Jewish English Lexicon


Source: Jewish English Lexicon


The Jewish English Lexicon - is a collaborative online database of distinctive words that are used in the speech or writing of English-speaking Jews. Think of it as the Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary of Jewish language. The words in this database stem from several languages of the Jewish past and present, including the Hebrew and Aramaic of ancient biblical and rabbinic texts, the Yiddish of centuries of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and the Modern Hebrew of contemporary Israel.


JEL was started in 2007 as a class project in Sarah Bunin Benor's course "American Jewish Language and Identity in Historical Context" at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Students were asked to contribute words that they heard from their friends or read online or in print, as well as definitions, example sentences, and source languages. Many of the entries already appeared in one or more of the published Jewish English dictionaries, but many appear here for the first time, thanks to the students and visitors.


By design, JEL is a work in progress. The editors hope visitors will help them build and refine it by adding words or suggesting changes or notes. All changes are moderated. Visitors are invited to experience the lexicon by browsing, searching, sorting, participating in conversations on the JEL forum, and, most importantly, adding new entries. Past contributors have reported that once they started paying attention, their eyes (and ears) were opened to a whole new world of Jewish English language.


The lexicon currently has 698 entries, including 195 entries that do not appear in any Jewish English dictionary.

Updated: Oct. 30, 2012