Shalom khaverim, hi friends and welcome to this definitive blog post on greeting (and farewelling) people in Hebrew, as people actually do it in Israel today.
We’re going to look at 13 different words/phrases that you can use straight away to start and end conversations in Hebrew.
My best advice on working on your Hebrew is to just get out there and speak it. This article will help you take that first step by giving you words and phrases you need to start conversations with anyone.
From there it’s just a matter of continuing to learn new words and phrases so that you can have progressively longer and longer conversations.
Ok, let’s get to it…
Phrase #1: Ahlan, אַהְלָן,
Meaning: Hello, hi
Use: Ahlan, אַהְלָן, comes from Arabic and is a classic casual greeting used in Israel today. It’s your go-to word for starting a conversation. Why? Because you can use it with strangers and friends alike, the young and the not so young, the policeman and vegetable seller at the shuk (market). So, you can say ahlan to everyone that you see or meet, and it’s just like saying hello.
In the shop
1: Ahlan אַהְלָן (hello)
2: Ahlan אַהְלָן (hello)
1: Ma nishma? מָה נִשְׁמַע (how are things?)
2: Beseder בְּסֵדֶר (fine)
Note: After saying ahlan you might add one of the ‘how are you’ phrases, like ma nishma מָה נִשְׁמַע , or ma kore מָה קוֹרֶה. Read on for more examples.
Phrase #2: Shalom שָׁלוֹם
Meaning: Hello, peace
Use: Shalom שָׁלוֹם is a classic, less casual, greeting in Israel. Don’t get me wrong — it’s used just as frequently as ahlan (אהלן), just a little more serious. I would use shalom more with elderly people or in business meetings, whereas I’d choose ahlan on the street in a shop, or with younger people. Even though shalom means both peace and goodbye, it’s less common to use it as goodbye as there are other words to use instead.
In a restaurant
1: Shalom שָׁלוֹם (hello)
2: Ahlan אַהְלָן (hello)
1: Ata rotze kafe? אתה רוצה קפה (do you want coffee?)
2: Ken toda כן תודה (yes thanks)
Phrase #3: Hey, hi הַי/הֵיי
Meaning: Hi, hey
Use: Just as it is the case with many other languages, English has crept into Hebrew and now one of the common ways to say hello in Israel is to say hi or hey (with Israeli accent of course). My disclaimer: this is predominantly used if you know the person already, or if you are really trying to sound casual with someone you don’t know. I recommend ahlan אהלן or shalom שלום, if you don’t know the person very well, and hi/hey הי/היי if you do.
At a friends place
1: Hey Nivi. Ma kore? היי ניבי מה קורה (Hey Nivi, What’s up?)
2: Noam! Hi! Ma nishma?! נועם הי מה נשמע (Noam! Hi! How are things?)
Phrase #4: Boker tov בּוֹקֶר טוֹב
Meaning: Good morning
Use: Boker tov בּוֹקֶר טוֹב is used in Hebrew just as it is in English. It’s not just a phrase you say in the morning, but you can use it instead of shalom שלום or ahlan אהלן. In other words, it’s just another greeting. Say boker tov (בוקר טוב) when you wake up and say it on the street, as long as it’s before midday, to anyone you see. If they are having a particularly good morning Israelis will respond with boker or (בוקר אור) which means “morning light”. Only use this as a response to boker tov.
At the cafe
1: Boker tov בּוֹקֶר טוֹב (good morning)
2: Boker or בּוֹקֶר אוֹר (morning light!) OR boker tov בוקר טוב (good morning)
1: Kafe o te קפה או תה (coffee or tea?)
2: Te bevakasha תה בבקשה (tea please)
Phrase #5: Tzoharaim tovim צָהֳרַיִם טוֹבִים
Meaning: Good afternoon (literally: ‘good midday’)
Pronunciation: First make sure your pronunciation is right. It’s four syllables – TZO (like ts in cats) – HA – RAI (like rye) – IM. It’s a phrase that torments new Hebrew speakers for months, so make sure that you nail its pronunciation from the beginning. You’ll be grateful for it later, as your Hebrew develops.
