This Glossary is divided into two parts. Part I: Commonly used Acronyms in this blog. Part II: Glossary of Jewish/Yiddish/Hebrew terms.

I. Acronyms

Jewish Acronyms:

BT: "Baal Tshuva", referring to a person who becomes religious. The Jewish equivalent of "Born-Again".

FFB: "Frum from Birth" - referring to a person who was born into an Orthodox Jewish family.

DH: Documentary Hypothesis, which posits that the Torah was written by several different authors, and were
         edited to form a single text.

MO:  "Modern Orthodox" stream of Judaism. LWMO = Left Wing Moden Orthodox. RWMO: Right Wing
           Modern Orthodox.

OJ:  "Orthodox Judaism" or "Orthodox Jew"

OP: "Orthoprax". A person who practices Orthodox Judaism, but who does not necessarily believe the
        theological underpinnings of the religion. For example, an Orthoprax person may not believe in God, or
        may believe in God, but does not necessarily believe that the Torah was given to the Jews at Mount

OTD: "Off the Derech". Derech is Hebrew for path, and OTD refers to people who were once practicing
           Orthodox  Jews (frum), but no longer are. A "lapsed" Orthodox Jew.

SHJ: Secular Humanistic Judaism/Jew

TSBP: "Torah Shebaal Peh" Hebrew for Oral Torah

TMS: "Torah Mi'Sinai", Hebrew for "Torah from Sinai". The argument that the Torah was given to the Jewish
            people at Mount Sinai during the time of Moses, and is of divine origin.

Lazy Writer Acronyms:

AFAIC: As Far As I'm Concerned

BTW: By The Way

IMO: In My Opinion

MIA: Missing in Action

OTOH: On the Other Hand

II. Words and terms

Most of the definitions are my understanding of what the words mean. Others are taken from Wikipedia and similar sources, and I did my best to link/site those.  Commenter G*3 has also provided tremendous feedback for this glossary.  I have marked "G*3" indicating his corrections to the definitions originally provided. I left the incorrect original definitions, because I think many other secular people may misinterpret the words, and it is interesting to see the difference between what people (or - more accurately - other OJically illiterate people like myself -  think something means,and what it actually means). From the perspective of an OJ person, I think it might be interesting to see how many terms used/taken for granted in an OJ context, are not necessarily common knowledge in other denominations.  

Also, I apologize for the formatting errors (highlighting/ odd paragraph breaks) . . .When I am editing in Blogger these don't show up, but as soon as I publish, the errors appear. There's something about cutting and pasting that really messes up formatting in Blogger.


Acharonim (from Wikipedia) (Hebrewאחרונים Aḥaronim‎; sing. אחרון, Aḥaron; lit. "last ones") is a term used in Jewish law and history, to signify the leading rabbis and poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present.

Aish Ha Torah: An organisation that pretty much proselytises Judaism to Jews in the hopes of earning Airmiles to God. See an excellent post describing Aish Ha Torah here.

Amoraim (from Wikipedia) (Aramaic:; plural אמוראים, sig. Amora אמורא; "those who say" or "those who speak over the people", or "spokesmen"[1]), were renowned Jewish scholars who "said" or "told over" the teachings of the Oral law, from about 200 to 500 CE in Babylonia and the Land of Israel. Their legal discussions and debates were eventually codified in the Gemara. The Amoraim followed the Tannaim in the sequence of ancient Jewish scholars. The Tannaim were direct transmitters of uncodified oral tradition; the Amoraim expounded upon and clarified the oral law after its initial codification.

apikores: heretic (plural = apikoresim)

Ayin Haro: Evil Eye


Baruch Hashem: Hebrew for "Thank God" (or literally Blessed be The Name")

bat mitzvah: a coming of age ceremony for Jewish girls aged 12.

                           G*3: bat mitzvah is something you become, not something you have. A bar or bat mitzvah is someone  
                           who is obligated to keep the mitzvos. The ceremony/party is just acknowledging the fact that someone has 
                           come of age. AND the party has taken on the name bar/bat mitzvah.

bekitzur: Hebrew for "in short"

Black Hat: slang for frum man
                   G*3: Slang for yeshivish, derived from the black fedoras universally worn by yeshivish men.

b'li ayin hara: without the evil eye

bris: Jewish ritual male circumcision. Also called brit milah.


Chag: Hebrew for holiday

Chag Sameach: Hebrew Greeting: Happy Holiday!

Chas Ve Chalila: Hebrew for  God Forbid

Chazal: (from Wikipedia) is an acronym for the Hebrew "akhameinu Zikhronam Liv'rakha", (חכמינו זכרונם      לברכה, literally "Our Sages, may their memory be blessed"). In rabbinic writings this is a general term that refers to all sages of the Mishna, Talmud, and other rabbinic literature commentators, and their authoritative opinion, from the times of the Second Temple of Jerusalem until the 6th century CE.

