20 Responses

  1. food4thought at |

    Another explanation given for the origin of “balagan” is that it is a contraction of the Hebrew “baal” meaning the master, or head in charge, e.g., the baal tefila is the leader of the prayer service, but whose musical qualifications are not at the level of a cantor/chazzan; the baal habayit is the male head of the household (baalat=female); and “haGan”, literally the garden, the term also used to refer to a preschool or nursery school level class. Thus being the head of the nursery is relating to the chaos, the disorganization, in the classroom of the children running around, crying, not listening, etc.

  2. eias at |

    I can add some more if you’re interested
    a’ala kefak! – arabic literally (like your mood), used as awesome!
    fashla – arabic for screw up
    ba’asa – literally in arabic used as “fingering”, basically describe something fucked up that happened, kinda like saying “what a bummer”
    Mabsoot: arabic for happy

    The reason i gave those ones from arabic is because i’m a native arabic speaker and it’s funny and interesting to see hebrew speakers use it in their daily life

  3. Ryan at |

    Hey HR, I’m not an etymologist, but Hebrew most likely has been borrowing from Arabic since before medieval times. Hebrew and Arabic also share a common ancestor (Aramaic), which I believe resembles the High Arabic much more than established modern Hebrew, so the lines can get fuzzy, but it’s totally possible for balagan to be from Arabic even if you grandparents know it in Yiddish.

  4. HR at |

    #11: Has to learn the contraction: “chavlaz”

    No, balagan is not from Arabic. My Polish-Russian parents used balagan in Yiddish.

  5. Ryan at |

    oops, meant salamtak is en vogue “achshav,” seems like this page won’t recognize Hebrew characters.

  6. Ryan at |

    Salamtak – is a “more street” way of saying sababa, and can be used in pretty much the same context. Ma nishma? Salamtak. If you want to make a young Israeli laugh, use this phrase. It comes from Arabic (like a lot of the words on this list), but in Arabic it means something like “health to you,” and you would only say this to a person who is sick.

    Balagan, yala, sababa, and many others are all also from Arabic although I’m not sure most Jews in Israel are actually cognizant of this.

    A warning usage… when I lived in Israel I discovered that some of the phrases they teach you on birthright are laughably outdated (as in people haven’t used them in decades sometime), and will immediately identify you as a Taglit participant. However, salamtak is en vogue ?????

  7. adan at |

    number 5 also literally means “my brother” (or sister depending on gender).
    So the example is kind of confusing

  8. asaf at |

    lol “ma ani ez ” is for sure the best one 😛

  9. dud at |

    ‘Achi’ is not ‘dude’
    ‘dude’ is ‘ish’ or ‘ben-adam’
    ‘Ma nish-ma ish/ben-adam’=
    What’s up dude/man

    And ‘going to the mall with Achi’ will be sibling, not bro
    It should be
    ‘Going to the mall with ach shealow’ speaking about your self in a 3rd party

  10. Raphael at |

    Yesh! Thanks a lot for this article. Moving to Tel Aviv area in a few months, this will be very helpful 🙂

  11. shaham at |

    What about “ben zona”
    When used to talk discribe an object or an event it means that it is somthing realy good

    Literally it means “son of a slot”

    1. food4thought at |

      “slut” not slot!! Son of a prostitute/a woman of ill repute.

  12. Dominika at |

    I’m bit surprised with such explanation of origin of “balagan”. I would rather say that it’s a direct borrowing from Polish. In Polish “ba?agan” literally means “mess”.

  13. avner at |

    shalom…were do you take the picture of the graffiti?…
    and also
    -“Beseder”…it works for everything :ok, cool, good, fine…

    1. Molly
      Molly at |

      I took the photo in Neve Tzedek near the old train station!

  14. me at |

    ‘Balagan’ can also mean ‘Party’, I think I only heard it in a lets party meaning or ‘Yalla Balagan’.

    1. Amir at |

      “Yalla balagan!” Would translate to something on the line of “Let’s make a mess”, like a call to go wild and make a big mess, but yes it is mostly said in the context of “Let’s party!”.

  15. Gadi Ben-Avi at |

    Balagan comes from Persian and means Balcony. Apparently, balconies were always messy (used for storage) in Persia. I’ve seen some pretty messy ones here two.

  16. Michael at |


  17. Yoshiahu Tal-Or at |

    A couple of fixes on the terms:

    “Ma nishma?” actually translates as “what’s heard?”. It’s in the “nif’al” form of the word, which would be spelled the same as the first-person plural “we will hear”.
    Translated half-colloquially and half-literally, could be akin to “heard anything new?”.

    “Eize seret” – you can attach “eize” (literally: “which” or “what a…”) to almost any noun. Used colloquially in exclamation as in: “what a day!” or “what a party!”.

    “Mi is-mah?” – should be transliterated as “Mi yishma?”.

    A couple more phrases you could attach are:

    “Chai b’seret” – literally “lives in a movie”, the subject of this term is ostensibly delusional or dreaming.

    “Ah-lahn” – Arabic for “what’s up?”.

    “Mi’toraf” – literally “crazy”, used as such. Can be used positively or negatively (more often positively): “that party was CRAZY!” or “that plan is nuts!”.


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