Use: Use tzoharaim tovim צהריים טובים, from midday until a few hours before evening. It means good midday, so if you want to say good afternoon you’d need to add akhar אחר at the beginning: akhar tzoharaim tovim אחר צהריים טובים.
This phrase can be used until the sunset. The above instructions might sound a little technical, but it’s pretty useful to know when you actually go out and speak to people.
At the falafel stall at 2pm
1: Tzoharaim tovim צָהֳרַיִם טוֹבִים (good midday)
2: Tzoharaim tovim צָהֳרַיִם טוֹבִים (good midday)
1: At rotza falafel את רוצה פלאפל (do you want falafel?)
2: Barur ברור (of course)
Phrase #6: Erev tov עֶרֶב טוֹב
Meaning: Good evening
Use: When the sun has set it’s time to bring out erev tov ערב טוב — a phrase used to greet people in the evening hours. It’s a little formal, like in English, so I wouldn’t use it with my friends but rather at a restaurant, with a vendor, or a bus driver to sound friendly and polite.
At the movies at night
1: Erev tov עֶרֶב טוֹב (good evening)
2: Erev tov עֶרֶב טוֹב (good evening)
1: Kartisim bevakasha כרטיסים בבקשה (tickets please)
2: Bevakasha בבקשה (please/here you are)
Phrase #7: Ma nishma מָה נִשְׁמַע
Meaning: How are things, how’s it going, how are you? (literally what’s sounds?)
Use: This is a wonderful phrase to know. Why? Just like ahlan אהלן it’s useful in a wide range of contexts. What’s more, it’s easy to pronounce for non-native Hebrew speakers — no tricky sounds in there! You can say ma nishma מה נשמע to people you don’t know, and to your best friends. It’s not a slang expression, so it fits well in formal situations, but it’s not old-fashioned either, so it can be used in casual contexts too.
At the cafe
Waiter: ahlan ma nishma? אהלן מָה נִשְׁמַע (hello, how’s it going?)
You: beseder toda בסדר תודה (fine thanks)
Waiter: ma bishvilekh? מה בשבילך? (what for you?)
You: americano khazak אמריקנו חזק (strong americano)
Waiter: sababa סבבה (no problems/cool)
Phrase #8: Ma kore מָה קוֹרֶה
Meaning: What’s happening?
Use: Another classic phrase that can be used at the beginning of many of your interactions. Ma kore מה קורה is a casual greeting, like the English “what’s up” or “what’s happening?”. It can be used when talking to friends or strangers, although it’s heard more often when talking to people you know. It’s a straight alternative to ma nishma(מה נשמע), but more casual.
On the phone to your friend
Friend: Hey היי (hey)
You: Ma kore מה קורה (what’s happening?)
Friend: Beseder, ma kore בסדר, מה קורה (fine, what’s happening?)
You: Sababa סבבה (cool, no problems)
Phrase #9: Yom tov יוֹם טוֹב
Meaning: good day, have a good day
Use: Wishing someone a nice day is a standard, friendly way to end a conversation, used all the time In Israel. You can replace yom (יום) with shavua (שבוע) to wish someone a nice week: shavua tov (שבוע טוב). This is usually used on Saturday night, Sunday, Monday, and maybe Tuesday when wishing someone a nice week ahead. Another variation is to say nifla (נפלא) instead of tov: yom nifla יום נפלא — have a wonderful day. You can use all of these phrases with friends and strangers alike.
Leaving the cafe
You: Toda raba תודה רבה (thanks very much)
Waitress: Bevakasha בבקשה (my pleasure)
You: Yom tov יום טוב (have a good day)
Waitress: Yom tov, bye יום טוב ביי (have a good day, bye)
Phrase #10: Bye, bye bye בַּיי, בַּיי בַּיי
Meaning: bye, bye bye
Use: Another example of how English has become part of Hebrew is bye bye ביי ביי, or just bye ביי. This is so common now in Israel that it’s normal to say it to strangers and friends alike. You can use bye (ביי), or bye bye (ביי ביי) completely interchangeably. For extra effect, deploy your Israeli accent 😉
Leaving a friend’s place
You: Haya kef היהי כיף (it was fun)
Friends: Bye ביי (bye)
You: Bye toda ביי תודה (bye, thanks)
Phrase #11: Yalla, yalla bye יַאלְלָה, יַאלְלָה ביי
Meaning: Time to get going, moving along,
Use: Hebrew speakers love using yalla יאללה, and rightfully so. It’s fun, and it’s super common. Yalla יאללה comes from, Arabic and unfortunately has no English equivalent. It captures a specific moment in a single word — it’s that moment when you’re ready to end a conversation and hang up the phone, or move on to a next activity. It functions as an acknowledgment that the conversation is ending. It’s often followed by bye ביי — yalla bye (יאללה ביי).