Chnyok: Ultra-frum
                G*3: With a negative connotation.

Chometz: (Wikipedia) also Chometz, Ḥametz and other spellings transliterated from Hebrew: חָמֵץ / חמץ‎‎ (IPA: [χaˈmets]), are leavened foods that are forbidden on the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Chumash: One of the five books of Moses
                  G*3: The Chumash = The Five books of Moses. Also may refer to a physical book containing one or more 
                        of the Five books of Moses.

chumra: a stricture - a practice that is in excess of what is legally binding


Da'as Torah (from Wikipedia) (or Da'at Torah, Da'as Toyreh) (Hebrew: דעת תורה‎, literally "Knowledge of Torah"), is a concept in Torah Judaism according to which Jews should seek the input of rabbinic scholars not just on matters of Jewish law but on all important life matters, on the grounds that knowledge of the Torah aids everything in life.

G*3: That, and also that rabbis of a certain stature have divine insight through their knowledge of Torah, and, when taken to extremes, that they are therefore infallible.



fleishig:  Yiddish classification of meat products.
G*3: “Fleish in Yiddish means  flesh or meat.Fleishig doesnt translate so well, but it’s used to mean meat  and anything that has been cooked with meat or used to prepare meat.

Frum: Orthodox religious Jew


goys: non-Jews
         G*3: The plural of goy is goyim.


Halacha: Jewish law

Haredi: (also spelled Charedi) Ultra-Orthodox

Haskalah: (from Wikipedia): can  denote the study of Biblical Hebrew and of the poetical, scientific, and critical parts of Hebrew literature. The term is sometimes used to describe modern critical study of Jewish religious books, such as the Mishnah and Talmud, when used to differentiate these modern modes of study from the methods used by Orthodox Jews.

G*3: The haskalah was the Jewish Enlightenment. It challenged traditional Judaism the same way that the Enlightenment challenged all traditions. Unsurprisingly, the traditionalists did not approve.

Hechsher: An item that has obtained a kosher "stamp of approval".  Here's a cute video about hechshers.
                       G*3: The hescher IS the stamp of approval.
                      CL: Damn! I knew that one. Thanks for catching the mistake. 

High Holiday Jew: Jews who only got to services on Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur.




ken ayno horo: Yiddish for without the evil eye

kibbitz: from the Yiddish: to chat/yak/blab/discuss

kippah: a.k.a yarmulke. The circular headcovering usually worn by observant Jewish men, and by some
            observant egalitarian women. Also worn by otherwise non-observant men when they go to
            synagogue.The English word sometimes used is skullcap. "Skullcap" is such an ugly word. Let's
            stick with kippah.

Kippah sruga: Crochet kippah, generally worn by religious or Zionist Jewish men. Hat tip to this blog.

kiruv: outreach/proselytizing (to Jews by Jews)

Kol Isha: literally translates to a woman's voice. It is prohibited for Orthodox Jews (under the laws of tznius)              
                to listen to women sing.

G*3: Prohibited for Orthodox Jewish men. Theres no problem for women to listen to other women. Technically, theres also no problem if the man cant see the woman whos singing, or if the woman/women are singing as part of a group and you cant pick out any individual persons voice, but in practice UO men dont listen to any woman singing who isnt an immediate relative.

kotel/kosel: Western Wall


mechitzah: a separation barrier (room divider, really) between women and men's sections. Usually in
                   synagogues, I've also heard  of them being used in buses in some very insular Ultra-Orthodox
                    sects in the U.S.

meshugas: (Yiddish) madness

Mezzuzah: (plural = mezzuzzot): a religious item affixed to doorposts of Jewish homes. It is a little box (often
                   decoratve, sometimes plain and plastic) with a scroll inside.

mikveh: ritual bath

Milchik: Milk product

minhag: tradition

mishnah brurah: halachik text from the 1800s

Mitzvah: A Jewish Commandment of supposed divine origin. Often understood to mean a good deed.
G*3: But held by OJ to be a commandment in the literal sense of a legally binding command from God.

Mitzvoth: Plural of Mitzvah.

Morah: Hebrew for teacher

Negelvasser: Ritual handwashing water.
G*3: And also the act of ritually washing ones hands.

Neshama: Hebrew for soul

Niddah: A term used to describe the period when a woman  is excreting a certain type of vaginal discharge.See here.



Posek: (plural = Poskim) A person who decides Jewish law in arbitraty cases.

Purim: A Jewish holiday based on a story recounted in the Book of Esther.

Pseudocation:  A term I made up to refer to an education system designed to indoctrinate students, and suppress critical thinking through censorship. Pseudocation pretends to be education, and does teach some of the basics of education, but only to the extent that it aims to equip students to preserve rather than progress a society.   



Rabbi: Originally meant teacher. Now a community leader (typically male in traditional denominations).

Rav: The Hebrew term of address for a rabbi.

Reb: The Yiddish term of address for a rabbi.

