The First Words You Need to Know in Hebrew, Not Made for Tourists

4 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

You probably already know words like סבבה (sababa – cool, alright) and תודה (toe-dah – thanks). Now it’s time for you to start sounding like an actual local.

1. Next stop: Tel Aviv

Want to get around Tel Aviv like the locals? Get yourself a רַב קַו (rahv kahv – bus card) and hop on!

Keywords: קַו, לְהִסְתּוֹבֵב

Translation: (bus) line, to get around (slang)

Transliteration: kahv, leh-hees-toe-vev

2. Coffee break

If there’s one thing you need to learn in Tel Aviv, it’s how to order coffee like a local.

Side note: There’s also a band named קָפֶה שְׁחוֹר חָזָק (kah-feh shah-chor chah-zahk – strong black coffee).

Keywords: לְהַזְמִין

Translation: to order (also, to invite)

Transliteration: leh-hahz-meen

3. Let’s talk shop.

Shopping can be hard (and expensive) when you live in Israel.

Keywords: לִקְנוֹת, קְנִיּוֹת

Translation: to buy, shopping (although Israelis also say שׁוֹפִּינְג – shoh-ping)

Transliteration: leek-noht, kah-neeh-tah oh-tee

Use the expression קָנִיתָ אוֹתִי(kah-nee-tah oh-tee) when you want to say someone won you over.

4. Another day at the office

For some odd reason, the word “office” in Hebrew shares the same root as לִשְׂרוֹד (lees-rode – to survive).

Keywords: מִשְׂרָד, לַעֲבֹוד

Translation: office, to work

Transliteration: mees-rahd, lah-ah-vohd

5. Live. Love. Tel Aviv.

Want advice on dating in Tel Aviv? We’ll get back to you about that one.

Keywords: לֶאֱהֹוב, לְהִתְאַהֵב

Translation: to like/love, to fall in love

Transliteration: leh-eh-hove, leh-heet-ah-hev

6. As fit as a fiddle

Tel Aviv has all types of fitness options, from gyms (חֲדַר כֹּשֶׁר – chah-dar koh-sher) and yoga studios, to climbing (טִיפּוּס – tee-poos) and running (רִיצָה – ree-tzah).

Keywords: לְהִתְאַמֵּן

Translation: to exercise

Transliteration: leh-heet-ah-men

7. Bargaining chips

Israelis bargain about everything, even if they don’t intend to buy.

Keywords: מְחִיר, לְהִתְמַקֵּחַ

Translation: price, to bargain/haggle

Transliteration: meh-cheer, leh-heet-mah-keh-ahch

8. FOMO is real.

With so many things to do and see in the White City, we surveyed Tel Avivians to find out their top recommendations for discovering Tel Aviv during your first year here.

Keywords: לְהַנּוֹת

Translation: to enjoy

Transliteration: leh-hah-note

Use the expression חֲבָל עַל הַזְּמַן (chah-vahl ahl hah-z’mahn – literally meaning “waste of time”) when you want to say something was a great time.

9. On my way!

Feeling extra ambitious? Here are all the ways to get around Tel Aviv, as well as the Hebrew you need to know for each one.

Keywords: דֶּרֶךְ, בְּדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל

Translation: way, usually

Transliteration: der-ech, beh-der-ech k’lahl

Use the expression אֲנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ (ah-nee bah-der-ech) when you want to say you’re on the way.

10. Live in the moment.

Keywords: לִחְיוֹת, לִהְיוֹת

Translation: to live, to be

Transliteration: leech-yoht, lee-yoht

Use the expression חַי בַּסֶּרֶט (chai beh-ser-et – literally meaning “living in a movie”) when you want to tell someone their exaggerating or being unrealistic.

11. Give and you shall receive.

Keywords: לְקַבֵּל, לָתֵת

Translation: to receive/accept, to give

Transliteration: leh-kah-bel, lah-tet

Use the expression תֵּן בָּרֹאשׁ (ten bah-rohsh – literally meaning “give in the head”) when you want to tell someone to succeed or excel at something.

