Israel: Modern Hebrew Slang and Other Common Expressions

I grew up speaking Hebrew with my mother, and spending 5 weeks in Israel this summer has definitely given me the opportunity to practice and improve my fluency, as well as pick up on modern slang (I was pretty out-of-the-loop until now). I thought I’d put together a list of slang and other words / expressions I’ve noticed people here use frequently. This was compiled with my brother in mind, who has recently begun teaching himself the language (woo!).

Notes: The “i”s are pronounced “ee”

The “ch” sounds like this.

The italicized syllable is the one you stress when you say the word.

Phonetic spelling:                                         Translation (more or less)

Achla……………………………………………….Awesome (borrowed from Arabic)

Al hakefak…………………………………………No problem/you’re welcome (borrowed from Arabic)

Al hapanim………………………………………..Terrible/a disaster (literally “on the face”)

Baktana……………………………………………Not a big deal

Ben/bat zona……………………………………..Son/daughter of a bitch

Chatich/chaticha………………………………..Good-looking guy/girl

Chaval al hazman……………………………….It’s worth it/it’s a great time (can be said about a place, experience or even person; literally “a waste of time”)

Esh………………………………………………….Awesome (literally “fire”)

Magniv……………………………………………..Awesome/cool

Noo??………………………………………………….And?? (used when you’re listening to someone tell a story and you want to hear what happened next, or if you are waiting on someone to do something; it’s a word whose sole purpose is to expresses impatience — how Israeli..)

Sababa……………………………………………..Cool/sweet/okay (can be used to say something is cool or as an affirmation; really common)

Sagoor………………………………………………Solid/okay/done deal

Yeshhhh……………………………………………Yesssss

Yala…………………………………………………Come on/let’s go/hurry up (usually precedes or follows “noo??”)

 

Terms of Endearment:

Achi………………………………………………..Bro (usually among boys/men age ~14 and up)

Chooki……………………………………………..Honey/Sweetie (usually directed at a girlfriend, boyfriend or dog; the “ch” is pronounced like it is in the name “Charlie” in English)

Mami……………………………………………...Honey/Sweetie (directed at a significant other, a close friend – among girls, or a child)

Motek………………………………………………Sweetie (literally means “sweetie”)

 

Informal Greetings:

Maamatzav?………………………………………What’s up? (literally “what’s the situation?”)

Ma kore?…………………………………………..What’s happening?

 

Do you know any slang I didn’t include? If so, post phrases in the comments below. Special thanks to Tal and Niv for adding to the list!

Much love from Israel,

Nirel

 

10 thoughts on “Israel: Modern Hebrew Slang and Other Common Expressions

  1. La’panim (literally “to the face”) – Describes something awesome
    Baduk (literally “validated”) – Used to express your consense with another person
    Pzatza (literally “bomb”) – Describes something awesome, or a hot girl
    Hainoo Po (literally “we were here” in past tense) – used to express your will to be gone from a place, by describing it as if you’re already gone.
    Chavlaz – abreviation for Chaval al hazman as described above

    Good Luck!

  2. I SO enjoyed this blog post! Thank you for updating my Hebrew slang vocab; I guess mine was quite outdated 😉
    I love love love your blog pic, btw!

    Behatzlacha!! 🙂

  3. I was looking for something else and stumbled on this post.

    A couple of small corrections, one in the post and one in a comment.

    “What’s the situation?” Is “Ma ha‘matzav.”

    And ‘validated’/’exactly’ is ‘bi’dyuk.’

    Additions, I haz some for you:

    Nu kvar! — Hurry up already!
    Hayita met (said *to* a guy) / Hayit meta (said *to* a girl) — you wish (lit. ‘you would die’)
    Al gufi met (said *by* a guy) / Al gufati meta (said *by* a girl) — over my dead body
    Ein matzav! — No way! (lit. ‘no situation’)
    Ma pitom?! — WTF?!/Are you kidding?/Are you off your rocker? (lit. ‘what suddenly’)
    Fashla — disaster
    Fadicha — a screw-up (usually something you can laugh at)
    Eizeh seret rah — a horrible situation (lit. ‘a bad movie’)
    Kol ha’mi ve’mi — celebs (like “Who’s gonna be at this party?” “Kol ha’mi ve’mi!“)
    Kvar hayiti/hayinu ba’seret ha’zeh — I was/we were already at that movie = been there, done that
    Eizeh kotz ba’tachat — what a pain in the ass (lit. ‘thorn in the ass’)
    Kmo tochen mayim — like grinding water/it’s pointless/going nowhere.
    Hevi li et ha’djanana — drives me crazy (lit. ‘brings me the crazy’)
    Ad matai? — When will this be over? (lit. ‘until when?’ IDF slang. Don’t use it if you’re actually in service. You’ll end up scrubbing toilets for a month or more)
    Kama od? — How much more? (IDF slang, same as above)
    Profil Esrim ve’achat — crazy (IDF slang. A Profile 21 is a service exemption due to psych/med reasons)
    Elek! — As if! (Arabic)
    Dachilak! — Oh, puh-leeze! (Arabic)
    Ahalan — hi there (Arabic)
    Smoch alai — trust me (to which you say “YEAH, RIGHT!”)
    Al tidag, yiyeh be’seder! — Don’t worry, it’ll be okay (Israelis say this even when bombs are going off)

    ve’nigmar ha’sus (and I ran outa gas [lit. ‘the horse is finished’]).

    Le’hitra’ot!

    • TODA RABA for the additions!
      (thanks a lot!)
      As for “Ma ha’matzav” — I was going to write it that way (and you’re right, of course, that it’s the correct pronunciation), but in day-to-day use many people slur the expression and it comes out more like “Maamatzav”.

  4. What happened to the oldie but goodie, Ma Ha-inyamim? – what’s happening? I always liked this one though my Hebrew is a bit out of touch so…

  5. Additions:
    A’leynoo?- you can’t trick me, I’m up to your lies (lit. ‘on us!!?’)
    Stom!- shut up (lit. ‘shut the hole!’)
    Stooma- idiot, female (lit. ‘blocked head’)
    Satoom- idiot, male (‘blocked head’)
    Deer balak- be careful (Arabic “watch out!)
    Beten gav- doing nothing, laze away (lit. ‘belly back’)
    He koosit- she’s hot (lit. ‘she is a pussy’)

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