Although Israelis are known for their unapologetic nature, and are considered quite informal, there are surprisingly many ways in Hebrew to say ‘I’m sorry’.
So, especially for Yom Kippur, here are some Hebrew ways to apologize, along with examples of how you might use them.
Literally, this word means forgiveness, or in modern Hebrew – excuse me, pardon me etc. In ancient Hebrew, it expressed the psychological process of forgiveness, but has now been adapted and is used casually in our day-to-day lives. It can be used when making your way on a bus: ‘?סליחה, אפשר לעבור?’ (pardon me, can I pass?) or asking for directions on the street: סליחה, איפה זה רוטשילד?’ (excuse me, where is Rothschild st?).
אני מצטערת/מצטערת (ah-nee meetz-tah-ehr / meetz-tah-ehreht)
Literally – ‘I’m sorry’. This verb conjugates through all tenses and pronouns. It’s often combined with the word really ממש (mah-mahsh), giving it a more intentional and honest feel.
לא התכוונתי (loh heet-kah-vahn-tee)
Literally – ‘I didn’t mean it”. This expression is widely used in Hebrew, mostly in its past tense. To emphasize how extremely sorry you are for that thing you didn’t intend to do, you can accompany it with one of the previous examples.
And lastly but most relevant, especially in Tel Aviv: for ‘sorry’ you just say… סורי״” (sorry)! Yes! Just like the English word, only with a heavy Israeli accent. Like many borrowed words and phrases taken from English,’סורי’ is very common in israel and reflects the cultural merge of the languages. It’s the most casual and is used for everyday conversations: ‘שלחת לי אימייל אתמול? סורי, לא ראיתי’ (did you send me an email yesterday? Sorry, I didn’t see it)