On the phone to a friend
You: Yalla, yom tov יאללה יום טוב (time to get going, have a good day)
Friend: Yalla, bye יאללה ביי (yes it is time to get going, bye)
You: Yalla, nedaber makhar יאללה נדבר מחר (time to get going, we’ll speak tomorrow)
Friend: Beseder, bye בסדר ביי (fine, bye)
Phrase #12: Lehitra’ot לְהִתְרָאוֹת
Meaning: See you later, goodbye
Use: Lehitra’ot להתראות is the standard way of saying goodbye in Hebrew. It might be a little harder to pronounce, but it’s super important, so take it slowly and pronounce it correctly.
This should become one of your go-to ways for saying goodbye. It’s not overly slangy or informal, and can be used in any context. If you were in a more formal situation, like a business meeting, this is how you’d say goodbye, rather than using yalla or bye which have a much less formal overtone.
Leaving a restaurant/cafe
1: Toda raba תודה רבה (thanks very much)
2: Bevakasha בבקשה (you’re welcome, my pleasure)
1: Lehitra’ot להתראות (see you later/goodbye)
2: Bye, lehitra’ot להתראות, ביי (see you later/goodbye)
Phrase #13: Tov טוֹב
Meaning: Good, alright then…
Use: Tov טוב literally means good, but it has recently taken a role which, I believe, warrants its inclusion in this list. It’s used at a point when you know that the conversation is about to end, and there isn’t really much more to say. Its use is similar to that of yalla (יאללה). It’s also a great word to have up your sleeve to help the conversations flow more naturally. And, if you want to sound like an Israeli youngster say tovoosh טובוש instead.
Finishing a conversation with a friend
1: Tov, nedaber makhar טוב, נדבר מחר (alright then, we’ll speak tomorrow)
2: Sababa, yalla סבבה יאללה (cool, let’s get going)
1: Bye ביי (bye)
So, there you are, 13 phrases you will use over and over and over again in your Hebrew interactions. If you’re looking to work on your reading in addition to your speaking then check out this super comprehensive guide.
Now all that remains is the fun part — go out there and get speaking! The more you use these phrases, the more you’ll understand the nuances of their usage.
So, yalla יאללה go have fun!
This post is written by Mike, a Modern Hebrew teacher and coach based in Israel, the owner of the website teachermike.co.il.
1. The Most Common Ways to Say Goodbye
- ביי Bay. “Bye” As mentioned, this one is pretty much a catchall. ...
- להתראות Lehitra'ot. “See you (later).” ...
- שלום, שלום
3 Ways to Say Bye in Hebrew - YouTube
"All the best" (JPS), a closing or farewell.
Literally, “good morning.” Nice replies are “boker tov” right back, or “boker or,” meaning “morning light.” Literally, “good evening.” You can reply “erev tov” right back. Literally, “good night.” An appropriate response is to say “lilah tov” back.
ma nishma? Explanation: you could also go with the BESEDER line, i.e.: BESEDER, BESEDER GAMUR, HAKOL BESEDER. -> Thanks!
Use: Wishing someone a nice day is a standard, friendly way to end a conversation, used all the time In Israel. You can replace yom (יום) with shavua (שבוע) to wish someone a nice week: shavua tov (שבוע טוב).
layla tov = good night.
