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Common Jewish Greetings and Phrases: When to Say What!

Guide to Jewish Greetings and Common Jewish Phrases for Holiday + Lifecycle Events

There are a whole host of Jewish greetings that are said during Jewish lifecycle events and Jewish holidays. 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. And, if you are looking to confirm the right way to greet a Jewish person for their lifecycle event or during a Jewish holiday, we have also included audio to ensure that you say the Jewish phrase properly!

Jewish Greetings for Lifecycle Events

PRE-BIRTH

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
B’sha’ah tovahBe-sha-ah Toe-vahIn a good hourבשעה טובה

Since the expectant mother has not delivered the baby yet, it’s more appropriate to say the words which mean “in a good hour” as opposed to a premature congratulations.

BIRTH, BRIS, & BABY NAMING

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Mazal TovMah-zuhl TahvGood luck or congratulationsמַזָּל טוֹב
Baruch Ha’bahBah-rooch Ha-bahBlessed be the one who comesבָּרוּךְ הַבָּא

Mazal Tov is the most appropriate expression to use at a Jewish baby naming. But, when the baby is carried into the room for a bris or naming ceremony, it is customary to say, Baruch Ha’ba or Baruch Haba’ah.

BAR/BAT MITZVAH

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Yasher Ko’ach (Yishar Ko’acha)Yah-share Ko-achMay your strength increase or go straight.יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ
Mazal TovMah-zuhl TahvGood luck or congratulationsמַזָּל טוֹב

After a person becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, it is most appropriate to say Mazal Tov. After the Bar/Bat Mitzvah reads from the Torah or gives a sermon about the Torah portion it is traditional to say Yasher Ko’ach. This is also said for anyone at the service who has an Aliyah – is called up to read the Torah during a service. Apparently, the more proper term is Yishar Ko’chacha, but the phrase Yasher Koach is much more commonly said these days, especially amongst Ashkenazi Jews.

WEDDING

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Mazal TovMah-zuhl TahvGood luck or congratulationsמַזָּל טוֹב
L’chaimLeh-hi-eemTo lifeלְחַיִים

Mazal Tov literally means good luck, but it is always used to mean congratulations. While you can and should say Mazal Tov to the happy couple all day, night and throughout the weekend, you’ll need to shout it out when the couple breaks the glass at the end of the wedding ceremony. The phrase L’chaim should be said any time you make a toast. Hold up your glass, say L’chaim, clink your drink, and take a sip. These are the most common Jewish wedding greetings.

ILLNESS

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Refu’ah ShlemahRe-foo-ah Shlay-maMay you have a complete recovery.רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה

If a person is sick or injured, wish them a refu’ah shlemah for a full recovery.

FUNERAL

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Zichrono(a) LivrachaZeech-row-no Leev-raw-chaMay his/her memory be a blessingזכרונה לברכה
Baruch Dayan Ha’emetBa-rooch Dye-yawn Ha-eh-metBlessed is the Judge of Truthבָּרוּךְ דַּיַּן הָאֱמֶת

As a way to express your condolences after a loss, you can say the name of the person and “of blessed memory” or “may his/her memory be a blessing. The Hebrew for that phrase is Zichrono Livracha for a male and Zichrona Livracha for a female. It is used often abbreviated to z”l in written form and usually appears in parentheses after the name of a person who is deceased.

Baruch Dayan Ha’emet are the customary words recited to a mourner upon learning of their loss.

Jewish Holiday Greetings

SHABBAT

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Shabbat ShalomShaw-bot Shaw-lohmSabbath peaceשַׁבַּת שָׁלוֹם 
Shavua TovShaw-voo-ah TohvA good weekשָׁבוּעַ טוֹב 

Shabbat Shalom is the most popular greeting for Shabbat, the seventh day of rest of the Jewish week. It’s a way of saying Good Sabbath and welcoming in a peaceful and restful Shabbat. 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.

