark,

        That is not what I meant. What I really am concerned about is that this list is getting so long that it is becoming unmanageable between the original post and the changes people are making with the comments.

        Would it be possible to say, “…here is my attempt to pull together a list of terms…Since this list is constantly being updated, you can reference the latest dictionary here (link provided).”

        • Ah, you are saying that newer posts are pushing it down too far? Yes, that’s a problem. Hadassah, can you put a link on the main page?

          Like you’ve already done in “YOUR FAVE POSTS”. sheldan, look on the right side in the “YOUR FAVE POSTS” section, there is a link there.

  26. Hadassah,

    A few more…

    Geress/giyoret–convert (female)


    Ladino–Sephardic vernacular using Spanish and Hebrew; analog to Yiddish among Ashkenazim

    Lashon hakodesh–Hebrew (the holy tongue)

    Lashon hara–Gossip when true, slander when false

    Mamaloshen–Yiddish (“mother’s tongue”)

    Maskil–“Enlightened one” (often used to refer to an adherent of the Haskalah–Enlightenment)

    Teshuva–Answer (to a “Shailah”), repentance

    Incidentally, “kvetch” means complaint, “krechtz” means groan, and “kvitch” means scream.

  27. OK, let’s take it from the top…

    My suggestion would be something like this:

    Replace the beginning of the post (Hadassah’s words) with:

    “Not a day goes by that I don’t participate in a BeitTwidrash discussion on Twitter, and inevitably there are words and phrases that go right over my head, and I ask the crew to explain them. I guess if I had learned in a yeshivah (oh, and was a male learning in one of those Batei Midrash where they use their thumbs and fists to punctuate discussions) I would know all these terms.

    “So here is my attempt to pull together a list of terms that the layman/laywoman can use to understand the torah talk on the web. AS THIS LIST CAN BECOME LENGTHY IN A HURRY, YOU CAN SEE THE LATEST BEIT TWIDRASH DICTIONARY HERE (link inserted at the word “here”). (NOTE: Upper caps indicate my change to the wording.)

    “Please note this is just a start – I will add on from the comments as the terms come in. It’s a work in progress. Please publicize it. Thanks.”

    I hope that clears up the confusion. 🙂 The issue is the increasing length of the dictionary. Whether or not the comments stay in their entirety is another issue. Thanks.

  28. Add on:

    mesirah, moser (snitching to government about a jew, a snitch). (e.g., 1. Dweck was a moser; 2. some say it is not mesirah with a serial molester because it is mamish pikuach nefesh)

  29. Need to add “segula”. Also link onmain page is gone.

    • Segula=superstitious Jewish belief that doing something will magically bring about a desired result. Klaf=parchment.

    • I added a link on the sidebar. will add segula and klaf

      • “Segula” literally means “treasure.” It has come to be used to indicate that one thing (the “segula”) is a means of attaining another thing.

        Calling it superstition is being very cynical, even if people refer to things as a “segula” when there’s no real basis for it bringing about what it’s supposedly a “segula” for. There are things that are called a “segula” that do have a real basis; it would therefore be inaccurate to use the word “superstition” in a definition.

        For example, going out on dates is a “segula” for getting married, i.e. one increases their chances of getting married if they go out more frequently. 🙂

        • Yes, dating, not getting a chipped piece of china, or a sip of wine after 27 other people sipped it.

          Oh, there are lots real segulas, many of which are well known. For example, turning the iron off before leaving your house is a segulah for your house not burning down (even if you may have neglected to escort your guests out once or twice). And getting an education and working hard is a pretty good segulah for a good parnassah (even if you don’t read pitum haketoret from a klaf). And having sex with your wife is usually (though not always unfortunately) a good segulah for having children.

  30. Hevay dan lekaf zechut might be a good addition to your twictionary of Jewish terms. Essentially means “benefit of the doubt”, but really means much more than that.

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