If you heard a Hebrew or Yiddish phrase and weren’t sure exactly what the person meant, we’ve listed some of the most common Jewish phrases and their meanings.. Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrewMazal TovMah-zuhl TahvGood luck or congratulationsמַזָּל טוֹבBaruch Ha’bahBah-rooch Ha-bahBlessed be the one who comesבָּרוּךְ הַבָּאMazal Tov is the most appropriate expression to use at a Jewish baby naming.. The phrase L’chaim should be said any time you make a toast.. Baruch Dayan Ha’emet are the customary words recited to a mourner upon learning of their loss.. The phrase Shavua Tov is used after the Havdalah ceremony on Saturday night – when Shabbat is over – and even on Sundays to wish someone a good upcoming week.. Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrewHappy New Year!Shana Tovah or L’shanah TovahShah-nah Toh-vah or Leh-Shah-nah Toh-vahA good yearשָׁנָה טוֹבָהShana Tovah U’metukahShah-nah Toh-vah OomehtookahMay you have a good and sweet new year!שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָהL’shanah tovah tikateivu v’teichateimuLeh-Shah-nah Toh-vah Teekahtayvoo Vehtay-chah-taymooMay you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתֵמוּGut Yontif (Yiddish)Goot Yun-tiffGood Festival DayThe words Rosh Hashanah in Hebrew directly translate to Head of the Year in Hebrew which is not exactly what you would expect since it is the Jewish New Year.. Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrewHappy Hanukkah!Hanukkah SameachHanukkah Saw-may-achHappy Hanukkahחֲנוּכָּה שַׂמֵחַChag SameachChog Saw-may-achHappy Holidayחַג שַׂמֵחַHanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was desecrated by a Syrian army.. Chag Sameach is also quite commonly used on Purim.. Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrewHappy Passover!Chag SameachChog Saw-may-achHappy Holidayחַג שַׂמֵחַChag Pesach Sameach or Pesach SameachChog Pay-soch Saw-may-achHappy Passover Holiday or Happy Passoverחַג פֵּסַח שַׂמֵחַChag Kasher V’sameachChog Kaw-share Veh-saw-may-achHave a happy and kosher festivalחַג כָּשֵׁר וְשָׂמֵחַGut Yontif (Yiddish)Goot Yun-tiffGood Festival DayGut Moed (Yiddish)Goot Moe-edGood Intermediary DaysAs you can see, there are quite a few variations in Passover greetings, but if you stick to Happy Passover or Pesach Sameach which means the same in Hebrew, you will be more than set up for success.
Example: Leaving the cafe You: Toda raba תודה רבה (thanks very much)Waitress: Bevakasha בבקשה (my pleasure)You: Yom tov יום טוב (have a good day)Waitress: Yom tov, bye יום טוב ביי (have a good day, bye). Use: Another example of how English has become part of Hebrew is bye bye ביי ביי or just bye ביי.. Example: Leaving a friend’s place You: Haya kef היהי כיף (it was fun)Friends: Bye ביי (bye)You: Bye toda ביי תודה (bye, thanks). Example: On the phone to a friend You: Yalla, yom tov יאללה יום טוב (time to get going, have a good day)Friend: Yalla, bye יאללה ביי (yes it is time to get going, bye). Example: Finishing a conversation with a friend 1: tov, nedaber makhar טוב, נדבר מחר (alright then, we’ll speak tomorrow)2: sababa, yalla סבבה יאללה (cool, let’s get going)1: bye ביי (bye)
It’s hard to understand my Grandpa is no longer here, when the last time I saw him was the last time I saw my parents, my family, and friends, 7 months ago when I visited home.. Israel is so far away.. Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my Grandma, across the world, for the last time.. I always thought I would remember my Grandparents last words to me for my whole life.. Israelis know how to make the most of every moment.. Life isn’t always like a movie in how it ends, but life is the journey.. Sometimes it doesn’t really make sense to be so far away, to try so hard to build a life here, when I already have my whole life at home.. Right now I am sad I couldn’t be there at the end of my Grandparents lives but I know that I will always remember our experiences together and everything they taught me.