ROSH HASHANAH

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Happy New Year!
Shana Tovah or L’shanah TovahShah-nah Toh-vah or Leh-Shah-nah Toh-vahA good yearשָׁנָה טוֹבָה
Shana Tovah U’metukahShah-nah Toh-vah OomehtookahMay you have a good and sweet new year!שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
L’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 וְתֵחָתֵמוּ
Gut Yontif (Yiddish)Goot Yun-tiffGood Festival Day

The 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. So, it is most common to say Happy New Year or Shana Tovah on Rosh Hashanah! If you want to get fancy, the other options are listed there for you.

YOM KIPPUR

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Have an easy (meaningful) fast!
I apologize for wronging you.
G’mar Chatima TovahGemar Chateemah Toh-vahA good final sealingגְּמַר חֲתִימָה טוֹבָה
G’mar TovGemar TohvA good end (finish)גְּמַר טוֹב
Tzom KalTzohm-callEasy fastצוֹם קַל

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year and depending on the greeting, you can actually reach out for the 10 days prior to the high holiday. A Jewish person will fast on this day so you wish them an easy or meaningful fast – either adjective will be appreciated – or you can say G’mar Chatima Tovah/G’mar Tov which is a gesture letting them know you hope that they will be “inscribed in the book of life!” A Jewish person might apologize to you for any wrongdoings they have committed against you that year, and if you wanted to, you could apologize to them as well.

HANUKKAH

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Happy Hanukkah!
Hanukkah SameachHanukkah Saw-may-achHappy Hanukkahחֲנוּכָּה שַׂמֵחַ
Chag SameachChog Saw-may-achHappy Holidayחַג שַׂמֵחַ

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was desecrated by a Syrian army. We celebrate with a nightly menorah lighting. While it’s not considered to be a super important Jewish festival, the holiday has grown to huge popularity because of the time of year it takes place. It’s a fun holiday to spend with your family, eating fried foods and playing dreidel, so a Happy Hanukkah greeting or the Hebrew version of that, Hanukkah Sameach is appropriate! You can also say a generic Chag Sameach (happy holiday) or Chag Hanukkah Sameach (happy Hanukkah holiday) if you want to be really specific.

PURIM

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Happy Purim!
Chag PurimChog Purr-eemHappy Purim חַג פוּרִים
Chag SameachChog Saw-may-achHappy Holidayחַג שַׂמֵחַ

We commemorate and celebrate the saving of the Jewish people from Haman during the Purim holiday by reading the story in the Book of Esther, dressing up in costume, attending carnivals, exchanging gifts, and helping the poor. It’s a fun holiday and as such it is typical to greet someone by saying Happy Purim or Chag Purim in Hebrew! Chag Sameach is also quite commonly used on Purim.

PASSOVER

Jewish GreetingTransliterationLiteral MeaningHebrew
Happy Passover!
Chag SameachChog Saw-may-achHappy Holidayחַג שַׂמֵחַ
Chag Pesach Sameach or Pesach SameachChog Pay-soch Saw-may-achHappy Passover Holiday or Happy Passoverחַג פֵּסַח שַׂמֵחַ
Chag Kasher V’sameachChog Kaw-share Veh-saw-may-achHave a happy and kosher festivalחַג כָּשֵׁר וְשָׂמֵחַ
Gut Yontif (Yiddish)Goot Yun-tiffGood Festival Day
Gut Moed (Yiddish)Goot Moe-edGood Intermediary Days

As 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. There are two Yiddish greetings for Passover – Gut Yontif is said at the beginning and end of the holiday and Gut Moed is said during the middle days. For more clarification, check out my Passover greetings post linked below!

Are there any other Jewish greetings you would like to learn? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out these other posts on the BMA blog for a more in-depth guide to the sayings and meanings.

Learn Rosh Hashanah Greetings in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish

Learn Greetings for Yom Kippur in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish

Learn Passover Greetings in English, Hebrew & Yiddish

Jewish Baby Naming for Boys and Girls: How Does it Work?

B’not vs. B’nai Mitzvah & Bar vs. Bat Mitzvah: Which Is It?

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