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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten Phrases in Hebrew Slang that I Love Because They Make No Sense

Photo Credit: Missiontripzambia.com

10. La'Asot Chayim ("לעשות חיים"):
Literally translates to 'To make life' and figuratively means 'to have a good time'. I might use it in a sentence to describe a trip we took to Barcelona, without going into much detail.
"We really did "make life" when we were in Barcelona over Christmas break. It was great fun!"
"עשינו חיים בברצלונה בחופשת הכריסמס והיה ממש כיף"

9. "Mazeh" as an adverb (מה זה" כתאר הפועל"):
Literally translates to 'What is this?' and figuratively means 'extremely' or 'Uber'.  I might use it in a sentence to describe something that was extreme.
"It was 'What is this' cold outside- so cold that I had to wear two pairs of pants and three pairs of socks!"
"היה 'מה זה' קר בחוץ - כל כך קר שהייתי צריך ללבוש שני זוגות מכנסים ושלוש זוגות גרביים"

8. Lo Normali ("לא נורמלי"):
Literally translates to 'Not normal' but figuratively means 'amazing'.  I might use it in a sentence to describe a friend of mine who's so dedicated to surfing that he wakes up at 5am every day to catch the best waves.
"Dude, you're 'not normal'."
"'אחי, אתה 'לא נורמלי"
7. Al Ha' Panim ("על הפנים"):
 Literally translates to 'On the face' and figuratively means 'terrible'.  I might use it in a sentence to describe a bad movie or a bad restaurant in the following way:
"This movie/restaurant/night club was 'On the face'."
"'הסרט\מסעדה\מועדון היה 'על הפנים'"

6. La Panim ("לפנים"): 
Literally translates to 'To the face' and figuratively means 'awesome'. I might use it in a sentence to describe an awesome movie or awesome restaurant in the following way:
"This movie/restaurant/night club was 'To the face'."
"'הסרט\מסעדה\מועדון היה 'לפנים'"

5. La Gabot ("לגבות"):
Literally translates to 'To the eyebrows' , and like 'La Panim' figuratively means 'awesome.' I like this one more than 'La Panim' just because it's a slang phrase that has eyebrows in it..and who else uses eyebrows in slang!? I mean, I barely ever say "eyebrows" in English. Brows, maybe, but eyebrows?

4. Le'Echol S'ratim ("לאכול סרטים"):
Literally translates to 'Eating movies' and it means 'loves drama' or 'is a drama queen' or 'is a bit nuts' or 'thinks there's an issue where there is none'.  I might use this to describe a female friend who is driving me nuts with her drama:
"She won't stop 'feeding me movies'."
"הוא\היא לא מפסיקה להאכיל אותי סרטים"

3. Sof Ha'Derech ("סוף הדרך"):
Literally translates to 'End of the road' and it means 'awesome' or 'fantastic'. I might use this to describe a successful party or event.
"Ron and Tali's wedding was 'End of the road'."
"החתונה של רון וטלי היתה סוף הדרך"

2. Kapara Alecha ("כפרה עליך"):
Literally translates to 'Atonement over you' and figuratively means' darling' or 'loved one'. The word Kapara, actually refers to an old ritual carried out in orthodox Jewish Custom during Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, when villagers take a chicken and swing it over their heads while reciting the following prayer: "This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This chicken will go to its death while I will enter and proceed to a good long life, and peace." Then the chicken is slaughtered and it (or its cash value) is given to the poor.
I might use this to address my friend after they did a wonderful favor by saying:
"John, 'Atonement over you'. I can't believe you such a wonderful favor for me!"
"גון, כפרה עליך, אני לא מאמין שעשית את כל זה בשבילי"

1.Chaval Al Ha'Zman ("חבל על הזמן"):
Literally means 'A pity on the time' and can be used to literally mean 'a waste of time' or 'not worthwhile.' However, when you use it in slang, it means 'totally awesome.' I've always found 'Haval al ha zman' to be one of the more intriguing Israeli slang phrases because of the fact that it means two entirely different things depending on the way its said and the way you use it.

  • If I were to use it more conventionally, I would probably describe an errand that would be worthless to run because it would be time consuming.

 "I'm not going to go to the bank, its simply'A pity on the time', I'll just call them instead."
"אני לא אלך לבנק כי זה פשוט חבל על הזמן, אני אתקשר במקום"

  • If I were to use it as slang, I might describe someone's amazing artwork.

"Bro, your painting is 'A pity on the time', you are a 'genius with a diploma'!"
"אחי, הציור פשוט חבל על הזמן, אתה גאון מדופלם".


  1. Ray querida, את פשות שיחקת אותה!! magnifique!

  2. !אתה תותח! אין עליך

  3. Nice post!

    Here's something I wrote about chaval:


  4. Hey Balashon, Thanks for the comment! Your analysis is way more in depth. Hebrew is definitely a fascinating language, with a rich past and unique evolution! :)

  5. Hey this is hilarious! I love your blog!

  6. Thanks for stopping by Natalie!:)

  7. fun post!

    5 - it originated from "ptzatzot lagabot", meaning something that was so awesome it felt like bombs shooting to your eyebrows! umm yeah, didnt make much sense then either. just the rhyme was fun. it had a lot of variations combining weapons and body parts - "resisim larisim", "rimonim laishonim" [grenades to the pupils], "tilim lataltalim" [missiles to the curls]..

    4 - eating movies is my favorite! i think it was originally just drug-related, as in "seeing something that isnt there". you can see the logical connection there somewhere..

    1 - i always saw the non-literal slang version of chaval al hazman as "its a waste of time to even talk and elaborate", but that might just be my imagination.


  8. This is the best explanation I've seen of כפרה עליך, thank you, but I am still struggling to understand it ha

  9. Here are some other great ones.


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  11. I would add: "Gadol!" = awesome, "Yalla!" = that's it/stop/cut it out!, or, the funnier "Yalla balagan!" :)


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