On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Definitions – Is he speaking English?

About 10 years ago, I was sitting in a class designed for Jews in their early stages of their reconnection to Judaism.  About a half hour into the class, the person sitting next to me leaned over and said “When the Rabbi said “Hashem”, he means G-d, right?”

Sometimes we get so comfortable with our learning that we when we’re speaking, we forget that we’re adding in words of different languages that our listener may not be familiar with.   Adding in some Hebrew words to English is confusing enough, but some of us also throw in some Yiddish to form a whole new language.  This is affectionately called Yeshivish or Yinglish.  Whatever it’s called, I thought it would be a helpful idea to come up with a brief dictionary of words that you may hear and not understand.

Hashem AKA Hakodesh Barachu – The word “Hashem” is literally translated as “the name.”  Since we don’t verbalize any of G-d’s names unless we’re praying or reading the Torah, we simply call him Hashem in other situations.

Mamash, Dafka & Stam – All of these words don’t really have an independent meaning other than to emphasize the other words surrounding them.  One might say “the BT Handbook is Mamash a great website.” J  It would be similar to using the English word “really” in the same sentence.

BT AKA Ba’al Teshuva – Someone who has reconnected with their Judaism after not be connected with it for a while or ever.

Frum – Religious.

FFB AKA Frum from birth – Someone who was born religious.

Gut Yuntuf, Chag Sameach – Happy holiday.

Shaal Sheudas, Seudas Shlishi – The third meal or Shabbas afternoon meal.

Daven - Pray
Shacharis – Morning prayer.

Minchah – Afternoon prayer.

Maariv AKA Aarvit – Evening prayer.


  1. This could be a whole book by itself. Not just the vocabulary, but some of the awkward grammar (e.g., dropping the direct object ("did everyone get? who wants?") and replacing all prepositions with "by").

    One quibble: "mamash" does mean "really," but "davka" means "particularly/specifically" and "stam" means "plain." A lot of people use "mamash" -- or, even more often, its synonym "takka" -- as sort of a verbal tic for emphasis. But you'll hear "davka" and "stam" used more deliberately.


    "The party is davka on Shabbos!" - Remarking on the fact that a hostile-to-Yiddishkeit family member deliberately chose Shabbos to make life difficult for you or to emphasize that he does not keep Shabbos.

    "Did you get a fancy sundae?" "No, just stam ice cream." (not to be confused with chalav Yisrael/chalav stam)

    Hatzlacha with the site!

    1. There is a whole book on it grada, "Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish" by Chaim Weiser. Look it up, it's available on Amazon