12. Out on the town

You already know Tel Aviv’s nightlife is the real deal.

Keywords: לָצֵאת, לִשְׁתוֹת

Translation: to go out (also, to leave); to drink

Transliteration: lah-tzet, leesh-toht

Use the expression לֹא יָצָא לִי (loh yah-tzah lee – literally meaning “it didn’t leave me”), from the word לָצֵאת, when you want say you didn’t get around to doing something.

13. Do your best.

On the other hand, one of the unspoken Israeli mottos is: Never take life too seriously.

Keywords: לַעֲשׂוֹת, חַיִּים

Translation: to do, life

Transliteration: lah-ah-soht, chai-yeem

Israelis use the expression לַעֲשׂוֹת חַיִּים (lah-ah-soht chai-yeem – literally meaning “to make life”) to mean “to have fun.”

14. All or nothing

Keywords: הַכָּל, כְּלוּם

Translation: all, nothing

Transliteration: hah-kohl, kloom

Use the expression בְּסַךְ הַכֹּל (beh-sahch hah-kohl – literally meaning “in total”) to mean “all in all” or “by and large.”

15. Waste not, want not

Did you need or want that new jacket?

Keywords: לְרַצּוֹת, לְהִצְטָרֵךְ

Translation: to want, to need

Transliteration: leer-tzoht, leh-heetz-ar-ech

Use the expression רָצוֹן טוֹב (rah-tzohn tohv) to mean “good intentions.”

16. Something’s up

Keywords: מַשֶּׁהוּ

Translation: something

Transliteration: mah-shoo

Use the expression מַשֶּׁהוּ מַשֶּׁהוּ (mah-shoo mah-shoo – literally meaning “something something”) to say something is spectacular.

17. Open up your opportunities

Keywords: לִפְתֹּוחַ, לִסְגֹּור

Translation: to open, to close

Transliteration: leef-toh-ach, lees-gor

Use the expression לִסְגֹּור פִּינָּה (lees-gor pee-nah– literally “to close a corner”) to express getting exactly the amount of something you needed or wanted (e.g. food).

18. What’s your story?

Keywords: לְהַגִּיד, לְסַפֵּר

Translation: to say, to tell (a story)

Transliteration: leh-hah-geed, leh-sah-per

Use the expression ?מָה אַתָּה מְסַפֵּר (mah ah-tah meh-sah-per – literally meaning “What do you tell?”) as another way to ask someone, “What’s up?”

19. Time’s up

Keywords: פַּעַם, זְמַן

Translation: time (i.e. instance), time (i.e. hour, minute)

Transliteration: pah-ahm, z’mahn

Use the expression פַּעַם שְׁלִישִׁית גְּלִידָה (pah-ahm sleesh-eet glee-dah – literally meaning “third time ice cream”) which is the equivalent of “third time’s a charm.”

20. Get what you want – no questions asked.

Keywords: קוֹמְבִּינָה

Translation: under-the-table deal

Transliteration: kohm-bee-nah

Use the word פְּרוֹטֶקְצִיָּה (proh-tek-tzee-yah – “protection”) to express getting something through close connections.

21. A good atmosphere

Keywords: מַזְגַּן, מֶזֶג אֲוִיר

Translation: air conditioning, weather

Transliteration: mahz-gahn, meh-zeg ah-veer

Use the word אֲוִירָה (ah-vee-rah – “ambiance”) to express a general mood or vibe.

22. Did you make Aliyah?

Keywords: לַעֲלוֹת, לָרֶדֶת

Translation: to ascend, to descend

Transliteration: lah-ah-loht, lah-reh-det

Israelis use the expression לַעֲשׂוֹת עֲלִיָּה (lah-ah-soht ah-lee-yah – to make aliyah, or literally “to make an ascent to Israel”) to express moving to Israel.

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