Is a ritual for saying goodbye to a sacred text appropriate for saying goodbye to people?. This prayer, called Hadran Alakh, in the ancient tongue of Aramaic, speaks to our commitment to return to our text; our goodbye is never final but merely an “I will return to you soon.” Of course Judaism, a religion and culture that has a passionate love affair with its texts, has a meaningful and gorgeous prayer for saying goodbye.. But is a ritual for saying goodbye to a sacred text appropriate for saying goodbye to people?. In other words, we carry the sacred texts within us: we are the sacred texts.. Someday, according to Jewish mystical, or Kabbalistic, tradition, the entire Torah will be read as one long, uninterruptable Name of G-d. And that, of course, would dissolve not only the boundaries between the words of the text, but also the boundaries separating reader from text, creating the ultimate midrash… [Thus] it is not Jacob [in the story about the angels ascending and descending the ladder] who says, ‘G-d was in this place and I, I did not know.’ It is you who are reading these words.. You are the sacred text itself.. But this conversation has been sitting with me, and through my work with others, loving and supporting others, I know that each of us is a sacred text and there is extreme beauty and connection through engaging with one another as sacred texts.. What care we take with our holy words: imagine the holy care we would give to one another if we viewed each person as a sacred text.. Having the ability to see people as sacred texts is not just a holy practice but also allows us to use the Hadran Alakh to say goodbye to people, not just the literal sacred texts.. I have revised the traditional Hadran Alakh prayer to say goodbye to sacred people in my life:. I see before me faces of sacred texts.. I see sacred texts that hold holiness in their words and their beings.. Holding closely the memory of seeing the sacred texts within your faces.. We will return to you, holy, sacred texts before me, and you will return to us; our mind is on you, holy texts, and your mind is on us; we will not forget you, sacred beings, and you will not forget us—not in this world and not in the world to come.
There’s the Egyptian Arabic phrases we learn in textbooks, and then there’s how people speak.. It’s really fun to see how different spoken Egyptian Arabic can be from textbook Egyptian Arabic (or textbook Modern Standard Arabic ) — even though the whole language is “slang”, according to a lot of people.. That’s what we’re trying to show: colloquial Egyptian Arabic phrases people actually say that sound a lot more natural.. !خلصI don’t need this la, ana mish miHtaag dah لا، انا مش محتاج ده I don’t know.. You might also like these other Arabic resources…. For some reason, every time people learn a language, they know how to say hundreds of things before this extremely common expression that should be the first thing anyone learns.. But I’ve also seen people saying salaam 3aleikum as if they were greeting them, to acknowledge them.. Basically the first words most foreigners learn in Egypt.. You can just use it and point to something and use the word for “that”, which is dah (دة).. Like in any language, nobody in Arabic just says “yes” or “no”.. Your response will just be “ ana mish 3aarif ” (see below, “General Useful Words” You only need to ask one question: Where is this?. Asking someone to do something politely, e.g. to rest (with a word afterwards saying what they’re inviting you to do, but you generally know from which way they’re pointing)
Happy and sad lifecycle moments, Jewish holidays, and other occasions all have Jewish greetings attached.. Though this expression means literally good luck (or “a good sign”), it’s always used to mean congratulations.. One thing that makes the Jewish subculture a little different from the dominant culture is that it’s typical to congratulate the parents, siblings, and friends of people getting married, having a baby or watching their relative become bar or bat mitzvah.. When your friend gets new clothes, a new house, or a new car, there is a special way to congratulate them—“Tithadesh,” may it renew you.. Literally, “good morning.” Nice replies are “boker tov” right back, or “boker or,” meaning “morning light.”. Literally, “good evening.” You can reply “erev tov” right back.. (Happy holiday) with a heavy guttural h at the beginning of the first word and the end of the second.. The most traditional greeting on Shabbat is the easiest: “ Shabbat Shalom ” meaning, good Sabbath!. Traditional greetings on Rosh Hashanah include, “L’Shana Tovah tikatevu,” which means, May you be inscribed for a good year, or just “Shana Tovah,” which means “a good year.” Some say “Happy New Year!” or “a happy and healthy New Year.” You might also hear people greet one another during Rosh Hashanah in Yiddish, “Gut Yom Tov,” meaning, happy holiday.. A traditional of the Jewish greetings for Yom Kippur is “Gamar hatimah tovah.” Some say “Gmar tov,” meaning a good completion to your inscription (in the book of life).. The best greeting is Happy Purim!. Some say Chag Sameach, meaning Happy Holiday or Purim Sameach which means Happy Purim!. This is a very fun, festive holiday and it’s all about the happy.
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