Rebbetzin: Rabbi's wife

Rosh Yeshiva: Head of the Yeshiva

ruach hakodesh: holy spirit


Sameach: Happy

schar: heavenly reward

seder: Traditional Passover dinner. The literal translation is "order" as there is a specific sequence of the

Shabbat: A weekly Jewish holiday that runs sundown to sundown Friday to Saturday.  Usually translated as a "day of rest".

Sheitel: Yiddish for wig.

Shiur: lesson
G*3: and/or lecture

Shnore: to mooch; shnorrer - someone who mooches off others

Shomer Nagia: (from Wikipedia)  the concept in Halakha that forbids or restricts physical contact with a member of the opposite sex (except for one's spouse, children, siblings, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents). A person who abides by this Halakha is colloquially described as a Shomer Negiah (one who is "observant of Negiah").

Shomer Shabbos: observing the laws of the Shabbat.

Shtick:  a Yiddish word  meaning "piece" which, according to Wikipedia, was a popular term used to refer to a "comic sketch".  In the context I used it in the blog, shtick could be replaced with word "thing".  Note:  sh + consonant words on this blog will usually be of Yiddish origin. Some of my favorites: shlep (to drag) , shnorer (someone who mooches), shvanz ( what my husband calls other drivers during road rage, which I have just learned means tail or penis). For more, see Practical Yiddish.

Shul: Yiddish for synangogue

shulchan aruch: Code of Jewish law set out in the 1500s

Siddur: Jewish prayer book

Smicha: rabbinic oridination

Snood: A type of cloth hair covering won by married Orthodox Jewish women.

Sukkot: A Jewish holiday commemorating "the fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt." See the rest of Wikipedia's definition here.


taamei:  G*3It’s usually translated as “ritually impure,” but I think that “spiritually unclean” 
better captures the spirit of the term. There is a sizable body of work that discusses how tumah 
(tumah = spiritual dirt, taamei = spiritually dirty) is created and spread, different levels of tumah, 
how one contracts it and how one gets rid of it.

taharas hamishpacha:laws of family purity

Talmud: (from Wikipedia) (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד talmūd "instruction, learning", from a root lmd "teach, study") is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history.

Tanakh (from Wikipedia) (Hebrew: תַּנַ"ךְ‎, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—hence TaNaKh. The name "Miqra" (מקרא), meaning "that which is read", is an alternative Hebrew term for the Tanakh. The books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) were relayed with an accompanying oral tradition passed on by each generation, called the Oral Torah.

tallis: religious clothing item worn primarily by Orthodox Jewish men (and non-Orthodox on the days they go to shul)

Tichel: A type of cloth hair covering won by married Orthodox Jewish women.

Torah: The five books of Moses. At synagogue it's a big, heavy scroll housed in a wooden ark. From my few times attending Orthodox services, it pays a central role (although most of the reading seems to be from the siddur). Anyway, there's quite a bit of ritual around taking the Torah in and out of the ark, it's paraded around the synagogue (usually in the men's section, except in egalitarian (read not mainstream OJ) Orthodox shuls). The men try to touch part of the Torah with their tallis, and then kiss the tallis. It is considered an honour to read from the Torah.

G*3: “Torah is also used to refer to the entire body of accepted works of halachah, philosophy, metaphysicval musings, and commentary that has accumulated over the last few millennia: Tanach, Talmud, medrash, halachik responsa, kabbalah, etc., etc.

Treif: not kosher

Tsnius: Modesty as defined by the conventions of halacha.

tsores/tzures: (Yiddish) problems/misfortune/grief

tzaraath: (from Wikipedia) "describes a disfigurative condition mainly referred to in chapters 13-14 of
               Leviticus, as well as conditions equivalent to be "mildew" on clothes and houses. Tzaraath affects
               both animate as well as inanimate objects; the Hebrew Bible discusses tzaraath that afflicts
                humans, clothing and houses."

tzafra demarei tava: Aramaic for 'good morning, sir'


Upshirin: custom of not cutting a boy's hair until he is three.
                 G*3: “Upshirin actually refers to the ceremony at which the boys hair is cut.





Yenta: (Yiddish) meddling old maid

Yeshiva: Yiddish for Jewish seminary
G*3: Originally, but now refers to any Jewish school at any level, and among UOJ, specifically boys schools – girls schools are generically referred to as Bais Yaakov.

Yid: (Yiddish) a Jew

Yiddishe Kop: literally "Jewish head", colloquially meant to mean smart.

yiddishkeit: Jewish way of life

G*3: “Yiddishkeit = Judaism” As used in the OJ world, is means Orthodox Judaism.

Yoetzot:  Women who are experts in any halachot that concern females that women can approach. 

Yom Kippur: Significant Jewish holy day. Day of Atonement

yungerman: Yiddish for young man
G*3: Literally, yes. In general usage in the Orthodox world it mean a man learning (studying) in kollel (full-time yeshiva for married men).

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