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Hebrew Time #11 - idioms

Hello everyone!

שלום לכולם!

Welcome to Hebrew Time #11!

For those of us who are joining now – Hebrew Time is a series of weekly posts about the Hebrew language:)

Today I thought I’d do a light-hearted post about words and phrases that are special to Hebrew and that we don’t necessarily have an exact translation for in English. You can all go away and learn these and you’ll sound like natives in no time!

P.s Attaching audio to Hebrew words is a pain. Attaching audio links to multiple Hebrew words (e.g in a phrase) is a special, special kind of pain. So, new system where relevant.


!נו - an expression of impatience. It kind of means “hurry up, get on with it!”. You can imagine this word is in very common usage in Israel:)

חשק - a word meaning desire/energy/brainspace/enthusiasm. It is the noun that comes from the verb להתחשק which means “to feel like it”. If you say אין לי חשק (audio 1,2 3) (lit. I don’t have חשק), you are saying “I can’t be bothered/I don’t feel like it”.

על הפנים - awful, disgraceful. Literally “on the face”.

חבל על הזמן (audio 1 2 3)- a modifier that literally means “it’s a shame about the time” i.e. “waste of time”, but is often used to imply that something is really awesome and epic. E.g. “You should get this awesome new deal for your mobile-phone contact, חבל על הזמן” implying “it’s a shame to spend time standing there and considering it because it is so good, you should just get it straight away.”

סוף הדרך - this one is like the last one “חבל על זמן”. Literally means “the end of the road”, used to describe something that is great, wonderful.

לך על זה (audio “lech” 2 3)- a phrase that literally means “walk on it”, meaning “go for it”.

בכיליון עיניים (audio: bekiliyon 2) - so excited about something you can hardly wait, looking forward to something. Literally, “with yearning eyes”

דווקא - this is a hard one to explain. לעשות דפקא (audio 1 2 (“ to do דווקא”) kind of means to do something different on purpose, just to spite. The closest translation I can come up with is “on the contrary”. You could say דווקא, לא (audio [1] 2 - ”on the contrary, no” or הוא עושה דווקא (audio 1 2 3 (“he is doing דווקא”) - he is being contrary.

הלואי (“halvai”) - A nostalgic, wishful word kind of meaning “if only”.

Bonus: “Real” Hebrew

When Modern Hebrew was first invented, a whole bunch of words were made up to describe things that they didn’t have in biblical times. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), not all of these words made it into everyone’s speaking vocabulary. Instead, slang words from other languages were used on a day-to-day basis until everyone forgot what the “real” words were in the first place. These days, they’re pretty much funny historical quirks. Here are three words you’ll never, ever hear:

מוז (“moz”) - this was the original word for בננה, believe it or not.

שח רחוק (audio: “sach” 2)- original word for טלפון. The word רחוק means “far away”.

נמנמת (“namnemet”) - the word for פיג'מה. Literally “a napper, a thing that you nap in”.

We can't finish without telling you:


See you later!

That was Hebrew Time #11, thanks for joining us! Hooray!

Join our facebook group here! ך Support the future Hebrew for English speakers course so we will be able to work on it!

Thanks DvirBartov for helping me write this post!

That's it!

עד שבוע הבא!

Until next week!

March 22, 2015



Love it! Thanks for bearing the special kind of pain involved with the audio links to bring us this Hebrew Time :)


Thanks so much! I love Arabic and Hebrew!


The word for telephone should be spelled שח רחוק (from the word שיחה = conversation). Also, הלואי could also stand for "I wish". Very nice work !


You know the other day I was just thinking about how to translate דווקה. Also, I always thought חבל על הזמן was weird, despite using it myself--now it makes more sense to me! Nice one guys. Idioms are the best.


No-one has used the word ‘חשק’ unironically since the ‘90s.


I actually like how Hebrew uses some loan words from other languages (like English, Russian, and Arabic sometimes, especially for curses heh) makes it more a of a living language. Hebrew is evolving, changing words and adding them, to fit what people need it to be, and I think that is great :3


פוסט מצויין! רק תיקון קטן: "שח רחוק", מהפועל "לשוחח" :)


תיקנתי! אני מאשימה את דביר:)


You have a mistake. "שך רחוק" doesn't make sense. "שח רחוק", however, was derived from the word "שיחה" and this is indeed the correct spelling.


That darn word! I was sure I'd already fixed that!


No worries. If you need someone btw to work on explaining the "binyanim"/"gzarot", message me. I have been teaching for a few years and I have tons of stuff.


זה מאוד יפה מה שאתם עושים!


sach-rachok and namnemet are urban legends, they were never suggested by the Hebrew academy. The unused word moz for banana was adopted by the academy and is derived from the Arab word mawz. The banana's scientific name is Musa.

The word חשק does not come from the verb להתחשק.


Knew about the famous מוז (from موز) and שח רחוק, but never about נמנמת! You learn a new thing every day, I guess! Also, masterful avoidance of the common Arabic slang, such as rabak, ana araf, dir balak, etc...


Avoidance only because I a) was saving it for another post and b) didn't feel so qualified:D

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